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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

IT (1990) - Tommy Lee Wallace

In 1990 magic happened. Horror Icon Stephen King and film director Tommy Lee Wallace had come together to create, what just might be, the scariest made-for-television movie of all time! This may seem a bit boastful. However you have to keep in mind that it had treated an entire generation of children to their newest fear of coulrophobia. Otherwise known as the fear of clowns. I'm sure there are several of you would cite this movie as the root of their nightmares.

Like I had said above, this movie was aired on ABC as a two part mini-series. That means that it was coming on IT continues to be one of the best to film adaptations of King's work. I personally think that The Shining is the best with IT following closely behind. Pet Sematary is somewhere after those two. While IT really is amazing. It also happens to run just a bit too long. It is also a victim of being limited by the technology of 1990. But none of these factors actually derail the picture. It's still wonderful. Although I love it, I am very excited for the 2017 remake. Even though no one could ever replace John Ritter. 

The movie is about an ancient evil that manifests itself every hundred years or so and massacres the people of Derry, ME. It's another worldly force. And in the case of this movie, that evil force is manifesting itself as Pennywise the Clown. An evil clown that appears to children and abducts them to feed on. Pennywise is discovered by a group of social outcasts in elementary school. The group comes to be known as the Losers Club. The Losers Club somehow finds a way to harness a force of good that can stop Pennywise from carrying out his evil plans.

Let's talk about the cast for a moment. If you aren't familiar with Tim Curry's work then I suggest you pick up this movie. You should also probably go ahead and pick up The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Legend as well. In this movie he is absolutely terrifying as Pennywise. The way that Curry delivers his lines is creepy enough. But when you have that creepy voice behind scary clown makeup it gets turned up to eleven. I noticed that Pennywise's make-up is very similar to that of one Ronald McDonald's. I wonder if that was on purpose.

Other cast members include Night Court's Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, Richard Masur, the late Jonathan Brandis, Robot Chicken's Seth Green, and none other than Three's Company's John Ritter. All of their performances are questionable to say the least and suffer from over-acting and poor delivery. There are parts that are acted very well but it seems as if the director sacrificed the opportunity for good acting in place of more storyline. A lot of that back-story just isn't needed and its absence would make the movie seem less... stuffy.

This movie has a presence like no other. The movie has been referred to many times as one of the scariest movies made for television, and Pennywise is right up there as one of the scariest horror movie villains of all time. It's for good measure. All of the elements had come together in such a way that delivered such an iconic film. This is definitely a scary movie. The visuals. The Timing. Everything is executed really well aside from the acting.

IT stands as an iconic film in the Stephen King lexicon. People had been talking about this movie ever since it had come out. I remember teasing friends at school with the "You'll float too!" line. The quick shots of Pennywise and his rows of razor sharp teeth are stuck in my mind for good. Not too shabby for a made-for-TV mini-series. The effects leave a lot to be desired and the acting is TV quality. But what was I expecting? With a decent budget this movie could possibly have been the next Exorcist. I highly recommend.

Tommy Lee Wallace
Tim Curry, Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, Richard Masur, Annette O'Toole, Tim Reid, John Ritter and Richard Thomas
Country of origin:
United States and Canada
Lorimar Productions, DawnField Entertainment, The Konigsberg & Sanitsky Company and Greeb & Epstein Productions
Original release:
November 18 – November 20, 1990

 "When you're down here with us, you'll float too!"
  • Tim Curry did such a good job portraying Pennywise that actors actually stayed away from him during filming.
  • Both actors John Ritter and Jonathan Brandis tragically died in 2003. Ritter suffered a fatal aortic dissection while Brandis hung himself.
  • Seth Green was menaced in this film constantly by werewolves. In the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Seth Green plays a Werewolf.


Flower said...

While I like your review I really have to question your movie tastes when you suggest Pet Cemetery as one of the best King movie adaptations. In reality King's books are all about story line rather than character, just as his movies are all about story line and not acting. I would say IT and Misery were the two best later followed up by TNT's version of Salem's Lot.

I would all add in Lawnmower man, but King refused to acknowledge that movie as part of his work. . . even if it did later bring forth the inspiration of The Matrix.

Why you suggest people go see Legend in appose to Clue for a good view of Tim Curry's work is also beyond my understanding.

Keep the reviews coming!

Peanut_Larry said...

Pet Semetary is widely known as one of the greatest horror films of the King adaptation line of movies. And the saying "one of the best" lends itself to interpretation of the placing. He didn't say it was THE best... Additionally, characters that people become attached to illicit more of a response when in danger/turmoil than characters that we know nothing about. Please explain to me how SK is a story based writer. I am currently reading The Shining and Jack is one of the most developed and 3-dimensional characters I've come across in literature.

As far as story arc vs. acting, most of SK's works were adapted for television with lower budgets and less popular actors so the acting might not be top notch, but the scariness is more about the atmosphere in these films.

And last but not least, Legend has one of the best depictions of the Devil. Far better of a performance than Clue (where the only enjoyable part for me was the ending and even that gag got tired quick). I'd take my 100th viewing of Rocky Horror over Clue any day.