IT also known as Stephen King’s IT is an 1990 American supernatural horror drama miniseries directed by Tommy Lee Wallace and adapted by Lawrence D. Cohen from the Stephen King's novel of the same name. It is the first of 2 adaptations of the novel, the second being the 2017 film and the third being it's upcoming 2019 sequel. The story revolves around a predatory shapeshifter which has the ability to transform itself into it's prey's worst fears, allowing it to exploit the phobias of it's victims. IT mostly takes the human form of a sadistic, wisecracking clown called "Pennywise". The protagonists are The Losers Club, a group of outcast kids who discover Pennywise and vow to destroy him by any means necessary. The miniseries takes place over 2 different time periods, the first when the Losers first confront Pennywise as children in 1960, and the second when they return as adults in 1990 to defeat him a second time after he resurfaces. IT features an ensemble cast, starring Richard Thomas, John Ritter, Annette O'Toole, Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, Tim Reid and Richard Masur as the 7 members of The Losers Club, and Tim Curry as Pennywise. The child counterparts of the Losers that appear in part one are played by Jonathan Brandis, Seth Green, Emily Perkins, Brandon Crane, Adam Faraizl, Marlon Taylor and Ben Heller. Michael Cole, Jarred Blancard, Gabe Khouth, Chris Eastman, Olivia Hussey, Frank C. Turner, Tony Dakota, Michael Ryan, Tom Heaton and Chelan Simmons also played supporting roles. Originally planning a 4-part and 8-hour series, ABC enlisted writer Lawrence D. Cohen to adapt the 1,138 page novel. Lawrence's script condensed the source work into a 2-part, 3-hour miniseries that retained the core elements of the novel, but Lawrence was forced to abandon numerous subplots by virtue of the novel's length and the network's times-lot restrictions. Production on IT began in early 1990, and the miniseries was filmed over a period of 3 months in New Westminster, British Columbia in mid-1990. It aired on ABC over 2 nights on November 18th and 20th 1990, attracting 30 million viewers in it's premiere. Critics praised Tim Curry's performance as Pennywise. For his work on the miniseries, Richard Bellis received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a miniseries or a Special Dramatic Underscore.
In Derry, Maine, 1960, Georgie Denbrough plays in the streets with a paper sailboat made by his stuttering big brother Bill. It goes down a storm drain, where Georgie encounters Pennywise The Dancing Clown. Pennywise entices Georgie to reach in to retrieve his boat, only for him to bite his arm off and leaves him to bleed to death. Months later, Bill and asthmatic Eddie Kaspbrak befriend the overweight new kid Ben Hanscom. They are later joined by Beverly Marsh, who lives with her abusive father, the comical Richie Tozier and the Jewish boy scout Stan Uris. As they all start to know each other, Ben develops feelings for Beverly, only to discover she has feelings for Bill. Besides being bullied by a gang led by Henry Bowers, the children all encounter Pennywise. The group are joined by Mike Hanlon, an African American new kid in town being pursued by Henry's gang. They chase them off with a rock fight, Henry vowing to kill the children, who are dubbed "The Losers Club". While looking through Mike’s history scrapbook, The Losers realize that Pennywise, which they refer to as “IT”, is a monster who awakens every 30 years to devour children. Bill realizes It killed Georgie, leading The Losers into Derry’s sewers to kill the clown. Stan is ambushed by Henry and his friends Vic Criss and Belch Huggins, but the latter are both killed by IT. Henry is left traumatized, his hair turns white. Stan regroups with The Losers, but is grabbed by IT. The Losers use IT’s ability to access their imaginations and use it against him. Eddie imagines his inhaler is full of battery acid, melting half of IT’s face. Beverly fires silver bullets at IT, The Losers believing it can kill the clown. IT escapes down a drain to hibernate. The Losers make a vow to return to Derry as adults, should IT return. Henry, driven insane, falsely confesses to the child murders and is institutionalized. In 1990, Mike works as a librarian in Derry. IT resurfaces and murders several children, prompting Mike to contact his estranged friends to fulfil their vow. Bill has become a bestselling horror novelist married to British actress Audra Phillips, Ben is an architect, Beverly is a fashion designer abused by her husband Tom Rogan, Richie is a late night television comedian, Eddie runs a limousine service but still lives with his overbearing mother and Stan is a married real estate broker. All of The Losers, save Stan, promise to return. Stan’s wife later discovers he has committed suicide in the bath. The other Losers return to Derry, tormented by Pennywise and reunite, later learning of Stan’s suicide. Henry escapes from the asylum with help from IT, to murder The Losers. Audra travels to Derry but is captured by IT, hypnotized by the monster’s “Deadlights”. Henry ambushes Mike, but is stabbed by his own knife when Eddie and Ben fight him. Mike is hospitalized, giving Bill the 2 pieces of silver he retrieved from the sewers. The 5 remaining Losers return to the sewers to confront IT. Bill discovers Audra has been taken prisoner, but is supported by his friends. They reach IT's inner sanctum, find the catatonic Audra, and IT's true form of a gigantic, otherworldly spider. Bill, Ben, and Richie are entranced by the Deadlights, while Beverly scrambles to retrieve the silver bullets after misfiring them. Eddie attempts to repeat the wound he inflicted on IT as a child, but is mortally wounded. Beverly frees her friends, but Eddie dies. The others chase the injured It, ripping out it's heart and killing IT. They remove Eddie’s body and the catatonic Audra from the sewers. The Losers go their separate ways once again, their memories of IT fading over time. Mike recovers in hospital, Beverly and Ben get married and expect their first child, and Richie is cast in a film. Bill is the last to leave Derry, coaxing Audra out of her catatonia by riding down the street on his childhood bike “Silver”. Audra recovers and kisses Bill in the middle of the town.
