For a start, this two-hour long documentary is a bit of a fib – it is not the entire story of IT. Whilst it covers Stephen King’s novel and its adaptation into the 1990 TV version, there’s no mention of the more recent Andy Muschetti films, something which sits a little oddly given this film’s title and the phenomenal success of the big screen version.
In a way that’s a shame, the two films’ absence is certainly felt.
However, for fans of the TV movie, this is a treasure trove of interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, reaction and celebration.
King’s massive novel remains a stunning achievement, over a thousand pages of some of his very best writing. Spanning two time zones, IT tells the story and how The Losers Club, a band of teenage misfits in a small town, come together to face their fears and fight an ancient child-murdering evil that returns to their town every 37 years in the guise of a clown. Years later, the Loser’s Club must reunite from all over America and fight the evil again.
How you turn such a dense, multi-character-driven novel onto a two-part mini-series is at the heart of what makes this documentary so enjoyable. Whilst archive footage shows us where King’s inspiration came from, new interviews with writer Lawrence D Cohen, Director Tommy Lee Wallace and many of the cast and crew bring fascinating insight into the process of creating a truly landmark piece of television.
From today’s perspective, it’s easy to forget just what an impact IT had and what a gamble the production was. It pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable to show in a TV horror, particularly in terms of children in peril, a was a gamble which clearly paid off, achieving viewing figures which would be unthinkable now.
Of course, IT became the success it was, one which continues to haunt people and which created an entire generation of people terrified of clowns, in part because of the brilliant source material, in part because of a great group of young and older actors playing the Loser’s Club but, mainly, for Time Curry in his extraordinary performance as Pennywise, one of the screen’s truly great monsters. It’s wonderful to see I’m taking part here, and even better to finally get the credit he’s always deserved for bringing so much to so many iconic roles. If nothing else, Pennywise: The Story of IT puts that right.
Told in chapters telling a pretty linear narrative of the production, there’s nothing exciting or unusual about the telling of the story – it’s a very standard documentary indeed. It’s the subject matter only which keeps the interest and that’ in itself is fascinating.
Pennywise: The Story of IT is released on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital on October 3rd.