It (1990)

1

Despite the fact that this blog is named after a Stephen King book, I have not read said book. I am only half-way through Under the Dome, have The Skeleton Crew, Firestarter and Duma Key somewhere, and have only seen Stand by Me, Carrie and The Mist in their entirety (all of which are fantastic films), but I wouldn’t call myself a Stephen King fanatic; a fan, yes, but not a fanatic. I like his work, and the impact he’s had on horror as a genre as well as the general impact in literature itself, but I don’t know every detail about every story he’s written nor every aspect about his life. Add to that a fear of clowns I brought with me when I was born, and It is right up my alley.

The Losers Club, a group of seven children in Derry, Maine, bond together over visions of a demonic clown named Pennywise that is haunting all of them. Together they decide to end it, but it escapes and they make a pact to join back together should it ever return. Thirty years later, it is killing children again, and The Lucky Seven need to band together once more to bring It down.

It isn’t difficult to make clowns scary; they’re inherently frightening to begin with. Tim Curry, however, being put into the shoes of Pennywise the Clown is pure genius. You can hardly tell it’s him – the make-up is astonishing, especially at the end of part one. However, Curry doesn’t play Pennywise as straight-forward monster – there are ideas and reasons behind what he’s doing. His delivery of “Yes, Georgie, they all float.” will send shivers down my spine for years to come.

The performances of all the adults is great – some border on the melodramatic, but that’s fine. However, it’s the children, playing younger versions of the adults’ characters, that truly shine, also adding to the fact that part one is simply better and more engaging than part two, due to this fact. The story somehow works better within the confines of childhood than adulthood – in fact, I would edit out the adult scenes and just leave in the children’s scenes and market it as a horror movie for kids, because children love taking charge within a film or television show.

The film itself is a great piece of two-nighter epic television. Not once did I feel bored, nor did the pace ever feel like it was dragging along at snail-like speed. To supply a great, involving story and frightening imagery in a television program in mid-1990 must have broken down some kind of barriers. It should be required viewing for all horror movie fans!

At three hours and spread across two sides, It is a masterpiece of television production. Having not read the book, I’m in no position whatsoever to say if it was faithful or not to the novel, but in the end that isn’t actually important, as the film needs to stand on its own two feet. With a few instances of melodrama and cheese, It breaks through and delivers a masterful fright and engaging story about friendship and promise. Four skulls.

Audio:
The only audio track supplied is an English 2.0 track. Seeing as this was produced in 1990, and as a television film no less, this is no gripe. The dialogue is clear and the music creepy. There isn’t much to say about the audio, other than it gets the job done. Three skulls.

Video:
It has one of the better DVD presentations I’ve seen in my entire couch-potato career of watching films and television shows. Sure, it’s an old program, and is riddled with quite a lot of film artefacts (as well as a few instances of digital artefacts such as blocking), but it looks pretty good. I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase a Blu-Ray edition of the film in the future. Three-and-a-half skulls.

Features:
Only one major extra is provided, along with a useless “Cast and Crew” listing (isn’t that what the end credits are for?) Three skulls.

  • Audio Commentary
  • with director Tommy Lee Wallace and actors Dennis Christopher, Tim Reid, John Ritter and Richard Thomas is not what is usually my cup of tea. It’s edited together from sessions Wallace held, Thomas held, and a group session of Christopher, Reid and Ritter. However, it’s entertaining thanks to the actors as well as informative thanks to Wallace. Amazingly, I lasted the entire three-hour track with no thoughts about turning it off. It was nice to listen to a few of the people involved in making the film reminisce warmly about making the film as well as talk about the friendships towards one another, whether or not they knew of Stephen King, choices made in regards to setpieces, as well as complimenting their colleagues from people such as Olivia Hussey to all the children actors. A great listen.

Overall:
It just knocked my socks off and came out of the blue. I’ve had the DVD sitting in my collection for a while but never got around to viewing it simply because of time constraints (as well as a freakin’ scary clown on the cover). It’s a wonderful film, and eerie and creepy with a nightmare-inducing performance from Tim Curry. Unfortunately the extras are a bit lacking, but the audio commentary is a great listen for fans of the film and will feel like you’re watching the film with your friends, your friends who starred in it, talking you through the production. I hope a future Blu-Ray release will have the film uncut as one film as well as some retrospective interviews with cast and crew, King’s thoughts on the film and a “In Loving Memory” for John Ritter and Jonathan Brandis, who both passed away in 2003. An exceptional movie with an exceptional cast and great, emotional story. Three-and-a-half skulls.

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