Filmmakers John Campopiano and Chris Griffiths present audiences with their definitive look back at the much-loved IT miniseries in Pennywise: The Story of IT. Full of details the avid fan will love, there is a lot here to enjoy.
Exploring the 1990 miniseries, based on Stephen King’s iconic novel IT, this documentary tells a story heard by few and showcases a wealth of behind-the-scenes footage and photos seen by even fewer. From investigating the cultural phenomenon of coulrophobia (the fear of clowns) to Tim Curry’s magical portrayal of the notorious clown monster.
In an age of horror franchises getting their well-deserved due with a feature-length documentary, it felt like one film or miniseries was missing. Thankfully after a long wait, Pennywise: The Story of IT has come our way to give us a pretty definitive breakdown of the much loved 2-night special TV event from 1990.
We get a fairly standard narrative here in Pennywise: The Story of IT. From Page to Screen, casting, production etc. Yet, for those unfamiliar with the production’s ins and outs, it becomes a fascinating watch. Knowing how strong that first episode (known as Night One script and production-wise) was allowed for a lot of leeway in the second episode.
Original teleplay writer Lawrence D. Cohen admits that the second night was not as strong because of how difficult it was to adapt such a dense novel in IT. So the animosity that you usually see between the original writer and those who then carry out rewrites is non-existent here. Instead, he understood changes needed to be made to make it workable. This positive attitude is something that runs through the entire documentary and allows us to just revel in the fondness every on camera had for the episodes.
There had always been a morbid curiosity that they kept Tim Curry’s Pennywise makeup so ridiculously simple in 1990 when special effects could do next to everything. In Pennywise: The Story of IT, we get a great breakdown, the proposed makeup, while looking great, limited its performance of Curry. So when he suggests just to make it simple and for them to trust that in such makeup, he can make it terrifying, we get to see pure confidence in an actor fully aware of his capabilities and a production that was willing to allow him to stretch his legs.
What did surprise me was that the documentary was not afraid to talk about one of the massive elephants in the room in the novel, the orgy scene. They mention it here in that it is accepted that in no way could or would it have been used, nor was it entirely necessary. Of course, King used sexual liberation to show that children were not children, but even then, it has always been an iffy aspect of the novel to folks. Here it is given a couple of minutes of time before moving on, showing how willingly in-depth John Campopiano and Chris Griffiths were in the documentary.
Although we are missing a few of the cast from the talking head segments (some for sadder reasons than some others), it was great to listen to the majorities experiences of the production the effects of being in the adaptation decades later. Especially so with Curry, who is on great form here in the moments, we get with him.
In a world of three or four-hour documentaries, this two-hour jaunt to the miniseries feels just about right in length; what hits you is how much better the spider looks on set than it eventually did. What happened there!? In the end, this has everything a fan of the series will want, and with the plethora of behind-the-scenes footage, you will not be disappointed.
Pennywise: The Story of It will be available on Digital Download from 3rd October and Blu-ray & DVD from 24th October.
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