News: Stephen King's The Stand - The 1994 Miniseries Getting A "Brilliant Restoration" For Blu-Ray

Back in late-March, director Mick Garris said in an interview that a blu-ray release of his cult favorite 1994 TV miniseries of Stephen King's The Stand would almost certainly never happen. He explained that, while the 6-hour apocalyptic epic was shot on film, it was then converted to SD video, cut on tape using the linear editing technology of the day, and completed with very standard-def early CGI. In short, for it to be released on blu-ray, the edit would have to be re-created from scratch using the original negatives and all-new CGI work, which is certainly possible - it was done beautifully with Star Trek: The Next Generation - but is very expensive and very difficult to get right. Even in the case of the wildly popular Next Generation, the remaster wound up being barely worth the extravagant cost, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer was victim to a famously horrible attempt to do an HD remaster on the cheap, which was aborted after scathing responses to the remaster's numerous and major problems. Garris said he was pretty sure that Paramount would not be interested in spending the large amount of money and effort that would be required.

Just over three months after that interview, the internet was shocked today when Paramount announced an upcoming "Brilliantly Restored" blu-ray set of King and Garris's The Stand, due for a September release. Given that a new high-profile series adaptation is in the works, it is only natural that Paramount would want to capitalize on the inevitable interest in the original series by giving it a fancy new disc release. But given how sure Garris sounded just a few months ago that this was utterly out of the question, it is a massive surprise that Paramount is willing to spring for a blu-ray remaster, rather than just a new DVD set.

Of course, we don't really know what "Brilliantly restored" means. One would hope that it means the most obvious and honest thing: a fresh 2k or 4k scan of the original 16mm negatives, remastered from the ground up with reworked CGI. And since The Stand's weakest point is undeniably its very, very bad primitive CGI, one would hope that, like the Star Trek: The Next Generation blu-rays, the discs will offer brand-new, better-looking CGI as an option, with faithful-to-the-original 1994 CGI as another option for the purists. However, some shows, like the classic seasons of Doctor Who that have recently been released, have hit blu-ray with remasters created by upscaling the original tape masters as well as possible... which is certainly better than nothing (in the case of those Doctor Who remasters, they look shockingly good - but there was also no alternative, because the negatives of the shot-on-film portions of that show are known to mostly no longer exist), but not nearly what one would hope for in this case. A tape upscale would certainly not qualify as a brilliant remaster, so if that is what Paramount is doing, they are opening themselves up to accusations of very deceptive advertising. An official announcement will likely come very soon to clarify exactly what "brilliantly restored" means; our bet is that it does indeed refer to a thorough, expensive, and honestly pretty improbable 2k or 4k restoration from the negative, but until we hear it from Paramount themselves, we're not quite sure just how excited to feel about this. We're excited - The Stand is a solid miniseries that could really use some love - but if this remaster is what we hope it will be, we'll be very excited indeed.

As for the miniseries itself... is it worth buying on a swanky new blu-ray set? I would say yes... with some caveats. It's a series that is definitely best appreciated in the context of what it is. For an early-90s network TV event series, The Stand is great. It's better than the majority of television of that era, from before the premium cable boom and the new golden age of television that it ushered in. An epic tale of cosmic good versus evil, with embodiments of both sides building armies from among the desperate survivors of a world-ending pandemic, The Stand is one of Stephen King's most unique tales – certainly his most expansive outside of the Dark Tower series – and Mick Garris's series does as great a job of adapting it as the small screen possibly could have before the rise of premium cable. It's wonderfully ambitious, it has a great cast, it really pushed the envelope of what TV could do at the time, and while there are some early-90s TV shows that are better - it certainly can't touch Twin Peaks, for one - it's definitely towards the top... within that context. But it really must be emphasized, within that context. There are things about it that are really, really cheesy when viewed today; not just its CGI, but aspects of its production values and acting as well. It really feels like early-90s network TV, because it is; though in my eyes, that doesn't make it worse, it just means that you need to watch it with its context in mind. For modern viewers, the biggest problem with it is definitely the terrible computer graphics, but again... it was 1994. And again, I hope that Paramount will announce that they are doing the same thing that was done with the Star Trek blu-rays, with new and original CGI as options. Hopefully we will know soon.

Cheesier aspects of its early-90s television nature aside (which are things that I think viewers should be forgiving of, or at least mindful of context), The Stand is a solid King adaptation, and probably Mick Garris's best. It certainly deserves more love, having long languished on cheap DVDs which are basically just dupes of its original late-90s disc release. This is a very exciting announcement, and the details of what exactly this remaster entails shall be eagerly awaited. Hopefully it will allow a new generation to appreciate this unique entry in Stephen King's cinematic canon free of the hindrances of some of its technical limitations.

- Christopher S. Jordan

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