Pennywise: The Story of It (John Campopanio/Christopher Griffiths, 2021, USA)

Pennywise: The Story of It (2021) recounts the story behind the making of the 1990 ABC miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's 1,000-page 1986 bestseller. Following several critical and commercial misfires in the latter half of the 1980s, the two-part miniseries reinvigorated King's brand and led to the first King renaissance in the 1990s. It also marked the beginning of the TV miniseries era of King, with a seemingly endless list of TV adaptations throughout the 1990s - including The StandThe TommyknockersThe Shining, and The Langoliers. ABC's It miniseries was a major television event when major television events were still a possibility. It also marked one of the first times King's work was made adaptable and accessible to a younger audience.

The film traces the origins of the television adaptation, starting with screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen. The challenge of distilling King's epic novel into two nights of television is explored, and then we are introduced to director Tommy Lee Wallace. Much detail is explored regarding the casting of the film - a unique aspect since the film required seven child actors and seven adult actors. The filmmakers had access to almost every actor who starred in the film, and it is great to hear their reminiscences. 

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film is the origin of the Pennywise character, and luckily the filmmakers had access not only to the legendary Tim Curry but also to the makeup designers and team behind the look. Curry's Pennywise has seemed to outlive the movie itself. For those King fans who grew up with the 1990 miniseries and are eager to learn more about this little masterpiece, Pennywise: The Story of IT is a delight to watch. Even hardcore King fans will learn something new from this deep-dive of one of the great TV adaptations.



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