Stephen King’s The Stand – Blu-ray Review
Film Title: Stephen King’s The Stand
Release Date: 1994
Rating: NOT RATED
Runtime: 5 hours 59 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Studio: CBS / Paramount
Audio Format: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Version Reviewed: Blu-ray
Release Date: 9/24/19
Director: Mick Garris
Cast: Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Laura San Giacomo, Ruby Dee, Corin Nemec, Matt Frewer, Adam Storke, Ray Walston, Miguel Ferrer, Bill Fagerbakke, Rick Aviles, Shawnee Smith, Stephen King, Ed Harris, Kathy Bates
Jump to Sections: Mini-Series | Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full Blu-ray Tech Specs found at the bottom
“Stephen King’s The Stand” TV mini-series, which originally aired in 1994 on the ABC network, was based on the 1978 Stephen King novel of the same title. Fun literary fact: “The Stand” is actually one of the longest novels that King has published, at 853 pages in length. The teleplay was adapted by the original author Stephen King. King is most known for writing such modern horror and fiction (most adapted to film) such as “Stand By Me”, “The Shining”, and “Misery.” The entire four episodes of this epic mini-series were directed by Mick Garris. Garris, a bit of a “master of horror” himself, is known for directing his share of King adaptations like the film “Sleepwalkers“ (1992), “The Shining” (1997) TV mini-series, “Quicksilver Highway” (1997) TV movie, and the film “Riding the Bullet” (2004).
It is estimated (via IMDb) that this had a 28 million dollar budget. That was a rather large budget for a 6-hour television mini-series and it had a lot of pullback in terms of censorship along the way. Still, one should remember that it aired on ABC, a network that two years later would be owned by Disney. This took a total of 5 months to film in over 95 locations. King admits the end of this film is straight out of revelations in the Bible, without getting too religious, as a representation of the conflict between good and evil.
Things start out at a military base that has developed weaponized influenza (referred to as “Project Blue”) inside of a secret underground lab. We are briefly first introduced to a guard posted at the front gate of the facility. The guard suddenly gets a distress call over the radio from inside that he must close the gate to contain an outbreak. He does set the gate to close, as ordered, but he also runs and immediately grabs both his wife and child, jumping into his car and just barely managing to end up escaping the base. This is in no way a spoiler to tell you, as it is key to the whole story here. The next bit might be, so I’ll just say that this is a story about the apocalypse – often referred to in biblical terms as Revelations or The End of Days. A lot of people will die from what is considered to be a super flu, yet some will live and be immune to it.
Over the course of each episode of this teleplay, you will start to be introduced to more new characters that all will be part of the end. It will jump around certain locations like New York City, Texas, Nebraska, Colorado, Maine, and Las Vegas. The story here builds together with a great ensemble of characters both good and bad of nature that is portrayed by some incredible actors. The payoff here is marvelous and truly heartfelt. I honestly think that Stephen King’s The Stand is one of the greatest TV mini-series ever made.
I will disclose that there is a dark man out there that you will be introduced to first as a crow, and later through the transformation from crow to a human being… named “Randall Flag.” He’s a handsome but horrible man that is pleased to meet you (if you’re a bad person) and he hopes you guessed his name. The question is: “Baby, can you dig your man?” / “M-O-O-N, that spells:” it depends on what type of person you are.
Stephen King’s The Stand 1994 mini-series featured a very memorable cast that included Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Rob Lowe, Ruby Dee, Jamey Sheridan, Corin Nemec, Ossie Davis, Laura San Giacomo, Matt Frewer, Adam Storke, Ray Walston, Miguel Ferrer, Bill Fagerbakke, John Bloom (aka “Joe Bob Briggs”) and the writer himself Stephen King. Also, it’s very much worthing noting that there were two uncredited roles played by Ed Harris and Kathy Bates. The Stand, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, was an absolute epic here in this original mini-series.
NOTE: This Blu-ray is the original TV cut with a 359-minute runtime, not the DVD cut. For those interested, that cut included two additional minutes of material with a 361-minute runtime. You can find some comparisons between this TV version and the DVD cut HERE.
Mini-Series Rating: 5 (out of 5)
This 1994 mini-series comes to Blu-ray presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio with black pillar bars on the sides, just as it was originally broadcast on TV. UPDATE: The mini-series was shot on 16mm film (according to director Mick Garris) using Panavision cameras and lenses. Major thanks to Garris for correcting me with that info. As he said, the original footage was then in post (post-production) put into SD (standard definition). The folks at CBS Home Entertainment have not only restored all of this footage but they have also gone back and updated it with visual effects enhancements. These VFX enhancements can be found mostly during the latter half of the mini-series, as seen HERE in a screenshot.
The black level is solid, the color looks spot-on, there’s a subtle amount of visible film grain (finally), and there are no signs of video compression issues here. It delivers an impressive HD (high definition) presentation for something that had originally aired in SD (standard definition) on network television 25 years ago. The amount of detail now found here, in comparison to the previous DVD release, is very impressive. I suggest looking at some of the close-ups (for instance the one above) for an example of how much newfound detail that I’m referring to. Overall, I’m very happy to report that the video quality found on the Blu-ray debut is enough to leave fans very pleased. It’s really so great to finally get to see this epic looking this good.
