'IT': THR's 1990 Review

Everett Collection
A sensational horror show.

After earning over $200 million in its first two weekends and smashing multiple box-office records, Warner Bros. and New Line's big-screen adaption of It is a bona fide phenomenon. That won't surprise those who remember the first screen adaptation of Stephen King's 1986 novel, an ABC TV movie that premiered on Nov. 18, 1990. The two-parter drew over 30 million viewers and was likewise the talk around water coolers nationwide. Read THR's original review below.

It is here.

That is, the TV version of It, the ABC miniseries based on Stephen King's best-seller about a force capable of turning itself into a person's worst nightmare.

The story begins with a little girl mysteriously destroyed in the small town of Derry, Maine, which gets town librarian Mike Hanlon (Tim Reid) remembering how it was in 1960, when he and six other youngsters put an end to It, a hellish force that 30 years ago laid waste to children of the town. "There is something terribly wrong in Derry, and you know it," Hanlon tells the police chief.

And now Hanlon proceeds to phone up the six others who as kids (Jonathan Brandis, Brandon Crane, Adam Faraizl, Seth Green, Ben Heller, Emily Perkins, Marlon Taylor) weren't too popular yet banded together to beat It. While Hanlon summons the others, night one of It proceeds to flashback, showing how "It" worked.

What we learn is that the youngsters' battle is literally an underground war, waged below the city, in its drains and sewers, a struggle culminating in the alleged defeat of It, which has made itself incarnate as a fanged circus clown called Pennywise (Tim Curry).

Yet while the kids have banished It, this gang of seven pledges to regroup if It ever shows its fearsome face again.

And in night two of It, we have the anti-It troopers regrouping as a new wave of horror breaks out in Derry, Hanlon having summoned screenwriter-horror novelist Bill Denbrough (Richard Thomas), Atlanta businessman Stan Uris (Richard Masur), noted architect Ben Hanscom (John Ritter), famous comedian Richie Tozier (Harry Anderson), successful designer Beverly Marsh (Annette O'Toole), and owner of a limo service company Eddie Kaspbrak (Dennis Christopher).

Yet to now finally and decisively defeat the demonic force, surviving group members have to reacquaint themselves with one another, defeat their own fears and return to the dark, fetid tunnels of doubt and terror where Pennywise ("I am your worst dream come true … I am eternal," It told the children long ago) awaits.

A horror sci-fi miniseries these days is as rare as moon rocks, as far and few between as known inhabited planets. And make no mistake, It is a humdinger, one big kicky ride thanks to the charismatic acting of Curry as savage, sneering malevolence. Moreover, the work of Reid, Anderson, Christopher, Ritter, Thomas, O'Toole and Masur make It a sensational horror show.

Tommy Lee Wallace has done a striking job as director, and the script by Lawrence D. Cohen (Part I), and Cohen and director Wallace (Part II) crackles with shocking energy.

Moreover, director of photography Richard Leiterman has done a dandy job, as have editors Robert F. Shugrue and David Blangsted.

This ABC miniseries knows how to deliver some entertainingly good, visceral kicks. Just watch It. — Miles Beller, originally published on Nov. 16, 1990. 

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