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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Stephen King's "It"

It's the day before Halloween, and believe me...I've saved my scariest post for last.

You see...I'm not going to be online much this coming Halloween, so I have a post that is largely going to be illustration based for tomorrow.  Don't fret though.  This post will give you some last minute ideas for Halloween treats that you can serve at parties or what have you.

No, for today, I thought that I would use this edition of TUBE TALK THURSDAY to discuss not a sitcom, not a drama, not even an episode of America's Funniest Home Videos.

No, this week, we're going to be talking about a miniseries.  A miniseries that admittedly scared me so much as a kid that I couldn't watch the whole thing until well into my twenties.

And it's such a strange thing to me that I would be afraid of watching this miniseries because I have never, ever suffered from coulrophobia in my entire life.

Which I suppose leads you to wonder - what the heck is coulrophobia?  Is it a fear of being cold?  A fear of colouring books?  A fear of turning into a different colour?

Nope.  Coulrophobia is a fear of clowns.

Now, I'll readily admit that the only time I have ever been afraid of clowns is when they make those stupid balloon animals - and in that case, I hated the balloon animals more than the clowns.  Truth be told, I've had no reason to really fear clowns.  I watched Bozo the Clown.  I liked the McDonald's commercials with Ronald McDonald.  I didn't even mind seeing Binky the Clown on Garfield, or Krusty the Clown on The Simpsons.  Clowns didn't bother me.

And yet, I know so many people who are terrified by the very sight of clowns.  I don't know if it's the make-up on their faces, or their high pitched laughter, or the loud and garish clothing that clowns are known to wear, but it just freaks them out to the point where they can't even go near them.

Now, I imagine that everyone's fear of clowns likely originated somewhere.  And for people who are my age, their fear may likely be linked to one clown in particular.

Say hello to Pennywise, the Dancing Clown! 

Now, you might think that this clown is as harmless as a feather...but Pennywise holds a really dark secret.  A secret that will be revealed in the television miniseries "It", a miniseries that aired in two parts in November 1990 on ABC.

Of course, the brainchild behind the book that this miniseries is based off it is horror master Stephen King, so naturally it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that Pennywise would be revealed to be absolutely evil.  But man, oh, man does Tim Curry play the role of the demented clown well.  In fact, all of the actors in the miniseries did extremely well in their portrayals of the main characters.

In addition to Curry, this film boasts the talents of John Ritter, Richard Thomas, Tim Reid, Annette O'Toole, Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, Richard Masur, Michael Cole, Olivia Hussey, and Seth Green.

Okay, so what exactly is it about Pennywise that makes him so frightening?  Maybe it's his creepy laugh?  Maybe it's his disturbing clown make-up.

Or maybe it's because Pennywise has been killing small children in the town of Derry, Maine for three decades!  And perhaps the catalyst of all this begins in the year 1960 when a six year old boy named Georgie Denbrough is playing with a paper boat that drifts into the sewer grate.  Pennywise appears in the grate and convinces Georgie to climb down inside the grate with him because there are lots of fun things down below.  And, well, as you can see in the clip below, it doesn't quite have a happy ending.

Georgie's death has a significant impact on his brother Bill.  Bill was the one who sent Georgie outside to play which lead to his death, and he is later immobilized in fear when a picture that he drew begins to bleed.

Fortunately, Bill finds support in a group of friends who all have had something traumatic happen to them.  Eddie Kaspbrak is an asthmatic, hypochondriac whose mother refuses to let go of her little boy.  Ben Hanscom is a chubby boy who lives to build things, who is still dealing with the fact that his father died.  Beverly Marsh has to deal with having an abusive, alcoholic father while practicing the perfect way to use a slingshot.  Richie Kozer is the one person in the group who isn't afraid to stand up to the school bully Henry Bowers.  Mike Hanlon is the new kid in town, trying to find his way into a new community.  And Stan Uris is a kid from a Jewish family who loves birdwatching.

Now, friendship does bring all seven kids together, but ultimately it is fear and anger that cements the bond between the seven children. 