- Jonathan Brandis as Young Bill Denbrough
- Brandon Crane as Young Ben Hanscom
- Emily Perkins as Young Beverly Marsh
- Seth Green as Young Richie Tozier
- Adam Faraizl as Young Eddie Kaspbrak
- Marlon Taylor as Young Mike Hanlon
- Ben Heller as Young Stan Uris
- Jarred Blancard as Young Henry Bowers
- Unknown as Moose Sadler
- Unknown as Peter Gordon
- Main Title: Part I
- Enter the Clown
- Georgie Dies
- Ben Gets the News
- I Hate It Here
- Bedroom Jazz Source
- The Slap
- Die if You Try
- Richie's Talk Show Play-Off
- The Beast – First Encounter
- Mike Remembers
- Mike Joins the Group
- Circus Source
- Target Practice
- The Sewer Hole
- Stan Gets Nabbed
- The Fog
- The Pact
- Stan's Suicide
- End Credits: Part I
- Main Title: Part II
- The Graves
- Library Balloons
- Ben's Flashback
- Skeleton on the Pond
- Guillory's Muzak
- Fortune Cookie
- Silver Flyer
- Leftover Stan
- Henry and Belch
- Every Thirty Years
- Audra Arrives
- This Time It's for Real
- The Smell of Death
- Something's Coming
- The Spider's Web
- Hi Ho Silver
- End Credits: Part II
Differences from the novel
- In the miniseries, we learn that Ben Hanscom's father is a former U.S. military officer who was killed in action during The Korean War. However in the novel, Ben's father is only mentioned in passing as having given Ben his silver dollars.
- In the miniseries, Vic Criss and Peter Gordon seem to be less morally sympathetic and more willing to go along with Henry Bowers's psychotic deeds towards The Losers Club than in the novel.
- The miniseries puts more emphasis on IT's "Pennywise The Clown" form as he plays a fairly larger role than he does in the novel.
- In the novel, IT takes the form of Vic when it visits Henry in the mental hospital, however, in the miniseries, IT takes the form of Belch Huggins instead.
- The novel takes place in 1957-1958 and 1984-1985. In the miniseries, the story takes place in 1960 and 1990.
- Georgie Denbrough's death is more violent and explained in the novel. In the miniseries, Georgie is pulled into the sewers by IT and the next scene cuts to his funeral.
- In the novel, It is revealed to be a female after laying eggs. In the miniseries, this part is omitted.
- The scene where Beverly Marsh has sex with all of the boys in the novel is left out in the miniseries. The oath of fellowship is however made when each of The Losers take turns taking a puff from Eddie Kaspbrak's inhaler.
- Henry's death is more violent in the novel. In the miniseries, he is impaled through the chest by his own switchblade.
- Some characters such as Beverly's mother, Patrick Hockstetter, Gard Jagermeyer, Marcia Fadden, Eddie Corcoran, Adrian Mellon, Don Hagarty and The Turtle were left out in the miniseries.
- The Turtle story entirely was cut out of the miniseries, including The Macroverse, The Edge Of Existence, what IT exactly was, and the force beyond IT and The Turtle.
- The downtown part of Derry, Maine gets destroyed in the novel.
