Monday, August 26, 2013

Movie Review: "The Stand, Part 3: The Betrayal" (1994)

Part 3 of The Stand was initially broadcast on Wednesday, May 11, 1994.

I did not see that broadcast.  I had to work that night (more on which momentarily), so I had to resort to setting my VCR to record it.

For reasons that are unknown to me to this day, the VCR failed to record the program.

Here's how it went down: in 1994, I was in college at the University of Alabama, and I worked in the athletic program's Sports Information Department.  That office was, essentially, the office that served as the liason points between the athletic teams and the media.  We served other functions, but that was the primary one.

Among those other functions: staffing certain technical and administrative positions at the athletic events.  For example: one of the things I did at football games was drive a shuttle van back and forth between the stadium and the parking lot where the media reps parked.  At basketball games, I was in charge of icing down the cooler of sodas provided for the media.

At baseball games, I somehow got put in charge of playing the music and other sound effects through the loudspeaker.  This was a miserable task, for any number of reasons.  Reason the first: I loathe baseball.  In baseball, there is a constant threat that a game could take three hours to complete, or four, or five.  It didn't usually happen that way; but it always could happen, and sometimes did.  Especially if rain delays struck.

Reason the second: the University had somehow failed to invest in a sound system that actually worked.  I'd play a song, and it was hit-or-miss in terms of what bits of the music would actually come through.  You might get drums and guitar, but no vocals; or you might get bass and vocals, but no keyboards.  Occasionally, you'd even get the entirety of the song!  One of those rare occasions -- discovered through an extensive process of elimination, conducted over the course of several seasons -- was "Yellow Submarine" by The Beatles (more on which momentarily).  "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" by Bruce Springsteen got a regular workout, as did "Center Field" by John Fogerty, and least that one was appropriate.

Reason the third: Alabama's baseball team at that time was awful.  Just awful.  Mediocre, actually; they were just good enough that a small core of fans still cared about them, but not vaguely good enough to actually be a danger to win anything.  Consequently, there were very few people who ever came to the games.  One day, for reasons that I no longer remember, I decided it would be a good idea to replace "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" as the seventh-inning-stretch song with -- you guessed it -- "Yellow Submarine."  I did this every game for nearly an entire season.  Old men who actually cared about such things would scream at me from the stands; people would flip me off; and all the while, I was leaning out of the pressbox, singing along like a fool.  To this day, it amazes me that someone -- anyone -- didn't come up to me and tell me to not do that anymore.  (The head coach's wife actually tried once, but I just told her no, and she ended up doing nothing about it; that's how little anyone in charge cared.)

Reason the fourth: I was madly in love -- or thought I was -- with one of my coworkers, and had by this time figured out that that was never going to do me any good.  So I was kind of like Harold Lauder in some capacities; but instead of putting dynamite in shoeboxes, I defiantly played "Yellow Submarine" for an entire season.  Sky of blue; sea of green.  (Strange intersection: the guy she dug instead of me was also a massive Stephen King fan.  The next year, the three of us went to see Dolores Claiborne together, an ill-advised trip that ended in him complaining about how it wasn't like the book, me complaining that he was a moron, and her probably wishing I would drive off a cliff on a motorcycle, shattering bones and left with only enough energy to blow my head off.)

I say all that as a means of illustrating just how little I wanted to be to watching the Crimson Tide play baseball on the night Part 3 of The Stand -- an adaptation of what was probably my then-favorite novel by my then- (and now-) favorite author -- was airing.

So imagine how angry I was when I got home from working that event, only to find that my VCR had failed to record it.  Ever heard the phrase "pitched a fit"?

Well, brother, I pitched a fuckin' fit.

I don't remember how long it was before I got to finally see that third part.  Did ABC rerun the miniseries at some point?  Did it re-air on some other network?  Did I have to wait for the home-video release?  (I bought the miniseries first on VHS, then on the magical format that was laserdisc.)  I cannot remember.

What I remember is pitchin' a damn fit.

Now, with that sordid bit of my past out of the way, let's talk about Part 3.  We're going to do it in the form of bulletpoints, too, as I don't seem to have any major points that I want to talk about.  So let's talk about some minor ones instead.

