Written by John Campopiano and Chris Griffiths
Directed by John Campopiano and Gary Smart
Look. We get it. We really do. There’s just something not right about Clowns.
It’s an established fear. There’s an unsettling presence to something with a permanent smile fixed on its face – and Stephen King, horror novelist extraordinaire, capitalised on this less mainstream fear and propelled it to new heights with his girthy novel It, the story of a gang of kids from Maine tormented by a killer clown, and their adult selves coming to terms with what the creature did – and how they may not have finished it off.
Perhaps one person to blame for this embedded fear of clowns above most others: Tim Curry. So just how did this master of charm and seductive performance make his way from the fictional town of Denton and those fishnet stockings to becoming nightmare fuel for a generation of kids?
This, among many others, are the topics of conversation among the cast and crew of the 1990 television movie Stephen King’s It, a two-part televised serial which (among other things), gave us one of Horror’s most iconic character performances – that of Curry’s bombastically mad, sadistic, and twisted Pennywise; an ancient trans-dimensional deity of evil.
Similarly to both its 1990 and 2017 & 2019 adaptations, Pennywise: The Story of It divides itself across various chapters dedicated to aspects of the production process and the impact both the characters and the film itself had on audiences and cast. Significantly uneventful, little about the documentary rocks the boat or shatters boundaries – it’s remarkably straightforward and cleanly produced through Nicholas F. Helmsley’s editing which shifts between narrative voice-overs and production footage without taking viewers away from the intentions of the scene.
Rounding up a plethora of ex-crew mates and cast, the depth and enjoyment throughout are encouraging to watch as original performers from both parts of the televised film. There’s a lack of direct interaction which is a mild drawback, but the mirth from (then) child performers Seth Green, Emily Perkins, and Brandon Crane all merge together similarly to had they been sitting together. But the real hook is the appearance of iconic actor Tim Curry, whose keen intellect and lustre for the role of the killer clown remains to this day. Steadily offering more personal insights into the role, his reasons for accepting, and the impact he had even during filming.
From the Director of both parts Tommy Lee Wallace, there’s a definitive stamp of approval and validity within the documentary makeup. And from the set design to editing and battles with studio executives, Wallace’s presence enables John Campopiano’s documentary to offer an insight into the filmmaking process from a less chaotic viewpoint than other documentaries.
Without drama or disdain, Pennywise: The Story of It floats by its two-hour run time without rippling much below the surface. Reluctantly, the documentary is significantly uneventful – though certainly enjoyable. The limitations of a relatively serene production for the original TV movie mean the documentary has few highs (or those cherished lows) to grasp onto to heighten a state of tension or necessity.
But what is never diluted is the passionate appeal of the cast, and crew, and the nostalgic 1990 hit It has become. For both those keen to unearth a fuller interest in Stephen King’s It, or those curiously rutting out a Halloween-spirited documentary, Pennywise: The Story of It offers enough behind-the-scenes charm and footage to satiate those grim curiosities. And if you’re just trying to cure that coulrophobia, well, good luck to you.
Passionate, if Straight-Forward Documentary
Pennywise: The Story of It will be available on Digital Download from 3rd October and Blu-ray & DVD from 24th October.