It (Stephen King's) (1990)
Main Menu Audio
Listing-Cast & Crew
|Year Of Production||1990|
|Running Time||179:40 (Case: 181)|
|RSDL / Flipper||FLIPPER (90:05)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Tommy Lee Wallace|
Warner Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
In 1986, American horror novelist Stephen King released what was to become one of his most famous and critically acclaimed novels. The novel, simply called IT, spanned nearly a thousand pages in its first hardcover run. It had taken the author nearly four years to write, and had become an obsession. The subject of this work was the lives of seven friends who grew up in a small town in Maine called Derry, and the fateful summer of 1958 that bonded them to one another for the rest of their lives as they tried to survive a series of child murders.
Three years later, director Tommy Lee Wallace received a screenplay for a TV mini-series based on this book. Never being much of a King fan himself, he took the script with ambivalent feelings. By the end of the first scene, he knew he wanted to make this production.
The mini-series IT originally aired in the US on 18 November 1990. Split into two 90-minute parts across two nights, the mini-series effectively splices the interwoven narrative of the novel apart into two distinct Acts – the tale of childhood (90:05) and the tale of adulthood (89:35). In the first half, we meet the seven children and their adult counterparts – there is stuttering Bill Denbrough (Jonathan Brandis/Richard Thomas), whose younger brother George was one of the victims, porky fat boy Ben Hanscom (Brandon Crane/John Ritter) who has been forced to move to Derry after his father was killed in Korea, funny man Richard Tozier (Seth Green/Harry Anderson) whose less-than-funny comedic routines elicit the catch-cry ‘Beep-Beep, Ritchie’ from his friends, the wheezing asthmatic Eddie Kaspbrak (Adam Faraizl/Dennis Christopher), the reserved Jewish disbeliever Stanley Uris (Ben Heller/Richard Masur), the beautiful poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks Beverly Marsh (Emily Perkins/Annette O’Toole), and the social outcast black kid Michael Hanlon (Marlon Taylor/Tim Reid). Together they are the Lucky Seven, or more appropriately, the Losers Club.
As children, they are terrorized by a series of child murders in their small town, and a series of supernatural occurrences that the adults of the town are apparently blind to – a thing that sometimes manifests itself as a clown called Pennywise (Tim Curry), and other times as a facet of their darkest nightmares. Without a name to put to this thing, they simply call it the IT. As adults, when the murders begin again, each of them must decide whether to fulfil their promise to return to Derry to fight IT, and whether as adults they can achieve the luck and magic that saved them when they were kids.
Is the mini-series better than the novel? No – but that is not really a fair question. Does it do justice to the novel? In some respects, yes. Tim Curry puts in one of the most memorable performances as the menacing clown Pennywise, that can change from jocular and amusing to brutal and terrifying in an instant. It is hard to read the book now and not picture Curry’s performance in your head as you go. The mini-series also does a good job of capturing the nostalgia associated with childhood when you look back on it now. I must confess that this may be partly my own nostalgia, given that I was about the age of the childhood characters when I first read this book, and the passage of 20 years since its first publication is something that spun my head a little when I realised. But there is a definite hark back to an age of family values and morality which King appropriately turns on its head.
Unfortunately, the limitations of the mini-series format mean that IT misses out on a lot of what the novel contains, particularly in terms of King’s commentary on what it means to be a child – your limitations counterbalanced with the gifts that you have in your youth that you steadily lose with time. The coming-of-age component of the novel really seems to have been skipped over in the mini-series, and it becomes more a tale of adventure, rather than a tale of innocence lost. In an era where audiences are very willing to accept 13-part series made for cable TV, it would be quite possible to split this book up over those 13 hours and make a far more comprehensive adaptation that captured those aspects. However, when we can now look back nostalgically on the 80s, a remake of IT for the new millennium would struggle to draw a crowd. Besides, who could you get to play Pennywise the Clown that would be any more schizophrenically menacing than Tim Curry?
