It (miniseries)

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For 2017 supernatural horror drama film adaptation, see It (2017 film).
It
It 1990 Promotional Poster.JPG
Promotional artwork
Genre
Based on It
by Stephen King
Written by Lawrence D. Cohen
Tommy Lee Wallace
Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
Starring Harry Anderson
Dennis Christopher
Richard Masur
Annette O'Toole
Tim Reid
John Ritter
Richard Thomas
Tim Curry
Narrated by Tim Reid
Theme music composer Richard Bellis
Country of origin United States
Canada
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 2
Production
Producer(s) Mark Basino
Allen S. Epstein
Jim Green
Cinematography Richard Leiterman
Editor(s) David Blangsted
Robert F. Shugrue
Running time 192 minutes (original version)[1]
187 minutes (DVD version)
Production company(s) Lorimar Productions
DawnField Entertainment
The Konigsberg & Sanitsky Company
Greeb & Epstein Productions
Distributor Warner Bros. Television
Release
Original network ABC
Original release November 18 – November 20, 1990

It is a 1990 American-Canadian supernatural horror miniseries directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, adapted by Lawrence D. Cohen from the Stephen King novel of the same name. The story revolves around an inter-dimensional predatory shapeshifter which has the ability to transform itself into its prey's worst fears, allowing it to exploit the phobias of its victims. It mostly takes the form of a sadistic, wisecracking clown called Pennywise played by Tim Curry. The protagonists are The Lucky Seven, or The Losers Club, a group of outcast kids who discover Pennywise and vow to destroy him by any means necessary. The series takes place over two different time periods, the first when the Losers first discover Pennywise as children, and the second when they're called back as adults to defeat Pennywise, who has resurfaced.

It features an ensemble cast, starring Richard Thomas, John Ritter, Annette O'Toole, Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, Tim Reid and Richard Masur as the seven members of the Losers Club, and Tim Curry as Pennywise. Other noteworthy cast members include the child counterparts of the Losers, which includes Seth Green, Emily Perkins and Jonathan Brandis, Michael Cole as the bully Henry Bowers, Tony Dakota as Georgie Denbrough and Olivia Hussey as Audra Phillips.

Originally conceived as a four-part eight-hour series, ABC enlisted writer Lawrence D. Cohen to adapt the 1,138-page King novel. Cohen's script condensed the source work into a two-part, four-hour miniseries that retained the core elements of the novel, but Cohen was forced to abandon numerous subplots by virtue of the novel's length and the network's time slot restrictions. Production on It began in early 1990, and the series was filmed over a period of three months in New Westminster, British Columbia in mid-1990.

It aired on ABC over two nights on November 18 and 20, 1990, and was a major success for the network, attracting 30 million viewers in its premiere. Since its initial television broadcast, the miniseries has received positive reception, proving to have a large cult following in recent years. Critics praised Tim Curry's performance as Pennywise and the performances of the child actors. For his work on the miniseries, Richard Bellis received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Miniseries or a Special (Dramatic Underscore).

A feature film duology of the novel is planned, with the first installment scheduled to be released on September 8, 2017.

Plot[edit]

In Derry, Maine, 1960, a young boy named George "Georgie" Denbrough is lured to a storm drain by a strange, yet seemingly kind, man dressed in a clown costume named Pennywise. After a brief conversation, Pennywise reveals his malevolent nature and murders Georgie. Georgie's older brother Bill is taunted by Pennywise as well. He and six other outcast children, who form a group called the Losers Club, discover they are all being tormented by the same mysterious clown. The rest of the group consists of the overweight but smart Ben Hanscom, asthmatic Eddie Kaspbrak who lives with his overprotective mother, Beverly Marsh who lives with her alcoholic father, comical Richie Tozier, Jewish Boy Scout Stan Uris, and African-American student Mike Hanlon. In turn, all of them are bullied by the cruel Henry Bowers and his gang.

The Losers soon theorize that Pennywise is not just a deranged man in costume, he is instead an otherworldly creature that surfaces every thirty years in Derry to murder children and therefore they dub him "It". To avenge Georgie and others killed by It, the Losers venture into the sewers where the clown lurks. They are followed by Henry and his friends Victor Criss and Belch Huggins, who threaten Stan, only for It to kill Victor and Belch, but spares the terrified Henry, whose hair turns white. It, as Pennywise, catches up to the Losers and grabs Stan, bragging that he is immortal and eats children. Guessing It's powers are based around imagination, the Losers fight back using the same power, melting Pennywise's face with imaginary battery acid and Beverly smashes a hole in his head using a silver projectile. Pennywise escapes wounded, and the seven make a promise to return and kill him should It resurface. Henry is arrested and institutionalized when he falsely confesses to murdering his friends and the children It killed.