Fear of and anger towards Pennywise the Clown.

You see, Pennywise isn't just a clown.  He's actually a shape shifting being that can morph into whatever form he chooses, all for the purpose of scaring people to death.  That's why in later scenes, Pennywise is referred to as being just "It".  And "It" invades the lives of all seven children by teasing them and torturing them, hitting them where it hurts.

For instance, in the case of aspiring actor Richie Tozier, "It" appears in the form of a werewolf.  "It" causes Beverly's bathroom to become engulfed in a geyser of blood.  "It" taunts Ben with gruesome images of his deceased father who orders him to go near the sewer.  And it nearly traps poor Stan in a haunted house which is being guarded by a mummy.

And on top of all that, Henry Bowers and his crew of bullies are popping out at every opportunity to scare and tease the seven children.  As if battling "It" wasn't bad enough already.

Eventually this leads to a huge confrontation with Pennywise the Clown, and all seven children find a way to defeat him by exploiting his weakness - because "It" transforms into anything he wants through the imaginations of children, the kids come up with the theory that if they attack "It" with the weakness of the item or person that he is portraying.  For instance, if "It" transforms into a snowman, they reason that they could defeat him by making him stand in front of a space heater.

And after a frightening encounter by Stan - which sees "It" murder Henry Bowers' pals - Stan deduces that the "deadlights" are the real target.  The kids reason that by destroying the deadlights, they will kill "It" once and for all.  But before Beverly can line up the perfect shot, "It" disappears into the night.  All seven kids make a pact that should "It" reappear in Derry, they'll be ready.

Well, flash forward thirty years, and Mike is the only one who is still in Derry, the others having left long ago.  And Mike is concerned when the news reports on the death of a little girl in her own backyard.  The circumstances behind the death are mysterious, and nobody knows what is going on.  But Mike suspects that "It" is back, and he makes six phone calls to his six friends, warning them that it was time to take care of business once and for all.

But who, if any, of the seven children who are now adults make it out alive?

Well, that would be revealing too much, wouldn't it?  After all, this is kind of similar to a movie entry, and I don't like spoiling movies.  But it's very interesting to note that all seven children had some sort of trauma in their lives, and how all seven became friends because of that.  And, I wonder if maybe "It" gained power through other people's misery.  It certainly makes sense if you look at it from that perspective.

Anyway, I have a little bit of trivia and stuff about the actors, behind the scenes action, and other miscellaneous info about "It".  For instance, did you know...

...that two of the actors from "It" died the same year?  John Ritter died on September 11, 2003 from aortic dissection.  Two months later on November 12, 2003, Jonathan Brandis (who played the role of 12-year-old Bill) took his own life.

Did you know that the actor who played the young Henry Bowers (Jarred Blancard) was extremely uncomfortable with using the N-word towards Marlon Taylor (young Mike Hanlon)?   He would always apologize profusely to Taylor before shooting the scenes in which he had to say the word.

Did you know that Tim Curry doesn't really like talking about his role as Pennywise the Dancing Clown that much in interviews?  He also reportedly hated wearing all that clown make-up.

Did you know that Alice Cooper was once considered to play the role of Pennywise?  Now THAT would have been epic.

Did you know that in the library scene, some of the actors were actually injured?  The amount of falling objects in the scene caused some people to get slightly hurt.

Did you know that the library scene only took one take?

Did you know that John Ritter took a memento of the set from
"It" after filming wrapped?  He took home a playing card with Pennywise's face stamped on it.

Did you know that some of the actors who played the "Lucky Seven" worked together on previous projects?  John Ritter and Richard Thomas, for example, worked together on "The Waltons".

Did you know that Eddie's medications that were used in the film were actual bottles that belonged to Dennis Christopher?

Did you know that Tim Reid's gray hair in the miniseries was not real?  The effect was made by having Reid comb his hair with a comb dipped in baby powder.

Did you know that while Richie was terrorized by a werewolf in the movie, Seth Green - who played Richie as a child - actually played a werewolf on the television series "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer"?

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