  • The episode begins with the scene in which Stu is trying to perform an appendectomy on some poor bastard.  It's a good scene, but I do not like it as the opening scene to the episode.  Why?  I don't entirely know.  I'm usually pretty good at figuring out why I respond to things the way I respond to them, but in this case, I just don't like it, and I can't quite figure out why.  Weird.
  • I spent a lot of time during the review of Part 2 complaining about how much I detest Matt Frewer's performance.  There are a few moments scattered throughout the miniseries in which he's good, though, and I wanted to call attention to one of them.  I like the scene in which he is wandering through the corridor on his way to meet Flagg for the first time.  In these moments, there is a childlike innocence and awe on his face that calls to mind Carey Guffey, who played little Barry in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Barry, in his initial scenes during that classic movie, is looking at some aliens that we do not see; they are off-screen, and Spielberg instead plays the bemused wonder on Barry's face for all that it's worth.  And it's worth a lot.  Frewer has some of that going on here, and while it doesn't carry the same weight (nor get anywhere even close to it), it is a good moment in its own right.
  • At one point, Glen grumbles about the power being turned back on.  "It's the old way," he explains, "and the old way is a death-trip."  This is one of the major themes of the novel: that the superflu represents the failure not merely of technology, but of the mindset that brought technology about.  The miniseries tries to carry that theme over, but it doesn't quite come off, and a big part of the reason for that is that the adaptation decides not to deal with Stu and Fran's decision to leave Boulder and return to Maine.  There is none of the novel's implication that things in Boulder are getting too familiarly political, either.  Without that element -- the suggestion that even when spared Hell and given a potential second Eden, humans (or, at least, Americans) will choose to head back down the road toward fucking it all up again -- I'm not that Glen's assertion carries any weight.  It's an all-or-nothing theme; you've either got to play it fully, or maybe just focus on this story as an epic fantasy-horror-adventure.

  • Here's something I did that makes me laugh:

  • The National Anthem scene is sappy as hell.  But it works.  This is another instance in which I've got no choice but to give Mick Garris credit where credit is due; he did a solid job with this scene.  It ought to be awful, but somehow, everyone -- including the extras -- manages to feel like they are actually in that moment, feeling what those people would be feeling.  Two bits from it that I especially like: Nadine balking when she gets the line about how "our Flagg flag was still there"; and Nick placing his palm on Tom's chest while Tom sings, so that he can feel the words his friend is making.


Stephen King (l) and Mick Garris (r)

  • There is also at least one dreadful moment during the town-hall meeting scene, though.  It's when Stu asks Judge Ferris whether they can legally adopt the entire Free Zone Committee on a single vote.  "You damn right you can!" Ossie Davis says back.  Look, I like Ossie Davis; but this moment is a little embarrassing.

The scene in which the Free Zone Committee decides to send spies to Las Vegas is good; both Gary Sinise and Adam Storke get good moments during it.  The next scene is good, too: the FZC hypnotizing Tom and giving him his instructions.  Bill Faggerbakke plays these scenes quite well.  One complaint: when Tom wakes up, he asks if he stood on his head, like before.  If you haven't read the novel, you have idea that Tom, here, is referring to a time earlier in his life in which he was hypnotized.  I'd imagine that what happened is that the scene was originally longer, and had to be cut down, and the lines giving that info were trimmed out.  If so, the lines at the end should have been cut, too; it would have been a real shame to lose Larry saying, "No, Tom; you did some even better tricks this time," but editing must be brutal to be effective, and this editing was far too kind.

  • The scenes between Harold and Nadine are gross.  They are just gross.  Nadine is gross, and Harold is gross, and they are gross together.  Ick.  Maybe that actually works for the movie rather than against it; if so, somebody else will have to make that argument.

  • Another complaint about missing dialogue: in the dream sequence during which Flagg gives Harold the idea to plant a bomb at one of the Free Zone Committee's meetings, a corpse in a car -- played by a decidedly sketchy puppet -- tells Harold, "You're a card, Hawk!"  "Yeah...a wild card," replies Harold.  The miniseries has not established that the burial crew has taken to calling Harold by the nickname "Hawk" as a means of genuine respect and affection, so this moment is rendered meaningless.  So, again, it ought to have been cut.  The same dream sequence also leads to one of the better jump-scares of the miniseries, which I have tried to capture here:

  • During the scene in which Harold is constructing the bomb, "Boogie Fever" by The Sylvers is playing.  What an odd choice!  King has occasionally used the idea of "boogie" (in its usage as a verb) or some variant on the idea of "getting down" as a euphemism for doing something awful.  The short novel Rage, for example, was written by King under the title Getting It On, and only when it was finally published did he change it.  So in that sense of things, Harold having "boogie fever" works; it implies a mental state of mind in which Harold is consumed by hatred, homicidal rage, and a desire for vengeance.  "Don't mess with my disco," he tells Nadine, and I get the sense that that is supposed to be a chilling moment; Corin Nemec can't quite sell it, though.