Thirty years later, in 1990, Pennywise returns and begins murdering children in Derry. Mike, a librarian still living in Derry, summons his six friends back to Derry to fulfil their vow. Bill has become a horror novelist married to actress Audra Phillips, Ben is an architect, Beverly is a fashion designer but in an unhappy relationship with Tom Rogan, Richie is a late night TV comedian, Eddie runs a limousine service but still lives with his mother, and Stan is a real estate broker. While five of them agree to come, Stan commits suicide in his bath tub and writes "It" on the wall in blood. The remaining six are individually scared by Pennywise before reuniting for dinner, though Pennywise frightens them there too. They soon learn of Stan's suicide shortly after.

Elsewhere, an older Henry is visited and befriended by Pennywise who sends him to Derry to kill the Losers. Audra also arrives in town following Bill but falls victim to It's paralyzing "deadlights" and falls into a catatonic state. Henry wounds Mike, but is killed by his own knife during a scuffle with the other Losers. With Mike hospitalised, the five remaining Losers decide to destroy It for good. They confront It, who now appears as a monstrous spider. Eddie is killed by It, but Beverly mortally wounds It with her slingshot, and the Losers tear the spider apart. They remove the comatose Audra and Eddie's body from the sewers, burying him in Derry's cemetery.

The Losers go their separate ways, free from It's torment forever. Richie is cast in a film, Beverly and Ben get married and are expecting their first child, and Mike recovers. Bill manages to coax Audra out of her catatonia by going on a ride on his childhood bicycle, which had once freed a young Stan from his fear. With It gone, the Losers can move on with their lives and leave Derry behind.

Cast[edit]

The Losers Club[edit]

Forms of It[edit]

The Bowers Gang[edit]

  • Michael Cole as Henry Bowers
    • Jarred Blancard as Young Henry Bowers
  • Gabe Khouth as Victor Criss
  • Chris Eastman as Belch Huggins

The Losers Club relatives[edit]

  • Olivia Hussey as Audra Phillips/Denbrough
  • Frank C. Turner as Alvin "Al" Marsh
  • Tony Dakota as George "Georgie" Denbrough
  • Steven Hilton as Zack Denbrough
  • Sheelah Megill as Sharon Denbrough
  • Ryan Michael as Tom Rogan
  • Caitlin Hicks as Patti Uris
  • Susan Astley as Aunt Jean
  • Claire Vardiel as Arlene Hanscom
  • Sheila Moore as Ms. Sonya Kaspbrak

Derry Townspeople[edit]

  • Terence Kelly as Officer Nell
  • Jay Brazeau as Derry Cab Driver
  • Donna Peerless as Miss Douglas
  • Merrilyn Gann as Mrs. Winterbarger
  • Chelan Simmons as Laurie Anne Winterbarger
  • William B. Davis as Mr. Gedreau
  • Laura Harris as Loni
  • Garry Chalk as Coach
  • Kim Kondrashoff as Joey
  • Helena Yea as Rose
  • Venus Terzo as Cyndi
  • Charles Siegel as Nat
  • Noel Geer as Bradley
  • Amos Hertzman as "Chubby Kid"
  • Megan Leitch as Library aide
  • Boyd Norman as Gas station attendant
  • Suzie Payne as Female cabbie
  • Scott Swanson as Rademacher
  • Nicola Cavendish as Desk clerk
  • Tom Heaton as Mr. Keene
  • Paul Batten as Pharmacist
  • Russell Roberts as Greco
  • Bill Croft as Koontz
  • Deva Neil DePodesta as Bum
  • Katherine Banwell as Television announcer
  • Douglas Newell as Doctor
  • Gary Hetherington as Police deputy

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

George A. Romero was initially planned to direct It, but left due to scheduling problems.

ABC had acquired the rights to a television miniseries of It, for what would be the first made-for-television film based on a Stephen King work since Salem's Lot (1979), directed by Tobe Hooper.[2] Lawrence D. Cohen, who had previously written the film adaptation of Carrie in 1976, was hired to write It.[2] According to both Stephen King and Cohen, King had little to no involvement in the writing of the miniseries.[2] George A. Romero had originally been signed on to direct the project, which at the time ABC had planned for an eight-to-ten-hour series that would run over four two-hour blocks.[2] Romero left the project due to scheduling conflicts, after which ABC condensed it to a three-part series. Shortly after, Tommy Lee Wallace was brought in to direct. After Wallace signed on to the project, ABC had ultimately decided to condense the series to two parts.[2]