- In the novel, Eddie is married to a woman named Myra, who is exactly like his mother. But in the miniseries, Eddie is single and still living with his mom.
- The rock fight is more violent and explained in the novel. But in the miniseries, only Henry, Beverly, Vic, Belch, Peter and Moose Sadler get hit by rocks and the rest of The Losers don't get hit by rocks.
- The novel contains more strong language than in the miniseries.
- In the novel, Richie Tozier plays a significantly more important role, in addition to being closer to Bill Denbrough than any of the other Losers, he was one of 2 in the final fight with IT, he also saves Bill's life from The Deadlights. In the miniseries, he is sort of unappreciated.
- In the miniseries, Richie is present at Georgie's funeral, this is not mentioned in the novel.
- In the novel, Eddie breaking his arm and being in a cast is a significant part of the story, but is left out of the miniseries.
- In the novel, Ben sees IT as The Mummy and Stan Uris sees IT as The Waterlogged Corpse, in the miniseries, the encounters are switched.
- In the novel, Eddie sees IT as The Leper, but in the miniseries, he sees IT as Pennywise while taking a shower at school.
- Peter and Moose, 2 of the less significant bullies of The Bowers Gang, play a much smaller role in the miniseries, only appearing during the rock fight scene against The Losers.
- In the novel, Richie sees IT as The Werewolf at the house on 29 Neibolt Street along with Bill. But in the miniseries, Richie sees IT as The Werewolf at school while in the janitor center.
- Tom Rogan has a bigger role in the novel. In the novel, he chases Beverly to Derry and is driven by IT to capture Audra Phillips, Bill's wife and later in the novel, Tom drops dead in shock after seeing IT in the form of The Deadlights. In the miniseries, Tom stays behind in Chicago without going after Beverly.
- Henry's father Butch Bowers, doesn't appear in the miniseries. He is however, mentioned by Henry a couple of times.
- Laurie Anne, is attacked and killed by IT in the opening scene of the miniseries, which makes her death start the chain of miniseries events. In the novel, she is another victim of IT, but her death doesn't start the 1984-1985 staring of murders.
- Instead of being killed by IT as Frankenstein's Monster, Vic and Belch are killed by IT in the form of The Deadlights.
- In the novel it is described for Beverly and Audra to have auburn hair, in the miniseries they're brunettes.
- Bill is described as having red hair, blue eyes and being the tallest of the group in the novel, while in the miniseries he has dirty-light brown hair and is the same height as the rest of The Losers Club.
- The snobbish girls that are impolite to Beverly are named Greta Bowie and Sally Mueller in the novel, but in the miniseries one is named Loni and the other's name is unknown.
- Eddie and Bill are described as to be balding as they get older in the novel, while in the miniseries they still have a lot of hair.
- Sonia Kaspbrak is described as being very overweight in the novel, while in the miniseries, she's very slim.
- In the novel, Beverly is said to wear cheap thrift store clothes and live in a slummy apartment on Lower Main Street. In the miniseries, she wears normal clothes and lives in a nice house in suburban neighborhood.
- Henry is described as having a waxed flattop haircut and wearing a pink motorcycle jacket in the novel. In the miniseries, he has a short pompadour with a devil lock and wears a brown motorcycle jacket.
- Vic is said to sport an Elvis-like pompadour, along with a shirt with a popped collar and engineer boots in the novel. In the miniseries, he has simple combed hair and wears a dark blue jacket.
- Peter is briefly described to be having a "good crop of acne" at the age of 12 in the novel, while in the miniseries he doesn't appear to have any acne.
- Ben is said to be leaving the library before being attacked by Henry Bowers in the book, but in the mini-series, he gets attacked by Henry Bowers shortly after leaving school.
