Joe Altomere: ‘The Stand’ delivers King’s brilliance on silver screen

Joe Altomere


Joe Altomere

Joe Altomere


Joe Altomere

This week I’m telling all of you about a mini-series that ran for four nights during the summer of 1994: “The Stand.” It’s based off the Stephen King novel (a terrific read, mind you) of the same name, and is about what happens after 99.4 percent of the world’s population are wiped out by a government super flu that is accidentally released from a military base. Yeah, you read right — 99.4 percent.

Now, in a movie that runs, commercial free, 366 minutes, you need a whole lot of people to make it work, and this one does that. It has a monster cast that includes Gary Sinise, Rob Lowe, Molly Wringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Kathy Bates, Ed Harris, Ray Walston, Laura San Giacomo, and even Stephen King himself, in a role that’s slightly larger than minor cameos he usually makes.

The tagline of the movie cleverly goes, “The end of the world is just the beginning,” and it’s absolutely right. As I said before, the film is told in four parts; the first part detailing the massive plague that wipes most of us out, as well as what happens to the very few survivors. It’s the second part where the film really begins to get interesting. The survivors thought they had been through the worst, but they couldn’t be farther off. During the whole ordeal in part one, the people who were unaffected by the super flu began to have strange dreams. Some dreamt of a sweet, 106-year-old woman who went by the name of Mother Abigail, who sat on the porch of a farmhouse playing a guitar and singing hymns. Others dreamt of a dark, menacing man with eyes as black as a great white shark’s. His name is Randal Flagg, and if any of you are familiar with Stephen King’s works, you’ll recognize Flagg from several of his other novels, namely “The Dark Tower” series. Randall Flagg, played perfectly by Jamey Sheridan, is evil personified, and if you’re in his wake, you’d better hope he’s in a good mood. Slowly, but surely, the groups of survivors having the same sets of dreams realize that they’re much more than dreams, and that they must pick a side- good or evil — and pick it soon, because, as is usually the case, only one can prevail.

People meet up, and groups begin to form. About half head to Las Vegas, where Flagg has set up his base of operations (fitting), while the other half head to Hemingford Home, Neb. to meet up with Mother Abigail (played beautifully by Ruby Dee). Things seem nice for a time, but Mother Abigail’s group decide they should send spies to Vegas to find out what exactly Flagg’s people are up to, and what they should be in store for. Ultimately, more people die, betrayals occur, and everything good that has been fought for since the super flu took its toll begins to fall apart. It’s by the decree of Mother Abigail that a small band of people are sent to Vegas to face Flagg on their own, to make their stand, if you will, in a display that’s not entirely unlike that of David and Goliath. What happens after, well, you’ll have to see for yourself.

Now, as you all know, Stephen King is typically associated with horror movies, and rightly so; however not all of his works are that cut and dry. “The Stand” is no exception. Yes, while this movie does have elements of horror to it, it is by no means a horror movie. At its core the film about people, hope and faith. The hope that good can overcome evil, as long as we, the people, have enough faith to believe that it’s possible. I’m sure there’s some modern metaphor I could pull from all that, but I’m just too darn tired to do it.

Bottom line, this movie is enjoyable on a multitude of levels. It’s engrossing, well-acted, and doesn’t have that overly-gimmicky feeling that lots of other mini-series events have had. They did this one right. You’ll be drawn to several of the characters, have a great time watching them rise, fall, and conquer, and might even be given a little hope in the process. Hope that, yes, good can overcome evil.

Joe Altomere is a freelance movie writer for The Banner and some of our company’s Web sites. His column is published in The Banner each Saturday.

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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