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Other than one or two special interest titles that preceded it, THE STAND ($40) is the first DVD title to deploy DVD-18 technology (dual layer, dual side) to offer one very long program on a single disc. For those unfamiliar with the program, THE STAND originated on television as a 4 part, 8 hour miniseries. Minus commercial interruptions, THE STAND runs a hefty 366 minutes, which is still more than six hours. Obviously, nothing less than a DVD-18 would suffice for THE STAND to fit on a single DVD.

THE STAND is based upon my favorite Stephen King novel, which King himself adapted to the small screen. Kingís novel tells the tale of the forces of good facing off against the forces evil, right on the heels of a near apocalypse. When a bio-engineered disease is accidentally released from a government laboratory, it spreads like wildfire across the United States (as well as the rest of the globe). The man-made plague wipes out 99% of humanity, which leaves isolated survivors spread out across America. These survivors somehow become psychically linked in their dreams and begin to assemble in two separate camps.

The "good" people flock to Boulder, Colorado, while the "wicked" naturally migrate to Las Vegas, Nevada. Both camps have enigmatic leaders, who try to rebuild society in their own image. Unfortunately, the evil leader of the Las Vegas community wants to get rid of the competition, which forces good people of Boulder to make a final stand for the future of humanity. Iíve oversimplified the plot because the best way to experience THE STAND is without any preconceived notions. Of course, I recommend reading the book, as well as watching the miniseries. However, since the book is such a behemoth, most folks are only going to watch the miniseries. This is okay since the miniseries is really good, but those so inclined will find the novel genuinely rewarding on many levels.

Stephen Kingís screenplay has distilled THE STAND down to its essentials, but he has left the storyís sharply drawn characters pretty much intact. Additionally, THE STAND has a strong ensemble cast of first-rate actors that really bring the material to life. THE STAND features terrific performances from Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Laura San Giacomo, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Miguel Ferrer, Corin Nemec, Matt Frewer, Adam Storke, Ray Walston, Rob Lowe, Bill Fagerbakke and Peter Van Norden. Look for Kathy Bates and Ed Harris in two great uncredited cameos. Director Mick Garris keeps everything pretty much grounded in reality, except for the supernatural elements of the story. When the plague sweeps across America, it is totally believable and very scary to watch how simply and rapidly society unravels.

Artisan has done a fine job of transcribing THE STAND to DVD. What many people may not realize is the fact that THE STAND was shot 16mm (to save money) and not on 35mm like most theatrical productions. For the most part, it is hard to tell that the miniseries is 16mm, but there are times that the image doesnít have the resolution of a 35mm production. Still, THE STAND looks as good as it did when it was originally broadcast on television. Detail is very good in brightly lit daylight scenes. However certain darker sequences, which were shot on location with less controlled lighting, are a bit soft. The dream sequences, which are intentionally dark, actually look very good because they were shot in the controlled environment of a soundstage. Color reproduction has a natural level of saturation and realistic looking flesh tones. THE STAND is authored in such a way that each of the four parts of the miniseries is placed on a single layer of the disc, two segments per side. Digital compression artifacts are well managed on both sides of the disc and never become bothersome.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack decodes to standard surround, but since this is a television mix, it isnít too involving. Dialogue is clean and intelligible and the music is well recorded. The interactive menus have a bit of animation and sound, as well as providing access to the standard set up features. Options allow one to chose which part of the miniseries they wish to view, plus chapter selection within each part. Supplements are also accessible through the menu system. There is an audio commentary with Stephen King, Mick Garris, Rob Lowe, Ruby Dee, Miguel Ferrer, Jamey Sheridan and editor Patrick McMahon. Since this is a 6-hour production, the commentary isnít always continuous. However, the track is filled with interesting details about the production, especially early on. Also included is a short "Making Of" featurette, storyboard comparisons, a make-up gallery and cast filmographies.

With the manufacturing process for the DVD-18 format perfected, as my flawless copy of THE STAND certainly proves, I hope that other lengthy miniseries will finally come to DVD. Anyone for V or V-THE FINAL BATTLE?





DVD reviews are Copyright © 1998 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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