ABC had acquired the rights to a TV miniseries of IT, for what would be the first made for TV film based on a Stephen King work since Salem's Lot directed by Tobe Hooper. Lawrence D. Cohen, who had previously written the 1976 film of Carrie, was hired to write IT. According to both Stephen King and Lawrence, Stephen had little to no involvement in the writing of the miniseries. George A. Romero had originally been signed on to direct the project, which at the time ABC had planned for an 8 to 10 hour series that would run over 4 2-hour blocks. George left the project due to scheduling conflicts, after which ABC condensed it to a 3 part series. Shortly after, Tommy Lee Wallace was brought in to direct. After Tommy signed on to the project, ABC had ultimately decided to condense the TV film to 2 parts. According to writer Lawrence. "Speaking candidly, ABC was always nervous about IT, primarily the fact that it was in the horror genre, but also the 8 to 10 hour commitment. They loved the piece, but lost their nerve in terms of how many hours they were willing to commit. Eventually, they agreed to a 2 night, 4 hour commitment." Given the length of the IT novel, which runs 1,138 pages, a great deal of material was left out of Lawrence's adaptation, including subplots concerning the personal lives of the adult characters, one of which had the main male characters each losing their virginity to Beverly Marsh. "I can’t even begin to enumerate my favorite scenes from the novel that we had to cut, because there are so many of them," Lawrence reflected. "I look at it as a glass half full situation. There are scenes in both nights that were created by Steve on the page and I'm delighted that they survived, like the fortune cookie scene and adult Beverly going to her childhood house. The way I see it, the best moments from the novel made the cut and the rest are casualties of war." However, Tommy and Lawrence retained the centrality of Pennywise in the source novel, as noted by film scholar Tony Magistrale in Hollywood's Stephen King, the made for TV film retains the "association between the adult world of Derry and IT is further established in the masterful choice of a carnival clown as a unifying symbol for the various creatures representing the monster."
The majority of the adult actors in the miniseries, including John Ritter, Dennis Christopher, Tim Reid and Harry Anderson, were hand chosen by Tommy and Lawrence for their roles. Annette O'Toole was cast in the miniseries at the suggestion of Ritter, with whom she had recently shot The Dreamer of Oz: The L. Frank Baum Story. "I think John may have talked to somebody, because I got an offer to play Beverly," Annette recalled. "It happened really fast, I don’t think I even went in for a reading. I was living in Oregon at the time, and the next thing I knew, I was in Vancouver hanging out with the coolest, most fun guys of all time." Emily Perkins and Marlon Taylor, who played the young Beverly Marsh and Mike Hanlon, were cast out of Vancouver, while Seth Green and Jonathan Brandis were cast out of Los Angeles for the parts of young Richie Tozier and Bill Denbrough. According to Lawrence, he had written the script for the series without a specific actor in mind for the role of Pennywise. According to director Tommy Lee Wallace, before he was attached to the project, Malcolm McDowell and Roddy McDowall were in consideration to play Pennywise, but Tommy wanted Tim Curry for the role, Tommy had previously worked with the latter in Fright Night: Part 2.
It was shot over a period of 3 months in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on a budget of $12 million. Given that the shooting entailed an adult cast with child counterparts, Tommy sought to have the adult actors meet with the children playing the younger versions of their characters. "We made a point of bringing the adult and children actors together for a couple of days, even though it was costly, since the adults and the kids have no scenes together." Filming locations in Vancouver included Stanley Park, Beaver Lake and Saint Thomas Aquinas High School Convent in North Vancouver. Tommy told The Hollywood Reporter that his job as a director "Was to give Tim the stage and not get in his way too much. He was like Robin Williams in the way he brought a spontaneous improvisation to the part." Tim gave Pennywise a Bronx accent in order to sound like "an old time Catskills comic". "I just let it happen," Tim said. "Clowns are your worst fear realized. I think I scared a lot of children."
Original storyboards for Pennywise featured exaggerated cheekbones, a sharp chin, and bulbous forehead. According to director Tommy, "Tim objected strongly to all the rubber. He had recently been in several movies which covered him in prosthetics and I’m sure he felt all the glue and latex would just get in his way. He was right, of course. With those eyes, and that mouth, and his crazy, sardonic sense of humor, less turned out to be more in the makeup department." Special effects coordinator Bart Mixon began working on a head cast for the Pennywise character after Tim was cast in the role, he also designed 3 clay molds for testing. According to Bart, he based the shape of Pennywise's head on Lon Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera, "stylized into a clown." 3 different versions of the clown's face were created, 1 of which resembled a hobo clown, another that was "a little meaner," and the final one seen in the miniseries. To achieve the white complexion, Tim wore prosthetic make up cream to make him appear "almost like a living cartoon." The majority of the special effects in the miniseries were done practically without digital alteration, aside from the shower scene in which Pennywise comes out of the drain, this scene was done with replacement animation, an animation technique similar to stop motion animation. The spider figure in the conclusion of the miniseries was hand constructed by Mixon and his art department team. Tommy recalled of the spider:
"We labored long and hard designing a spider that was very beefy and muscular, almost reptilian in appearance. It looked great in the drawings, and I even recall a little clay model Bart did, which sealed the deal and won my enthusiastic approval. Bart and team went back to Hollywood to work the whole thing up full size, and shooting started. When the SVFX team returned to Vancouver and unpacked the full size spider, what I expected to see was the big version of that original model, the beefy, reptilian thing that was scary on sight. What they assembled on set was very, very different. Not Chunky at all, very lean and mean."
