15 – 192mins (combined duration) – 1990
Teleplay by: Tommy Lee Wallace (2 episodes) & Lawrence D. Cohen (1 episode)
Based on the novel by: Stephen King
Directed by: Tommy Lee Wallace
Every 30 years, the sleepy US town of Derry is befallen by an apparent natural disaster which sees many of the community’s children killed. Only 12 year-old Michael (Marlon Taylor) and his gang of young outcasts are willing to face the truth: these ‘natural disasters’ are, in fact, the handiwork of a malevolent entity which takes the form of sinister Pennywise the Clown (Tim Curry). When the killings start again, adult Michael (Tim Reid) rounds up the long-parted pals to conquer ‘It’ once and for all.
… Keep Scuttling!
15 – 90mins – 1990
27 years before Hulu remade it into a highly-acclaimed and much-discussed, must-see television series, Margaret Atwood’s eye-opening 1985 dystopian novel was adapted to film, courtesy of a Harold Pinter screenplay. Critically commended though it was, an eleventh hour change of director led to rewrites Pinter was “too tired” to work on, so he suggested incoming helmer Volker Schlöndorff return to the author for any “tinkering,” leading the Nobel-Prize winning playwright to all-but disown credit for such a “hodgepodge.”
… Keep Scuttling!
PG – 96mins – 1990
“Where do they come up with this stuff?!”
It’s been a good number of years since I last watched this original Golden Harvest/New Line Cinema live action Turtles treatment, but a US trilogy blu-ray triple-discer was the perfect excuse for a rewatch of this alternative origin story ahead of Out of the Shadows on May 30th.
Amazingly, the physicality of the Jim Henson Creature Shop-designed animatronic shell suits still holds up 26 years later, with ragged rat Splinter (Kevin Clash) arguably looking better here than he does in CG in Platinum Dune’s 2014 reboot. His meditative characterisation is also the perfect counterpart to his teenage student’s goofiness (“Hrrm… kids!!”), and you genuinely sympathise for the furry Yoda-like mentor when he is kidnapped, strung up and tortured by arch-nemesis Shredder (James Saito) and his gang of lost boys-turned soldiers, the Foot Clan.
It is in the film’s portrayal of this real-world street crime undertaken by misguided kids feeling rejected by society that a real dissonance in tone is felt. While the sewer-dwelling siblings are getting teenage kicks from trading 90s pop-culture references (Rocky, Wheel of Fortune, Wayne Gretzky, Grapes of Wrath, Ghostbusters) and frivolous banter (“Give me three!”), the grittiness of the plague of thievery which reporter April O’Neil (Judith Hoag) is investigating lends the film a darker tone akin to punkish urban noir – a million miles from animatronic heads doing James Cagney impersonations!
This uncomfortable alliance is most evident when Raphael’s (Josh Pais) gang attack is juxtaposed with Mikey’s (Robbie Rist) playful symbol clashing – its as if director Steve Billie Jean Barron wanted to retain the “gnarly radicalness” of the popular Fred Wolf Films cartoon series while balancing the kid-friendly yucks with a more visceral and conscientious adult-appealing levity, like Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s edgier original panel-premiering inception.
There’s an astute level of catharsis achieved by a post-second act out of town ‘breather’ sequence, not to mention a nostalgic appeal to the dated vibe, but in attempting to darken such a wacky premise my mind was drawn to an uncomfortable recent parallel: Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four. I’ll always look on this memento from my childhood through rose-tinted glasses, but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is not without its faults, even if the pizza guzzlers’ irresistible charm wins through in the end. Hrrm, kids!