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Trimark Pictures presents
Stephen King's Storm of the Century (1999)

"Give me what I want, and I'll go away."
- Andre Linoge (Colm Feore)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: June 20, 2002

Stars: Tim Daly, Colm Feore, Debrah Farentino
Other Stars: Casey Siemaszko, Jeffrey De Munn
Director: Craig R. Baxley

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (disturbing images and violence)
Run Time: 04h:16m:35s
Release Date: June 22, 1999
UPC: 031398703532
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+B+B B

DVD Review

The residents of the quaint island town of Little Tall know how to keep a secret. When Dolores Claiborne's husbands mysteriously disappeared, they kept their mouth shut. During perhaps the worst storm of the 20th century, a stranger has appeared who knows all of their mysteries. Andre Linoge (Colm Feore) apparently materializes out of thin air to wreak more havoc on the island than any force of nature. Without giving his actions a second thought, he strolls to the home of old, walker-bound Martha Clarendon and brutally murders her in broad daylight. This is only the beginning.

Stephen King's Storm of the Century marks the first book written directly for the screen from the acclaimed novelist. The six-hour ABC miniseries originally aired during February sweeps in 1999, and it garnered both large audiences and critical acclaim. Although it does not reach the heights attained by the classic television version of The Stand, this intriguing story still provides plenty of chilling moments. It is slightly hampered by the limitations of a television budget, but the production still maintains a decent level of believability. Much of the footage of the small town was shot on an interior soundstage, but it is hardly noticeable without considerable scrutiny. Network television also lessens the amount of violence present on the screen, but King and director Craig R. Baxley (Stephen King's Rose Red) impressively depict horrible acts without explicitly revealing the gory details. This actually raises the tension at certain points, particularly when viewing Clarendon's body. The vicious nature of the murder is almost solely visible through the actors' reactions to seeing her dead form.

The central plot revolves around Linoge's tremendous ability to control the minds of Little Tall's citizens and cause them to commit atrocious acts. With a bit of mental concentration, his mind influences several adults to commit suicide in often-grisly manners. Surprisingly for the main villain, Linoge spends nearly half of the story locked within a crude cell in the back of the town store. However, he still is able to exert significant force over some weak-minded individuals. This compelling character spouts out such simple rhymes as "Born in lust, turn to dust; born in sin, come on in!" and seems to enjoy the "I'm a little teapot" song. When questioned by people, he states "Give me what I want, and I'll go away." However, Linoge waits a long period before revealing what he really wants, his plans need time to develop, and he seems to enjoy torturing the townspeople by exclaiming their past faults to the entire populace.

The tale's central hero is Mike Anderson (Wings' Tim Daly), the town constable and owner of the general store. He exudes a genuine goodness and desire to help others that places him into immediate contrast with the demonic Linoge. However, Anderson is not a perfect man, and he possesses faults like any person does. This human connection raises the stakes and makes the eventual troubles more distressing. The Maine town is fighting a losing battle against both the incredible storm and Linoge, but Anderson keeps trying to survive and solve the mystery. Embodying the typical happy American family, he lives comfortably with his attractive wife Molly (Debrah Farentino) and charming young son Ralphie (Dyllan Christopher). Other prominent town residents include the nervous yet endearing Buddy Hatch (Casey Siemaszko), irritating politician Robbie Beals (Jeffrey DeMunn), and reliable town employee Ursula Godsoe (Becky Ann Baker). The story features an especially large number of speaking parts that would be nearly impossible to coordinate on a two-hour feature. However, it does spread the events a bit too far and cause some slow moments during the middle episode.

Colm Feore (Thirty-two Short Films About Glen Gould, The Sum of All Fears) delivers a breakthrough performance and literally commands the screen during every scene. When the focus shifts more towards the townsfolk, the pace falters and loses some of its prior steam. Linoge's lines could easily become ridiculous if overplayed, but Feore keeps him respectable while retaining considerable menace. Even without saying a word and simply resting in his cell, the talented actor reveals a mind constantly devising (and enacting) plans to achieve his goals. Tim Daly stands up nicely to Feore and reveals some dramatic weight not seen within his television sitcom work. During the final episode, he grabs the screen and totally sells his emotions when facing the evil force. Most of the remaining cast is solid in playing the usual small-town types, with DeMunn especially notable for perfectly creating the haughty politician. Linoge especially enjoys taunting the weak-hearted Robbie Beals, and the actor totally sells the blustering figure.

Stephen King's Storm of the Century does contain its share of supernatural elements that should please fans of the genre. However, it stands more as a morality play where the town residents are given a nearly impossible choice. Linoge has brilliantly set the stage to achieve his goals, but the ultimate result remains in each person's hands. Will they make the right choice? I definitely won't give that away. The tense final hour warrants the extended viewing time with a potboiler climax. Upon the tale's conclusion, we've spent enough time with Little Tall to realize the reasons for the final decision.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Storm of the Century contains a decent full-frame transfer that does its best with the limited technological capabilities of the format. Considering its television origins, it makes sense to include this type of version. Also, it does feature surprisingly clear colors that help to create the King's chilling atmosphere. Everything appears cold and bleak, which generates an even more dreary tone. Very few defects appear on the screen, and even the slightly unbelievable special effects look pretty impressive. Although it obviously fails to match the better widescreen transfers, this disc does offer an attractive presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Much of the atmosphere of this chilling tale emanates from its soundtrack, which must create suspense without showing the most graphic moments. This 2.0-channel Dolby Surround transfer nicely conveys the suspense of this troubling story within a clear sound. The numerous moments of snow and wind from the frenetic storm also play well here, which is necessary to make the weather believable. The limitations of the two-channel are evident here in the lack of complexity, but that is more forgivable due to the television origins. This track may not exude tremendous force, but it does provide a decent listening experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Writer Stephen King and director Craig R. Baxley
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: This disc may not contain numerous special features, but it does offer the most important supplement: a commentary from Stephen King. He takes separate turns with director Craig R. Baxley, and the ultimate result is a very thorough track. King speaks about all types of elements ranging from his writing process to idiotic executives at networks and their silly casting ideas (Anthony Hopkins as Linoge?). His comments are fascinating and really provide a glimpse into this popular writer's world. He also injects plenty of personality into his statements and does not give the usual dull praise. Fans of the film should definitely enjoy hearing extensive information about the origins and eventual progression of the screenplay. King tells us when he's going to be quiet and let us watch certain scenes closer.

Baxley also talks extensively on this track from a different recording session. However, his comments focus more closely on the specific direction of the piece. I wasn't as intrigued when discovering whether countless scenes were shot as a model, on a sound stage, or in exterior locales. Also, Baxley gives a little too much of the usual praise for virtually everyone on the picture. That said, his words should still please numerous viewers. I found it mildly amusing, but I would rather have heard even more of King's discussion.

The remaining supplements include several filmographies, the video trailer, and a brief advertisement for the book. The filmographies exist for Stephen King, Tim Daly, Debrah Farentino, and Colm Feore. Very brief biographies accompany each entry. The preview comes in a full-frame transfer with a similar quality to the feature presentation.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Following in the grand tradition of It and The Stand, Stephen King's Storm of the Century reveals the effectiveness of translating King's visions to the small screen. This impressive morality play is worth watching just for the fiery performance from Colm Feore. Combined with chilling direction, plenty of solid acting performances, and some eerie supernatural moments, this miniseries is another winner.

 


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