In a panel at Fan Expo Canada in 2017, Tim Curry remarked of the spider, "It was... not very scary. Or convincing."
IT originally aired on ABC in 1990 on the nights of November 18th and November 20th. Part 1 was the 5th highest rated program of the week with an 18.5/29 rating and being watched in 17.5 million households. Part 2 was the second highest rated program of the week with a 20.6/33 rating and watched in 19.2 million households. According to writer Lawrence, It was considered a major success for ABC, garnering nearly 30 million viewers over it's 2 night premiere.
As of February 2018, on Rotten Tomatoes, the miniseries held an approval rating of 57% based on 14 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 5.5/10. Matt Roush of USA Today gave the miniseries a positive review, writing. "If Twin Peaks is a midnight movie for prime time live, It is the miniseries equivalent of those Saturday matinee shockers that merrily warped a generation before Freddy and Jason began stalking their more graphic turf… Accept It on its own popcorn munching terms and keep the lights on high." Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly praised the performances in the miniseries, but had a negative response to it's special effects and pacing, noting. "It features a high level of ensemble acting rare for any horror film… in addition to IT's slow pace, I found the ending a big letdown unimaginative special effects animate the monster in it's final incarnation. But the cast is terrific, Tim Curry's cackle is chilling, and Stephen King's usual buried theme about the pain adults inflict on children without even realizing it is always worth pondering." The Hollywood Reporter called IT "One big kicky ride thanks to the charismatic acting of Tim as savage, sneering malevolence." Sandra Harris of Movie Pilot said, "There’s some gorgeous scenery too and a nice interweaving of flashbacks with the regular scenes. For Stephen King fans, this film is a must for your collection. For fans of horror in general, I’d say you could do a lot worse. Take the phone off the hook and burrow under the duvet for 3 hours with the popcorn and the remote control." Ian Jane of DVD Talk highlighted the miniseries's combination of childhood nostalgia with horror elements and praised Tim Curry's performance as Pennywise. Bloody Disgusting's John Campopiano commended director Tommy Lee Wallace for "Relying less on jump scares and more on creating an unsettling atmosphere to contrast against the kids and their stories." In 2017, Rolling Stone writer Sean T. Collins called the miniseries "Legendary" and commented that it had become a cult classic. He said although the miniseries "largely bungles Pennywise's powers", Tim Curry's portrayal of Pennywise is "The stuff sleepless nights are made of. He gloats, he giggles, he taunts, he devours the scenery like the monster himself devours middle schoolers and he generally sears his way right into the brain of the viewer." Dan Stephens from the UK website Top 10 Films awarded the film 4 out of 5 stars. In his review Stephens praised the film's story, character development, and suspense during the first half. But criticized the second half as disappointing and criticizing the lack of "friendship and togetherness" of the main characters that was present during the first half and clichéd ending. Stephen King commented on the miniseries in a 2015 interview, saying, "You have to remember, my expectations were in the basement. Here was a book that sprawled over 1,000 pages, and they were going to cram it into 4 hours, with commercials. But the series really surprised me by how good it was. It’s a really ambitious adaptation of a really long book."
IT was released on VHS and Laserdisc in 1991. The original VHS release was on 2 cassette tapes, one for each part. The VHS and Laserdisc releases feature IT as originally aired. In 1998, IT was re-released on VHS, this time, on one cassette tape in EP format. The film was later released on DVD in 2002 and on Blu-ray on October 4, 2016. Both the DVD and the Blu-ray feature an edited version of the miniseries, which presents It as one "film". The suicide scene at the end of Part 1 is shortened, the hotel scene from Part 2 is missing, and the graveyard scene toward the beginning of Part 2 is also slightly shortened to remove the on-screen credits that originally appeared.
A 2-CD release of the TV miniseries complete score by Richard Bellis was released on November 15th, 2011. The music of the film ranges from orchestral music to trumpet-heavy music that accompanies the setting of Derry to unsteady electronic instrument arrangements for the miniseries's scarier moments. Richard won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a miniseries or a Special Dramatic Underscore for his work on the miniseries.
- The case cover is a clear reference to The Tommyknockers's DVD case.
- Jonathan Brandis, who played the young Bill Denbrough, committed suicide at the age 27 on November 12th, 2003 at 11:40 p.m.