Stephen King has legions of fans, and consequently, every now and again, a studio crafts another run at one of his novels, and while It! is on its way to screens in due course, Paramount Pictures and CBS DVD are releasing a collection of three of King’s mini-series in a very affordable collection.
Over the course of five discs, viewers can delve into three classic King mini-series. The highlight of the set is The Stand. A titanic effort that sprawls over six hours, and as worthy an adaptation as has ever been made (to date) of King’s work. Course, King adapted it himself…
The Stand first aired back in 1994, and was something I remember talking about with everyone as it aired, and when it hit video to reach an even wider audience.
Digging into the epic tale (which is very much a product of the 90s), it made me recall the summer I read the original book, a massive tome, and was moved by all the characters, and lived in fear of Randall Flagg (brought to life in the mini-series by Jamey Sheridan).
Two groups of people, the survivors of a super-flu, or plague, known collectively as Captain Trips, move to a confrontation, an ultimate confrontation, between the forces of good and evil.
The Stand walked away with two Emmys, one for makeup and one for its sound mix, and boasts an incredible cast including Ray Walston, Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, Corin Nemec, Gary Sinise, Laura San Giacomo, Miguel Ferrer, Matt Frewer, and Shawnee Smith.
This is the perfect way to spend a rainy day, or space it out over a few nights. I hadn’t seen this one since it originally aired, and it was a real joy to settle in and experience it all again. It also tickles my thought with revisiting the book at sometime in the near future.
Joining Stand is The Langoliers, from 1995. Based on the novella in King’s Four Past Midnight (inspired by his fear of flying), the script was penned by King, and director Tom Holland (who had crafted one of my favourite vampire movies, Fright Night).
The series follows a group of passengers on a plane (and you think United had problems!) that wake to find that everyone else, including the crew have vanished from the flight. As they struggle to find out what is going on, over the course of two nights, or in this case one three hour epic tale, they discover that there is something very weird going on, and not just the missing passengers.
Filled with fantastic character actors like David Morse, Dean Stockwell, Bronson Pinchot (who plays a real bastard – and seems to know what is going on), and Frankie Faison, this one ends up being a fun tale, even if some of the special effects haven’t aged that well.
In fact, for all three mini-series it can be argued that it’s not the effects that make the tale, it’s the characters. If you can buy into the characters, you can work around the effects (although the CG langoliers definitely push that to the limit).
Rounding out the collection is 1991’s Golden Years. Wow, do I remember watching that one back then, I can remember exactly where I was. Actually I can for all three of the mini-series so that must say something about the effect they had on me.
A seven episode series that aired over the summer of 91, the story was created by King explicitly for television. It follows a janitor, Harlan Williams (Keith Szarabajka) who is exposed to a series of chemicals and an explosion in a secret government facility.
Something begins to affect him immediately, instead of growing older, he gets younger, and the government, operatives of The Shop, are after him for the secret. But things aren’t going to be that easy for anyone, and there’s going to be consequences, and terror before the story comes to a close.
Felicity Huffman, Ed Lauter, Stephen Root and Frances Sternhagen co-star in the series. This one definitely plays more to the science fiction side of King’s work, while The Langoliers and The Stand play more to various horror archetypes.
And of course, for fans of Stephen King, you can see connections to his other works, and they are placed intentionally throughout the three films. Boston plays an important part in The Langoliers and King’s later tale, Doctor Sleep. The Golden Years features The Shop, and references to Firestarter, which also featured The Shop. It also features a mention of Captain Trips.
The big tie in, of course, is Randall Flagg in The Stand. Flagg is a recurring character throughout a lot of his stories, but primarily is the evil Man in Black, as featured in the brilliant Dark Tower series.
This ends up being a very enjoyable collection and is sure to entertain, and possibly fire up the fears and the imagination, and the desire to pick up a King novel.
Stephen King’s Triple Feature is available today from Paramount and CBS DVD, pick it up today.