According to writer Cohen: "Speaking candidly, ABC was always nervous about It, primarily the fact that it was in the horror genre, but also the eight-to-ten hour commitment. They loved the piece, but lost their nerve in terms of how many hours they were willing to commit. Eventually, they were agreed to a two-night, four-hour commitment and at that point."[2] Given the length of the King novel, which runs 1,138 pages,[3] a great deal of material was left out of Cohen's adaptation, including subplots concerning the personal lives of the adult characters, one of which had the main male characters each losing their virginity to Beverly.[4][2] "I can’t even begin to enumerate my favorite scenes from the book that we had to cut, because there are so many of them, " Cohen reflected. "I look at as a glass half full situation. There are scenes in both nights that were created by Steve [King] on the page, and I’m delighted that they survived, like the fortune cookie scene and adult Beverly going to her childhood house. The way I see it, the best moments from the book made the cut and the rest are casualties of war."[2]

Wallace and Cohen, however, retained the centrality of Pennywise in the source novel; as noted by film scholar Tony Magistrale in Hollywood's Stephen King, the miniseries retains the "association between the adult world of Derry and It [which] is further established in the masterful choice of a carnival clown as a unifying symbol for the various creatures representing the monster."[5]

Casting[edit]

Pennywise was portrayed by British actor Tim Curry.

The majority of the adult actors in the film, including John Ritter, Dennis Christopher, Tim Reid, and Harry Anderson, were hand-chosen by Wallace and Cohen for their roles.[2] Annette O'Toole was cast in the film at the suggestion of Ritter, with whom she had recently shot The Dreamer of Oz: The L. Frank Baum Story (1990): "I think [John] may have talked to somebody, because I got an offer [to play Beverly]," O'Toole recalled. "It happened really fast; I don’t think I even went in for a reading. I was living in Oregon at the time, and the next I think I knew, I was in Vancouver hanging out with the coolest, most fun guys of all time."[2]

Emily Perkins and Marlon Taylor, who played the young Beverly Marsh and Mike Hanlon, were cast out of Vancouver, while Seth Green and Jonathan Brandis were cast out of Los Angeles for the parts of young Richie and Bill.[2]

According to Cohen, he had written the script for the series without a specific actor in mind for the role of Pennywise.[2] According to director Tommy Lee Wallace, before he was attached to the project, Roddy McDowall and Malcolm McDowell were in consideration to play Pennywise, but Wallace wanted Tim Curry for the part; Wallace had worked with McDowall previously in Fright Night Part 2 (1988).[2]

Filming[edit]

It was shot over a period of three months in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on a budget of $12 million.[6] Given that the shooting entailed an adult cast with child counterparts, Wallace sought to have the adult actors meet with the children playing the younger versions of their characters: "We made a point of bringing the adult and children actors together for a couple of days even though it was costly, since the adults and the kids have no scenes together."[2] Filming locations in Vancouver included Stanley Park, Beaver Lake and Saint Thomas Aquinas High School Convent in North Vancouver.[7]

Special effects[edit]

The appearance of Pennywise was based on Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera.[2]

Original storyboards for Pennywise featured exaggerated cheekbones, a sharp chin, and bulbous forehead. According to director Wallace, "Tim [Curry] objected strongly to all the rubber. He had recently been in several movies which covered him in prosthetics and I’m sure he felt all the glue and latex would just get in his way. He was right, of course. With those eyes, and that mouth, and his crazy, sardonic sense of humor, less turned out to be more in the makeup department."[2]

Special effects coordinator Bart Mixon began working on a head cast for the Pennywise character after Curry was cast in the role; he also designed three clay moulds for testing. According to Mixon, he based the shape of Pennywise's head on Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera (1943), "stylized into a clown."[2] Three different versions of the clown's face were created, one of which resembled a hobo clown, another that was "a little meaner," and the final one seen in the series.[2] To achieve the white complexion, Curry wore prosthetic make-up cream to make him appear "almost like a living cartoon."[2]

The majority of the special effects in the film were done practically without digital alteration, aside from the shower scene in which Pennywise comes out of the drain; this scene was done with replacement animation, an animation technique similar to stop motion animation.[2]

The spider figure in the conclusion of the series was hand-constructed by Mixon and his art department team. Wallace recalled of the spider:

We labored long and hard designing a spider that was very beefy and muscular, almost reptilian in appearance. It looked great in the drawings, and I even recall a little clay model Bart did, which sealed the deal and won my enthusiastic approval. Bart and team went back to Hollywood to work the whole thing up full-size, and shooting started. When the SVFX team returned to Vancouver and unpacked the full-size spider, what I expected to see was the big version of that original model, the beefy, reptilian thing that was scary on sight. What they assembled on set was very, very different. Not chunky at all, very lean and mean."[2]

Some portions of the spider, including the head and the legs, were powered animatronically, while the body was powered by crew members. The scene featuring the spider was shot in slow motion.[citation needed]

Broadcast history[edit]

