Stephen King is most definitely one of the most prolific writers for the past 40 years or so, with his oeuvre mainly in horror, but he has delved into a few different genres but his work within horror is what made him famous. The Dark Tower series, Carrie, The Shining and many more, most of which has translated to the screen, big or small, with varying degrees of success. One of his most notable, It, made the transition to our TV screens in 1990 as a mini-series, to big ratings and a long-lasting following that still has fans old and new still watching. Does It float, or does it get relegated to movie shelf purgatory?
(Then) Modern day Derry, Maine, a child is playing out in the yard while her mother is hanging laundry, and all seems well. The mother goes inside to grab a laundry basket, and the girl is murdered by a clown called Pennywise, the true personification of evil. It has returned, and with it, the memories that Mike Hanlon (Tim Reid) has of his childhood with 6 of his closest friends: Richie (Harry Andeerson), Eddie (Dennis Christopher), Stan (Richard Mazur), Bev (Annette O'Toole), Ben (John Ritter) and Bill (Richard Thomas), who all banded together in the 1960s, as children, to defeat It. Of course they made a pact to return if It comes back, and kill it once and for all. Will they defeat It, or will they all float in the sewers?
I never saw it originally broadcast, since I was only 2 at the time, and I barely saw snippets as a young teen (All I remember was the opening where Bill's brother Georgie met his maker, and nothing else), but I managed to watch the series as an adult and maybe that was a mistake, seeing how this is not really scary at all. In fact, I have failed to ever be scared by anything King has written in novel or film form. Its not for the lack of trying, as I have watched a lot of his film adaptations and have mostly found some caricatures instead of characters, laughs instead of scares, and the revolving door of his go-to setups of Indian burial mounds, religion and everything only happening in Maine. All with no avail. Despite it all, at least this is probably the best mini-series from King, but that's not saying much since the others mostly stink out loud.
The cast is very talented, with the 7 main adult actors doing well with what they have, but the kid actors portraying the characters are even better, with a great camaraderie amongst the group that makes a compelling watch. Tim Curry, as Pennywise, steals every scene he has, delivering a truly Curry performance of menace, theatrics and ham all blending to a memorable evil villain.
The rest of the cast are two dimensional characters, poorly written, arcs cut short or disappearing entirely and the secondary villains (i.e. Henry Bowers, Bev's abusive boyfriend) laughably over the top. Speaking of the writing, the script (Credited to director Tommy Lee Wallace and Lawrence D. Cohen) has an uneven flow. I know there are flashbacks that have to happen, but every 2 minutes causes a jerkiness I cannot get past. Plot lines from the original prose are gone, motivations are unclear or non-existant, and possibly one of the poorest endings I have ever witnessed. I know they had to cut out a lot of violence, sexuality and racism from the adaptation, but to gut the film of any bite is not the way to do it. Wallace's direction can be effective, but the script is just a huge pothole that he cannot avoid. The music, sound and sets are done well, but the special effects are laughably bad, even for 1990 effects, very poor.
All in all, It is an overly long series, that has some great actors doing their best, but with underwritten characters (stemming from the original novel and the neutering of this adaptation), under-cooked script , terrible effects and an ending that Frank Capra would light on fire, this is entertaining in spurts, but is mostly staring into the Deadlights and being rendered motionless (and bored).
Moving on to the A/V, having seen some of the reairings on TV in the past (Clips rather) and the flipper DVD from years prior, I've gotta say this is the film has ever looked, but still not the greatest it could look. The OAR of 1.33 is used here (The DVD is actually 1.85, which caused a few issues with the reformatting of the ratio) looks decent, with colors being the highlight here. The green of the trees and the sewers, the deep red blood, the pasty white of Pennywise, all look rather well and accurately represented here. Grain is here and is well-resolved in bright lights, but can get buzzy in dark scenes (Spikes the most during the optical effects), but at least it wasn't scrubbed away with malicious use of DNR. Detail is also fairly detailed, with facial closeups being the most detailed, but all in all, very decent, but could use a remaster.
The audio is also pretty good, with the 2.0 DTS-HD track delivering the dialogue, music and effects rather well, but not an earth shatteringly loud track, just an accurate representation of the material.
Extras are just a carryover from the DVD, which is the commentary with the director and cast. I would have loved a making-of documentary, interviews or a retrospective with the cast and crew. Oh well, maybe the new movie will introduce a better disc.
Overall, the mini-series is just okay, and the disc being pretty decent but this is pretty much a one-and-done for me.