BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Hands down, It is the best killer clown movie around to ever roll out onto ANY screen. The miniseries itself might be a tad uneven, but nothing beats Tim Curry’s performance as the killer clown haunting one small town in Maine.
I am just going to assume that NO ONE – especially if you are a Gen Xer – can ever shake the scene from It in which Curry as Pennywise the clown collects the newspaper boat from Georgie. The poor boy has followed the boat as it sailed in the runoff water down the street’s gutters, right into the sewer. “Want your boat, Georgie,” the clown asks from the sewer. He smiles up at the little boy. They have a conversation and the Eater of Worlds lures Georgie closer and closer and closer. Then, with fangs completely visible, he strikes. For many of my age, the fear of clowns was born right then and there.
There’s something very wrong in the town of Derry.
With those words, one of the most memorable Stephen King adaptations gets it start. Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween 3: Season of the Witch), It is an epic two-part television miniseries that gets so many things right it’s easy to forgive the adaptation for what it gets wrong. The child actors – playing the story’s main characters in 1960 – simply knock the ambitious adaptation out of the park. Truly, they are the homerun stars of this production. They “smoke” their adult counterparts and, aided by the performance of Curry as the child-killing clown, they are the reasons why we STILL talk about It at all.
The miniseries begins with the killing of a child in 1990 and a photograph left at the scene of the murder. Discovered by librarian Mike Henlon (Tim Reid), the photograph is that of Georgie Denbrough, killed 30 years prior by an evil clown he and his friends once fought in 1960. As promised by the legend, Pennywise has returned to Maine and it is up to Mike to bring his old friends back to their hometown to, once again, battle with the evil clown.
King’s novel is over 1100 pages long. That’s pretty damn epic for a horror story. With Pet Sematary having done well in theaters, bringing King to the television a mere year or so later was a complete no-brainer. The miniseries; however, doesn’t even begin to touch some of the novel’s content, which is to be expected. Still, there are large parts of the adaptation that just doesn’t work. Curry terrifies and he always works, but there is a bit too much compaction that simply translates to a lot of the 1990 scenes being complete and utter cheese. The eye-rolling dialogue from the adults is also just a bit too nauseating to ignore.
While we still have some of the disturbing images that haunt the kids, large portions of King’s text were simply cut due to the limitations of the television format. There are pacing issues, too, as jumping from one character to another and then developing their backstory proves to be a bit problematic when it comes to building momentum. None of that stops that clown’s damned white glove from popping out of a book of photographs in the hope of tearing off the faces of a child or two.
Curry is simply a maniac in the role of the wraithlike killer haunting the town of Derry. His voice alone is enough to send shivers down spines, yet Curry does SO MUCH with the role that it’s hard not to just stare in awe. He is marvelous. It is truly frightening stuff for television. And large portions – especially with the kids – are more entertaining (and scary) than they have any right being. Pennywise can take ANY form. And he haunts – whether as a werewolf or as a deceased father – this group of kids with a thirst for red meat that few other monsters can match.
Jump to 1990 and the whole “get the band back together” scenario simply can’t compete with the terrifying purpose guiding the 1960 segment. While it is these characters that made the pact to return if the evil they once fought ever did as well, I’m not entirely sure the adult cast – featuring Annette O’Toole, Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, Richard Masur, John Ritter, Richard Thomas, and Michael Cole –
completely bought into it. They certainly feel and act a bit too aloof throughout their segments. You can practically hear the needle ripped from the vinyl whenever we leave the 1960 segments.
Thankfully, we have the Stand By Me-like backstory to balance out the rather awkward transitions into adulthood. It’s the kids’ performances – Seth Green, Adam Faraizl, Ben Heller, Emily Perkins, Marion Taylor, Brandon Crane, and Johnathan Brandis – which rescues the adults and keeps It from becoming another failed King adaptation with one hell of a scary-ass clown at its center.
Wallace keeps a steady hand on the direction and on the Loser’s Club as they investigate the weird monsters they are all seeing. He’s to be commended on keeping the backstory focused and intriguing. For a miniseries split into two parts, it’s disappointing then that Part One is so much stronger than its conclusion. Wallace just doesn’t get good performances from the actors and Curry simply decimates his targets.
Warner Bros presents It on blu-ray for the very first time. It can be found in stores in a single release for under $10 or as a limited edition, complete with a Large Pennywise t-shirt if you want to support your most favorite clown to hate. If you can find the deluxe edition, that black shirt – a nice rendering of Curry as Penywise – is definitely worth it. Unfortunately, they are already hard to find. Happy hunting, though; it seems Pennywise is not done with you yet.
MPAA Rating: Not rated.
Runtime: 192 mins
Cast: Richard Thomas, Tim Reid, Annette O'Toole
Genre: TV | Horror
Tagline: Your every fear - all in one deadly enemy.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Let go. Be afraid. You all taste so much better when you're afraid."
TV Distributor: American Broadcasting Company (ABC)
Release Date: November 18, 1990
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: September 20, 2016
Synopsis: In 1960, seven outcast kids known as "The Loser Club" fight an evil demon who poses as a child-killing clown. Thirty years later, they reunite to stop the demon once and for all when it returns to their hometown.
Available on Blu-ray - September 20, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.33:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, Thai
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (48kHz, 16-bit); French: Dolby Digital 2.0; German: Dolby Digital 2.0; Italian: Dolby Digital 2.0; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0; Czech: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Single disc
Region Encoding: A
Presented by Warner Bros, It’s 1080p transfer is pretty solid. This is a made for television product. Expectations should be tempered a bit, but it is a nice palette of colors that explodes onto the screen. Pennywise’s clown costume is bursting with reds and yellows and, thanks to the HD, viewers can appreciate the minute details that went into his make-up. Pay attention to the eyes and the teeth. Black levels are solid and defined, which – considering there is a lot of underground and midnight action between the clown and the kids/adults –a very good thing. Presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, It’s MPEG-4 AVC transfer is much appreciated. The sound – encoded here in a crisp DTS-Master Audio 2.0 Mono track is solid enough to deliver Curry’s maniacal laugh and carry the dialogue.
Ported over from the DVD release, it’s good that the commentary – featuring the film’s director and its star – exists. They talk rather frankly about how scared they were of the Tim Curry and how they avoided him on the set. All of this added to his performance and to their response to him when he would pop out and scare them.