Published on October 4th, 2022 | by Richard Gary


Pennywise: The Story of IT

Here’s a little documentary movie about Stephen King’s IT that may be better than both the actual movies and maybe even the bloated novel itself.

There is practically a rivalry between the fans of the original 1990 version of IT and the 2017 remake, with Tim Curry and Bill Skarsgård playing the role of Pennywise the intergalactic killer clown, respectively. Well, there is no need to fight here, as this two-hour documentary focuses only on the original, 1990 two-part mini-series. Personally, I was unsatisfied with the ending: it seemed anti-climactic.

With an extremely large cast of the film’s writers (including Stephen King in both new and archival footage), directors, actors, etc., the film is wisely broken down into chapters to envelope the many sides of the production. Even the first one, about the of taking the book to screenplay to airing sounds like it should be cut and dry, but they manage to keep it incredibly interesting.

The second chapter discusses the cultural effects of the killer clown psychology that permeated the very fabric of not only the arts, but life itself. Brought up are how clowns can be scary, and how King made that more so, leading to the likes of clowns cropping up on sideroads to scare drivers, increasing the fame of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, films of real clown from circuses, and even Sid Haig’s Captain Spaulding from House of 1000 Corpses. This is, of course, followed by how they filled the role with Tim Curry and what he brought to it.

Each chapter is like a deep footprint, filled with information, leading the way to and through the production. Both directors of this release have a history with horror documentaries, be it for Fright Night (1985 version) or Pet Sematary (1989 release), so they know how to build the story around and about the story.

The chapters are also inconsistent in length, which is a good thing. Rather than trying to push it to be longer or shorter, they let the narrative dictate timing. For example, the bit about filming in Vancouver is short and sweet, showing pictures of buildings then and now. For another one about casting the Losers Club, both kids and adults – and their similar features and working out their mannerisms – is quite long (and rightfully so); there is a nice mixture of archival and present interviews with the cast, especially since so many of them (the adults anyway) were so well known in the television world. Obviously, not all could be present as they have passed on, such as John Ritter, Harry Anderson, and Jonathan Brandis (at age 27). It was nice to see the likes of Richard Thomas, “Mod Squad’s” Michael Cole, “WKRP in Cincinnati’s” Tim Reid and Richard Masur (whose voice I will always hear in my head saying, “I don’t know, but it’s weird and pissed off” from John Carpenter’s classic The Thing), but sorely missed Annette O’Toole, who does not appear in interview from the present.

While there are a few other chapters, the last two are pretty obvious. The first is about the ending of the film, and apparently many of the crew felt as ambivalent as I did, which honestly surprised me. As Tommy Lee Wallace, director of the mini-series, states, “We had champagne ideas and a beer budget.” However, and smartly so, they hold no punches and give great detail about the final creature, whose face always reminded me of the end of The Fly.

The last is the legacy of the mini-series, which I believe was short shrifted here. It had an enormous impact on so many, right into the modern day, setting off fierce machinations between the fans of the original and the remake (which is totally unmentioned here, even in the Legacy chapter, which surprised me; probably could not get the rights). It is important to remember that the SFX technicalities between the time differences is key. For me, both were equal, but the first was limited in what they could show because it was pre-cable being everywhere broadcast television, and the other was in the more accepting cinemas.

The editing in the documentary is worth noting because it is put together so well, there is no need for an overall narrator, the cast tells the story in a cohesive, nearly narrative way. The is a nice mix of archival backstage images that are both still frames and filmed (my favorite shot is of Tim Curry hanging on a light post, with a camera and microphone just inches from his face, and yet keeping his composure), and modern footage of the cast being “talking head” interviewed. Comparing the way the kids look now (they still seem so young to me, though they are now about the same age as I was when the film was originally aired), especially Emily Perkins who portrayed the young Bev (and would later play another iconic role as Bridgette in Ginger Snaps).

For a documentary that is over two hours in length, I must say that it kept my attention all the way through, and that is saying a lot of positivity about the film. Whichever version of IT strikes your fancy, this will be worth the watch.

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About the Author

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grew up watching and enjoying horror films, especially those made independently and on a micro-budget. Most of the movies he reviews play either at festivals or private screenings, rather than having a national theatrical run. Using his years of studying media theory, he looks at each one with a critical eye that goes beyond the superficial, as he believes they deserve the respect of such a viewer’s eye. He is open to receive links to your films at, and he promises to always keep an open mind and be honest.

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