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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 6/28/99

Storm of the Century
1999 (1999) Greengrass Productions (Trimark)

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Storm of the Century Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/A-

Specs and Features

256 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, trailer, commentary track with writer/producer Stephen King and director Craig R. Baxley, cast and crew bios, ad for the book from Pocket Books, animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects, scene access (15 chapters on side 1, 15 chapters on side 2), languages: English (DD 2.0) subtitles: none, Close Captioned

"I feel a bad moon arising... I feel trouble on the way..."

I figured since Stephen King likes to open his films with a quote from a modern rock song, I'd open this review with one -- just as a nod to the master.

Storm Of The Century is King's attempt to make a novel for the screen - and it's a very successful attempt, I might add. Right from the start (with a narration that sets up both the story, and a nice completed-circle for the ending), you feel like you've been set in a comfy bed with a huge tome in hand, an itty bity head light fixed over your brow, and a heavy storm outside your window, just to set the mood.

Storm Of The Century first appeared as an ABC miniseries, a format that King seems to like his written work to appear in. From Salem's Lot to The Stand (coming soon to DVD), we've seen a great many of his works brought to life on the boob tube. King wanted to change the pace, and instead of adapting one of his novels, King decided to write a brand new idea to first appear on television. It wasn't a very risky proposition, was it? I mean, a brand new King story is a brand new King story, and people lick it up like so much ice cream. Ice cream seems like a nice comparison to this particular story.

Storm Of The Century is set during the winter of 1989 on Little Tall Island, a small fictional island community off the coast of Maine. It's a community where everyone knows everyone. Everybody is well liked (mostly), and everyone pitches in to make their world a better place. The local shopkeeper is the constable, his assistant store manager is his deputy, and his wife is the day-care worker. Everything is fine in their tiny world... that is until a mysterious stranger comes walking into town, dressed in black and carrying a cane adorned with a silver wolf's head on the handle. The wolf's head comes to play several times in this story, because as we eventually learn, the cane has a life of its own. When it's not bashing in the head of a little old lady, it's slithering into bathrooms and storage shacks, or even shepherding children on a grand adventure Pied Piper-style.

The mysterious stranger is Andre Linoge, and after he makes his first appearance, you'll forever remember him as a major King villain. Upon arriving in Little Tall, he clubs an old lady. Then he sits himself down, and while reciting I'm a Little Tea Pot, he fixes himself a cup of tea, and watches the local news. He acts like he's trying to get caught - and that IS what he wants. Well... that's not EXACTLY what he wants. What he really wants is only made clear in the 4th hour of the film. It's hinted at, after he's caught, when he cryptically tells the town constable, "Give me what I want, and I'll go away." That slogan pops up several times, written in paint, blood and lipstick at various points during the run.

What makes Linoge a cool villain, is the fact that knows everything about these people. He knows the shop girl had an abortion, and he knows the town manager was with a whore the night he promised he'd be with his mother and she passed on. He also knows that a local group of homophobic fishermen "bashed" a gay man in Maine. He knows all this, and in a way, he lets the audience know that some of the town folk are aware of these things as well. But this is a town where secrets are safe, and Linoge needs this to get "what he wants".

The whole mini-series is a bit more than 4 hours long, and sometimes... you can feel that length. The great thing is, since it's on DVD, you can pause it, and there aren't any commercials (think of it this way - with commercials, the running time of this thing was 6 hours. That's about an hour and forty-five minutes trimmed off this sucker). Having it on DVD, is way better than having seen it on the initial TV broadcast, or watching it on video, in my opinion.

Storm Of The Century is very stereotypically King - that may be a good thing or a bad thing. He treads no new ground here. It's about a town in Maine, it features an all-knowing villain, the townsfolk are all hiding secrets, and somehow children are the main focus here. All that aside, the story grabs you, the dialogue is natural, and all the acting is great. I have to say that this is one of the better King miniseries put out. If you're a King fan, I don't think you can turn away from this DVD.

As a disc, Storm Of The Century looks and sounds pretty damn good. With so much information on it, the video quality is very natural. Only a few times did I notice any digital artifacting (mostly in some of the digital effects shots, and occasional very busy scenes involving lots of flying snow, and other such chaotic movement). The sound is a natural stereo, that doesn't go too far out of its way to excite, but it's a TV production, so who would expect more anyway? Extras on the disc include a made-for-video trailer, cast and crew bios, and a newly-recorded commentary track, featuring King talking about TV politics, and the history of the miniseries. It's a pretty good track, but there are times of huge gaps in the commentary. And the director chimes in every once in a while to gush, and talk about his job. I liked listening to it -- it's informative, and I guess it's easy to overlook those gaps, considering it's a four hour film. The question begs to be asked: aside from me, who can talk for 4 hours straight? Last but not least, the disc's got some pretty nifty-looking animated menus.

Storm Of The Century is a good television movie. It's also a good King presentation. Those two things added together make for a pretty good DVD. It's a great new direction for DVD -- to have quality, long-form TV programs available -- so we can only hope more come out. I can't wait for Salem's Lot to make its way to my player. That Schreck vampire still creeps me out.

Todd Doogan
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