I hadn’t sat down to watch this mini-series since the late 1990s, and was surprised at how much it held my attention all these years on – it helps that this is the fully uncut version, which makes a lot more sense than the edited VHS release that was first put out here. Some of the acting is a little camp and melodramatic, but that was the style of the era, and as such I can forgive these shortcomings. Ultimately, 14 years on from its first airing, this is still quite creepy, which is a rarity in adaptations from Stephen King novels, and I can guarantee that it will definitely scare the hell out of your kids.
Presented for the first time in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1, this 16x9 enhanced image adds a whole new dimension to the mini-series. The show was originally shot and aired in 1.33:1 Full Frame, but given this DVD transfer had approval from the director Tommy Lee Wallace, and all it involved was the opening up of the mattes, this is really the preferred way to see this show.
The image is very sharp, perhaps at times a little too sharp – hard metal edges tend to exhibit minor aliasing due to this sharpness. But considering that’s about my only criticism, pretend I said nothing. There is also some minor film grain, mostly due to the age of the print, but this was never distracting, and I only make note of it because I am required to.
Colour is well saturated – a huge difference from my old VHS copy that was faded to whitewash. Shadow detail is also excellent, and a vast improvement on VHS in this regard. I pulled out my old copy to check against this new transfer, and those scenes in the sewers under Derry were just a murky black mess on VHS. Here we have defined edges, and plenty of texture without any excessive graininess.
There are no MPEG artefacts, and film-to-video transfer artefacts were very rare. There is some minor background moire, usually on grille surfaces and tweed jackets (which somehow hadn’t been ditched by 1990). When these things are in the foreground, no moire is present, but the focus shift in the background tends to bring this artefact out.
There is a bit of gain and dirt here and there, but no big hairs or cigarette burns, and for a series this old, I was surprised by how clean the print was, having seen Hollywood films from that era looking much dirtier.
Subtitles are white with a black border. The English subtitles follow the dialogue pretty closely.
This is a dual-sided single-layered ‘flipper’ disc – the interruption comes at the end of the first part, and so it is appropriately timed. However, it would have been better had it been put on a dual layer disc, I feel, to save the flip.
Accompanying the brand new widescreen print is the original 2.0 Dolby Surround soundtrack, which is only available in English encoded at 192Kb/s. It's a shame that no 5.1 Dolby Digital track was organised, but we cannot complain too much given that we get a widescreen picture for the first time.
The dialogue is always clear and I noticed no significant audio sync problems – certainly nothing related to the transfer.
There is some good left-to-right directional cueing, but nothing grandiose. The surrounds are not extensively used, and only really get a go with the music and the rain.
The score by Richard Bellis is fairly dated and melodramatic now, but it is not one of those atrocious synthesised scores from the 1970s and 1980s, so you can live with it. At times it is still appropriate and adds a spooky atmosphere that works nicely.
There was no subwoofer use.
|Surround Channel Use|
All menus are 16x9 enhanced with a 2.0 Dolby Stereo audio underscore of the clown music. Creepy.
There is a still with basic cast and crew information.
Presented in 2.0 Dolby Surround, this is one of the more interesting audio commentaries I’ve heard for a while. It is obvious that Wallace and the others were at different recordings, and then someone has taken the best bits of each to make an overall commentary, and it works really well. When one group gets boring, the commentary switches back to the other. And we hear about the show from all kinds of perspectives. Well worth listening to.
There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.
The R1 version misses out on:
The R4 version misses out on:
There is also an R2 German version which includes:
If you have language requirements, buy to suit. If not, go with the R4 version – it’s pretty cheap.
IT is one of the better TV adaptations of a Stephen King novel. While not great, it is surprisingly transfixing all these years on, and will give your kids the creeps
Video is sharp and good with a whole new director-approved widescreen transfer.
The 2.0 Dolby Surround track does the job, but a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix would have added a whole new level again to this, maybe even got your hair standing up on end.
The audio commentary is one of the better ones I have heard and definitely worth a listen.
|DVD||Panasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output|
|Display||Beko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.|
|Speakers||Energy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer|