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IT (1990)

Made for television horror is always tricky, because you can't be as graphic on a network as you can in a movie or on cable or streaming. Even the "classics" of made for t.v. horror are a little cheesy if we're being honest. Go watch Trilogy of Terror and you'll see what I mean. It, broadcast in 1990, did push the limits of what you could do, but it was still obviously limited by being a network show. There is more blood than you'd expect, and adult themes are brushed up against. Beverly's father is shown to be a creepy and abusive guy, but is not shown as explicitly to be a sexual predator as in the new movies.

Of course effects are always an issue for made for t.v. movies because they don't the budgets that something like The Thing had to make it's shape shifting creature come to life. Another hurdle is that dialog that seems fine in a book sometimes comes off as forced or crony when you hear an actual person saying it. Despite all this, IT is still a fun movie. The cast is good, but not stellar. Remember this was before it was cool for big names to do television. So the adult cast included John Ritter (Jack from Three's company), Harry Anderson (Judge Harry from Night Court), and Richard Thomas (John-Boy from The Waltons). Most are serviceable if not great, and since Battle of the Network Stars was no longer happening I'm sure they all needed the work. I did find myself wondering if John Ritter hadn't wanted to be in the movie because his performance seems off at times. Turns out he was a big Stephen King fan and was excited to be doing the movie, so now I wonder if maybe he was actually trying too hard.

Of course the giant coup in casting was Tim Curry as Pennywise, which s what will make this miniseries remain in the public consciousness as a classic. Curry is a master at playing over the top characters, and his Pennywise is truly frightening even with the budget and censorship limitations imposed on him. The child cast is also good, and includes an early role for Seth Green. Of course, the children's part of the story is just more compelling. I found the same to be true with both the book and the new movies. Maybe it's just that it's somehow more intense when its a kid in danger than a middle aged man. Maybe it's the nostalgia of going back 30 years for the kids. I don't know, but IT is always better when the Losers are young in every incarnation.

One acknowledged weakness of the mini-series is the ending. They just didn't have the budget to do it the way they wanted. And the spider puppet does look a little cheesy. This is one instance where they may have benefited by deviating from the source material and have the losers fight IT in it's Pennywise form. I think it could only have been made better with more Tim Curry. I will say in it's defense that the ending of the new movie is also cheesy, and budget wasn't n issue there. This version of IT is a fun movie, and is a good stepping up for kids who are old enough to move beyond the Universal monster movies but aren't quite ready for the full on horror of the new IT movies.


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