  • What do we think of the fact that the miniseries has eliminated the subplot of Harold's journal?  I miss it like crazy, personally.  At the same time, I'll admit that the miniseries does just fine without it.  When Fran is waking up in the hospital after the explosion and asks who did it, Glen says, "It looks like it was Harold Lauder and that Cross woman," and really, that's good enough.  It isn't hard to just say to yourself that somebody figured it out while Fran was unconscious.  I can live with that.  But someday, when a fuller, more expansive adaptation of the novel happens, I had better see Harold's journal.
  • Here's another thing the miniseries eliminated: when Mother Abagail leaves, nobody bothers to go looking for her!  It's almost as if the entire town got together and said, "Ah, fuck it; she'll be alright."  I can understand there not being time to film the search party.  It robs the miniseries of that great scene in which Harold considers murdering Stu and can't force himself to go through with it; but for time reasons, I get why it had to go.  Couldn't there have been a line in which somebody talks about there being search parties looking for Mother Abagail, though?  Just one measly little line?!?
  • Here I go rewriting Stephen King again: you know what I would have loved to see?  For Mother Abagail to never actually wake up from her coma, and for her to instead call all of the affected parties she needed to give marching orders into her dreamworld.  That would have been cool.  Picture it: they're all back in Nebraska, and the sun is sinking low in the sky as she speaks with them.  It continues to sink as the scene progresses, and we would eventually come to realize that when the sun sets, Mother Abagail's long life will finally reach its end.  (I'll emphasize it again, Warner Bros.: my screenwriting and/or executive-production skills are available...)
  • The miniseries got some lovely location vistas on-screen at several key points in the project, and probably none of them look better than this:


Yep, that's pretty great, all right.

Well, folks, that's all I've got to say about Part 3.  I'm gonna toss in the now-expected collection of leftover screencaps and go get to work on Part 4 of the review.  See ya!


  1. Again, I must hand it to you on these screencaps, or rather to Mick Garris and the gang. A lot of these look way better than I remember. (And Molly Ringwold is positively hot, something I don't think I've ever said,in that pic under the umbrella with Stu. That wig works for her.)

    Those pics with added text of Harold tormenting himself are a genuine LOL, well done.

    I also quite like your idea for Mother Abigail pulling them into her dreamworld. That works.

    That IS really odd about no one mentioning Mother Abigail's going away! Beyond odd: pretty much unforgivable.

    Man, King and Garris look so young in that crowd scene. How time flies. (One needs only look at its timeslot competition for the night of May 11, 1994 to drive that point home!)

    1. Thanks for the kind words on the screencaps. They did turn out relatively well, especially considering how lousy the transfer on the DVD is. That miniseries is badly in need of a good remastering and/or restoration.

  2. I love your reviews so much.. wish I did was as good at putting my feelings into words. This is a good time to review this miniseries too with the movie supposedly coming out soon. I did see Ben Aflick is no longer apart of the project... probably because of this crazy idea he has about being Batman. :)

    1. Thank you! That means a lot. I always feel like they mostly end up as failures; I always want to put WAY more into them, but I'm never capable of quite getting there. Doesn't really matter though; I have a blast writing them, and THAT'S the only thing that really matters to me.

      Last time I saw a quote from Affleck on the subject, he sounded as if he really wanted to do "The Stand" but had been unable to figure out how to make it work. What Warner Bros. wants -- what they MUST want -- is a two-part film (or possibly a trilogy) that will be a big hit in America and will be an even bigger hit everywhere else in the world. They want something that is going to bring in a billion dollars.

      "The Stand" ain't it. There are no action scenes. There are places in the first two acts where action scenes could be invented and put in; the third act would have to be totally rewritten, and I bet nobody yet has figured out how to do that without also totally rewriting the first two.

      I think it could work as a trilogy. Not the kind of trilogy they probably want it to be, though. So my guess is that it never happens, or that it goes back to television, which is where it belongs anyways.

      For the record, by the way: I'm okay with Affleck as Batman. But the guys who are writing and directing the movie suck, so it's probably doomed to mediocrity either way.