Updated: Jan 30, 2022
By Bob Deakin
I stumbled upon It this week - the Tim Curry version - on one of the streaming services. Originally filmed as a two-part miniseries for ABC TV in 1990, it had a second life as a film release with both parts combined.
Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace, it’s the story of seven down-and-out kids who call themselves the Losers Club. It is set in the fictional small town of Derry, Maine, in 1960, and they are bullied and made fun of in school.
It’s appalling at the beginning as the lead character’s little brother is killed by Pennywise, a brightly-colored clown played by Curry, who lurks in a storm drain. He is the physical representation of an evil spirit that has been terrorizing Derry every 30 years for more than a century.
What kept my interest was Curry’s performance, which steals the show. He speaks in a New York accent, and both smiles, laughs and snarls in the same sentences. With a white face, red nose and flaming red hair he has the classic clown look, ruining clowns for every kid who wasn’t already afraid of them.
The plot goes on forever, but one of my favorite scenes is when the kids all look at a book put together by the new member of their club, Mike. Suddenly the photos come to life, and Pennywise runs to the forefront of one to terrorize them all.
The film intersperses time as we are gradually introduced to each member of the Losers Club 30 years later. They all come back - except for one - at the beckoning of Mike because Pennywise has reappeared and killed again.
The plot crawls to an eventual climax when they all confront Pennywise, whose true form (somehow) is a spider-like creature. The special effects are wonderfully embarrassing. The fight sequence is alarmingly serene as they huddle together and look on while one of their brethren is killed by the monster.
The characters finally rise together to fight the beast and subdue it by ripping out its heart, which looks oddly like an untrimmed, bone-in prime rib fresh out of the oven with potatoes, carrots, and lots of au jus.
I feel for the characters, especially when they’re kids. As adults, they are primarily brooding, whiney, and remarkably shallow. It’s a big cast including Harry Anderson, Seth Green (as a child), Tim Reid, John Ritter, and Richard Thomas (whose ponytail is one of the most frightening props in the film) as the star.
Most of them were previously known for comedy roles, and the longer the film goes, the more I want one of them to show some comic relief. Tim Curry, of course, displays both comedy and terror and saves the whole show.
It reportedly runs for 192 minutes, but it took me two days to reach the end, and I’m still not sure it’s over.