I was never a fan of Stephen King’s early novels, except Salem’s Lot, which I didn’t end up reading until my mid 20s. When it comes to Christine I never read that one until my late 20s/early 30s. I had seen the movie, however, a long time ago. Not when it first came out, but long after it was on VHS and TV. I can’t remember exactly when though. Now when it comes to John Carpenter’s adaptation it’s one I love to watch and one I hate to watch because it hits a little too close to home where my high school experiences are concerned. I was never as nerdy as Arnold Cunningham (Keith Gordon) was, but I sure did get bullied in my freshman and sophomore years and seeing Arnie bullied on screen in Carpenter’s flick always makes me cringe.
When I read the novel I finally learned how different it is from Carpenter’s version. First and foremost in King’s novel the car is haunted by the former owner, in Carpenter’s flick it’s a case of the car being an evil sentient being, maybe more akin to possession. I also found out in the novel every time Arnie is bullied he somehow extricates himself from the situation himself, where in the movie you get the impression his pal, Dennis Guilder (John Stockwell) was also his protector. And I remember the tragic ending being different in the novel too where he and his mother die in a car accident. I don’t prefer one to the other in this situation. I don’t think Carpenter’s version is better than King’s and vice versa. I love them both equally, though I wouldn’t mind seeing a remake due to the heavy differences between the two. A min-series would be most preferred here.
Most of us who were bullied in high school can relate to Arnie and going into senior year on that first day for him was a tough one. He ends up taking shop, which I had also done in freshman year, but I was at another school then—hated it, thought I’d love it—but for Arnie shop is an ideal place to encounter psychopathic douchebags, which it is, trust me. In King/Carpenter’s novel/movie that part is given to Buddy Repperton (William Ostander), and his three goon followers, Moochie Welch (Malcolm Danare), Richie Trelawney (Steven Tash), and Don Vandenberg (Stuart Charno). Buddy’s a serious bully because he carries around a switchblade and doesn’t think twice about using it. For now it’s on Arnie’s lunch, but the shop teacher shows up, sends them all to the office and Buddy is kicked out of school.
On the plus side, there’s a new chick roaming the hallways, Leigh Cabot (Alexandra Paul), who’s hot and who Dennis tries to get to first, but is turned down cold. She’s got a date already. Too bad. Also on the way home Dennis and Arnie stumble upon an old POS 1958 Plymouth Fury being sold by the late former owner’s brother, George LeBay (Roberts Blossom). Unexplainably Arnie has just fallen in love with this rotting heap and buys it on the spot.
Back to the downside of being Arnie… home life isn’t all that great. He’s got a domineering mother who’s already got his life mapped out for him, but with the purchase of Christine that’s about to change and he makes damn sure she knows it. Forbidden to keep that hunk of junk in their driveway Arnie finds a do-it-yourself garage that allows one to store a car there while the junk outside may be rummaged through for parts to fix it. A crotchety old man by the name of Will Darnell owns it and he doesn’t like Arnie either, but warms up to him giving him a job.
Christine is no ordinary car. In the 1957 prologue even on the assembly line something was wrong with her. It almost severs a man’s hand with its hood and kills another that same day when he disrespects it by dumping his cigar ash on the seat. We get more unsettling history recanted by LeBay to Dennis when he comes looking for answers. Christine has a way of getting to you and making you hers. Lebay’s wife and little girl were killed in the car, at separate times, but he didn’t care, just as long as Christine was unharmed and in working order. This is actually a sad tale of a nerd whose buried psychopathic tendencies are brought to the surface by this “possessed” vehicle. He goes from nerd to decent looking, dressing better, ditching the glasses and even getting a girlfriend. Remember Leigh Cabbot? Yup, he gets that girl all thanks to Christine’s power over him. But his personality is changing too. He becomes worse than the one who picked on him. And Christine is the jealous and vengeful type. First Leigh, but she isn’t killed, more frightened away, Repperton and his gang, well, that’s another story. After they break in and vandalize her, she puts herself back together and goes out a makes all of them dead. Moochie crushed in half. and Richie and Don run over and blown up at a gas station. Buddy goes out in style too. Chased down and run down by a brand new looking and burning 1958 Plymouth Fury. You’ve heard of flames being painted on a car, well, Christine gets the real thing and shares it with Buddy.
In the end it boils down to Dennis, Leigh and a bulldozer versus possessed Arnie inside Christine. Both of them know it’s Christine who’s the bad influence and maybe killing her will bring Arnie to his senses, but that never happens. Arnie dies going through her windshield and impaling himself on a shard of glass and Christine is taken out by the bulldozer and sent to a junkyard for the coup de grace.
Harry Dean Stanton has a small part as Detective Rudy Junkins and Kelly Preston shows up ever so briefly to remind us how hot she was back in the day as a chick that’s got the puppy eyes for Dennis.
Christine is a horror film but it’s not a gory film and Carpenter does his usual great job of filming it in his trademark panavision style, structuring suspense, composing eye candy shots (i.e. burning Christine, Dennis’ car parked at the end of the Cunningham driveway, Moochie being chased down that narrow alleyway) and overlaying it with his “Carpenter music.” Basically everything we love about how Carpenter makes movies is in this movie. It’s a nice companion piece to The Fog (1981) in a way, where frights aren’t contingent on gore, not that I have anything against gore, its just Carpenter can do both expertly.
Sony first put Christine out on DVD back in 2004, then they handed the rights over to Twilight Time DVD where they put it out on blu for the first in 2013 (out of print), now Sony themselves have decided to re-release it again with that happening back on September 29th.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.35:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/2.0 French Dolby Digital/ 2.0 German Dolby Digital/2.0 Italian Dolby Digital/2.0 Portuguese Dolby Digital/2.0 Russian Dolby Digital/2.0 Spanish Dolby Digital/2.0 Spanish: Dolby Digital—English, English SDH, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin (Traditional), Thai subs
I was never able to get a copy of Twilight Time’s blu, so I can’t compare it. Generally Sony puts out top notch transfers, and since Sony released this one themselves I was expecting the usual from them, but, well, on a scale of 1-10, 10 being what I’m used to from them, I’d say this particular blu comes in at a 8-9, which is a little shocking. On a general basis, I’m recommending it, but to me there were some shots, with characters out of focus in the foreground, looking a tad DNR’d. My eye kept being drawn to them because they looked, I don’t know, “artificial.”
- Audio Commentary With Director John Carpenter And Actor Keith Gordon
- Deleted Scenes (25:20)
- Christine: Fast and Furious (28:55)
- Christine: Finish Line (7:17)
- Christine: Ignition (11:52)
Everything except the Filmographies from the 2003 special edition DVD have been ported over. Otherwise it’s all there. However the Twilight Time blu had a couple more deleted scenes.