As long as Beyond The Cabin In The Woods is doing their Stephen King run, I’m thinking entries around this period of time will all have a certain theme. We will re-join our other program already in progress just as soon as we can.
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Cast: Tim Reid, Tim Curry, and some White People
Have I Seen it Before: How much time do you have?
Did I Like It: Well…
The TV Movie adaptation of Stephen King’s novel clocks in at 187 minutes (depending on what version of the story you watch) and, in the sober, clear-minded reality of 2018, maybe 6 minutes of unquestionably work. The unfathomable demon that most often appears as Pennywise The Dancing Clown (Tim Curry) only appears for about 20 minutes of the production, and while his performance is the one culturally resonant part of the proceedings, even his returns diminish to the point where the last time we see him as a ghostly apparition just before the Loser’s Club descends to face IT’s “true form,” I am less filled with a sense of dread, and more marveling at Curry’s performance, which is manically magnetic, even when he isn’t given much to do.
But those six minutes, though…
I’ll admit, when this film works best it is merely reaching back into disparate memories I have of catching moments of its original broadcast in 1990. The image of Pennywise instructing the now-adult Henry Bowers (Michael Cole) to “kill them all” particularly did me in. To this day, I’m convinced the evening sky of November 20, 1990 possessed a full moon, and forever ruined me as a human being, and continues to give me just a jot of an adrenaline spike whenever I see a clown, including Bill Skarsgård’s performance in the more recent 2017 adaptation. In truth, the almanac insists that the date in question was waxing crescent. To be frank, the truth only disturbs me more. Was I imagining it? Or was something else happening?
The rest of the performances are made up of slightly mis-cast but amiable presences, made all the more precious by the fact that many of them have since passed on. Harry Anderson doesn’t quite connect with me as the slightly cynical adult Richie Tosier. Honestly, at that point in his career, Bob Saget would have been great in the role, and probably destroyed the American Broadcasting Company, Lorimar Television, and all of Western Civilization in the process. John Ritter is nice to see also, but I can’t help but look at him and feel as if he’s trying to some sort of farce in the piece to play. Jonathan Brandis is just so damned earnest, that I could practically hear the producers of Seaquest DSV typing the phrase “Wesley Crusher of the Ocean” into their Wordstars.
A few years ago I couldn’t have imagined that I would prefer a new adaptation of King’s story, but here we are. The “original” IT is overlong, but a few chunks of gold are in there for the discerning viewer.