Video Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
Audio here is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. Yes, you read that correctly, a 2019 Blu-ray release from a major studio such as this only received an AC3 lossy mix, as opposed to getting a lossless audio mix like another mini-series coming out on the very same day from the said studio. I can’t place any blame here, as I’m sure they [CBS] had some reasoning behind this choice. Perhaps it was done to save time and make the release happen on its 25th anniversary.
It’s also possible that CBS home entertainment had no choice but to use that audio mix, as this release manages to put the entire 6-hour mini-series on just one Blu-ray Disc and uses almost the entire storage capacity. Putting it in a lossless audio format would have possibly gone over the size of one Blu-ray 50 gigabyte (BD-50 dual-layered) Disc. The choice to not split the mini-series up as two discs would have been an issue, meaning you couldn’t play it all on the same disc – in one “play all” sitting.
The sound here is pretty crisp in terms of clarity with an ever so slight amount of hiss present in only a few scenes. Aside from that it comes with no real problems and has a decent amount of bass and some fidelity – especially in scenes with music. Still, to only be in Dolby Digital Stereo, it manages to deliver the dialogue, music, and sound effects in an effective manner all throughout. It does feel a bit dated, sharing the same audio mix as the original DVD release of the mini-series. Plus, I can’t say it’s really an improvement (if any) over the DVD in terms of sound. I mean, c’mon, let’s be honest. You have to really understand that this was a TV mini-series from 1994 as well, regardless of how big the network was that it aired on, or even how much the budget was. As dated as this Dolby 5.1 mix is, it still sounds solid enough to do The Stand somewhat justice.
Audio Quality Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Bonus materials on this release include:
- Audio Commentary with Director Mick Garris and Writer Stephen King. This was recorded all the way back in 1999, as Mick says “some five years later” at one point. This appeared on the original DVD release. One of my favorite and informative lines by Mick in this commentary is “the networks really are starfuckers” – referring to ABC not at first wanting to cast Gary Sinise in the lead role, for not being that well-known of an actor at that time. Rob Lowe joins the audio commentary briefly later on. Miguel Ferrer and Jamey Sheridan join briefly later as well. You will learn, from Stephen King, that after seeing ABC adapt (his story) “IT” into a mini-series he was convinced that he wanted to do this [The Stand] as mini-series, instead of a film or series of films.
- “The Making of Stephen King’s The Stand“ (5:29 – SD) includes some clips from the film, as well as behind-the-scenes on set footage, and interviews with Stephen King (writer/producer), Molly Ringwald (“Frannie Goldsmith”), Steve Johnson (special effects), Ruby Dee (“Mother Abigail”), Richard P. Rubinstein (executive producer), Mick Garris (director), Gary Sinise (“Stu Rodman”), Rob Lowe (“Nick Andros”), and Laura San Giacomo (“Nadine Cross”).
Overall the bonus materials here are very much informative, entertaining, and really total up to over 6 hours in length – if you count the excellent audio commentary. I find the bonus materials here to be just enough, for now. However, it would have perhaps been nice to see some new extras added with it being the 25th anniversary and all. Still, I can’t complain at all with what we get here.
There seems to be some basic BD-Java here that will allow you to resume the entire mini-series if you chose the play all function and power off and on your Blu-ray Player. It will first show the CBS home entertainment logo and then you are prompted to resume (with yes and no options). This proves to be useful for an almost 6-hour mini-series for those wanting to watch it in perhaps two or three sittings. I’m very glad that CBS / Paramount chose to include this option. It’s worth noting that you also can resume the episode you previously were watching if you choose that path via this function.
If you’re looking for more about the making of the mini-series than is found on here, I’d totally suggest you listen to the director Mick Garris’ podcast episode from earlier in the year where he had Stephen King on as a guest. This podcast can be found HERE.
Bonus Materials Rating: 2 (out of 5)
Stephen King’s “The Stand” mini-series from 1994 was (as mentioned above) in my personal opinion one of the greatest TV mini-series ever. It still holds up very well to the test of time and proves to be more meaningful each time you watch it. I love the fact that you’re able to watch the entire mini-series here on Blu-ray Disc (with its storage capacity) on just one disc and via a “play all” function – in one sitting. You can also play the episodes individually if you would like.
In terms of video quality, it is really impressive to see a 1994 TV mini-series looking this good in HD. They went back and took the time to update some visual effects and it pays off. The audio mix really is the only slight disappointment here as it’s only in the original Dolby Digital 5.1 found on the previous DVD release. However, as I mentioned above there may be some logical reasoning to that choice. Lastly, the bonus materials are identical to the previous DVD, including audio commentary all throughout the mini-series and one “making of” featurette.
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
4.5 (out of 5) for video quality
4 (out of 5) for audio quality
2 (out of 5) for bonus materials