It originally aired on ABC in 1990 on the nights of November 18[8] and November 20.[9] Part 1 was the fifth highest rated program on Sunday nights with an 18.5 rating and watched in 17.5 million households.[8] Part 2 was the second highest rated program on Tuesday nights with a 20.6 rating and watched in 19.2 million households.[9] According to writer Cohen, It was considered a major success for ABC, garnering nearly 30 million viewers over its two-night premiere.[2]

Reception[edit]

Tim Curry's performance as "Pennywise" received high praise for capturing the novel's portrayal of the character. The film has a 62% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 12 reviews.[10]

Matt Roush of USA Today gave the series a positive review, writing: "If Twin Peaks is a midnight movie for prime-time live, It is the miniseries equivalent of those Saturday matinee shockers that merrily warped a generation before Freddie and Jason began stalking their more graphic turf... Accept It on its own popcorn-munching terms, and keep the lights on high."[11] Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly praised the performances in the film, but had a negative response to its special effects and pacing, noting: "It features a high level of ensemble acting rare for any horror film... in addition to It's slow pace, I found the ending a big letdown—unimaginative special effects animate the monster in its final incarnation. But the cast is terrific, Curry's cackle is chilling, and King's usual buried theme—about the pain adults inflict on children without even realizing it (It?)—is always worth pondering."[11]

Sandra Harris of Movie Pilot gave the film a positive review, noting: "There’s some gorgeous scenery too and a nice interweaving of flashbacks with the regular scenes. For Stephen King fans, this film is a must for your collection. For fans of horror in general, I’d say you could do a lot worse. Take the phone off the hook and burrow under the duvet for three hours with the popcorn and the remote control."[12] Ian Jane of DVD Talk also gave the film a positive review, writing: "It is a film that effectively mixes up childhood nostalgia with some fairly effective moments of eerie horror. As this was a made for TV movie things are played fairly safe here, don't expect gallons of gore or any particularly strong content in that regard, but Pennywise? Yeah, Pennywise is creepy and most of the credit for that goes to Tim Curry."[13]

Stephen King commented on the miniseries in a 2015 interview, and was appreciative of it: "You have to remember, my expectations were in the basement. Here was a book that sprawled over 1,000 pages, and they were going to cram it into four hours, with commercials. But the series really surprised me by how good it was. It’s a really ambitious adaptation of a really long book."[2]

Home media[edit]

The earliest home video release of It was in 1991, followed by another released in 1998.[14] The film was later released on DVD in 2002 before making its debut on Blu-ray on October 4, 2016.[13]

Musical score[edit]

A 2-CD release of the miniseries' complete score by Richard Bellis was released on November 15, 2011.[15] The score ranges from orchestral music to trumpet-heavy music that accompanies the setting of Derry to unsteady electronic instrument arrangements for the film's scarier moments.[15]

Track listing[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Goble 1999, p. 260.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Alter, Ethan (November 17, 2015). "Back to Derry: An Oral History of 'Stephen King's It'". Yahoo!. Archived from the original on March 30, 2017. Retrieved December 28, 2016. 
  3. ^ Graham-Dixon, Charles (October 6, 2015). "Why Stephen King's IT scares off film-makers". The Guardian. Retrieved December 26, 2016. 
  4. ^ O'Connell, Sarah (August 17, 2016). "I'm Every Nightmare You've Ever Had: 9 Insane Facts You Never Knew About 'IT'!". Movie Pilot. Retrieved December 26, 2016. 
  5. ^ Magistrale 2003, p. 185.
  6. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (April 5, 1990). "Producers scare up 5 more King films". Los Angeles Times. p. D6. Retrieved December 28, 2016 – via The Statesman.  open access publication – free to read
  7. ^ Newton, Steve (January 31, 2014). "Horror in Vancouver: Stephen King's evil clown stalks Stanley Park in 1990". The Georgia Straight. Retrieved December 26, 2016. 
  8. ^ a b Hastings, Deborah (November 21, 1990). "TV movies score big in Nielsen ratings". The Times-News. p. 12. Retrieved July 3, 2010 – via Google Books.  open access publication – free to read
  9. ^ a b Hastings, Deborah (November 23, 1990). "ABC posts first ratings win of the season". The Times-News. p. 10. Retrieved July 3, 2010 – via Google Books.  open access publication – free to read
  10. ^ "It". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved September 11, 2012. 
  11. ^ a b Quoted in Beam 1998, p. 108
  12. ^ Harris, Sandra (March 30, 2015). "Stephen King's 'It.' 1990.". Movie Pilot. Retrieved December 28, 2016. 
  13. ^ a b Jane, Ian (October 4, 2016). "Stephen King's It (Blu-ray)". DVD Talk. Retrieved December 28, 2016. 
  14. ^ "Stephen King's It [VHS]". Amazon. Retrieved March 29, 2017. 
  15. ^ a b "Stephen King's It Soundtrack". Soundtrack.net. Retrieved June 4, 2015. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]