Blu-Ray Review – Christine

 Christine is a John Carpenter movie, completed just after The Thing, which is considered by some to be his best film. He needed a hit, and he was offered a Steven King book at a time when you couldn’t get a bigger name—but Carpenter still got his name above the titles, which a contact thing and he ended up becoming embarrassed by one many times his name was on the poster. He also later admitted that it was a “job” film as opposed to a more personal project.

Producer Richard Kobritz had already produced the miniseries of Salem’s Lot, which King liked (a rare occurrence with early film adaptations of King—he liked Carrie a bit but famously didn’t like the Kubrick-isation of The Shining). He offered the producer Cujo or Christine, leaving the other to become another film the same year—Carpenter had been offered Firestarter not long before, but The Thing’s poor returns ended his attachment that project.

Christine is about a nerdy teenager, Arnie (Keith Gordon, who would later become a good director in his own right, his co-star John Stockwell also became a director). Arnie buys a red ’58 Plymouth Fury off of an eccentric old man played by character actor Roberts Blossom—Carpenter cast him after seeing him in Escape from Alcatraz, but he also played an Ed Gein-like character in Deranged and many other oddball parts. The car turns out to be possessed. The car also gradually changes Arnie, he looses his glasses, dresses “cool” and dates the most popular girl but becomes a arrogant dick. The car eventually runs amok, killing the bullies who had previously tormented Arnie.

Harry Dean Stanton plays one of the good guys, a role that came right before his big comeback with Paris, Texas and Repo Man. Stanton had worked with Carpenter previously, and was searching for roles where he didn’t play the villain. Kelly Preston and Alexandra Paul (8 Million Ways to Die) show up as high-school girls.

John Carpenter and Steven King both grew up in the 1950s, and they bring those cultural references to the screen in this adaptation. The soundtrack is full of classics, since the car will only play songs from the ‘50s, plus there’s the inevitable Carpenter score as well. It’s one of the director’s shortest and least typical soundtracks.

Christine is one of the lesser lights in the run between Dark Star and Carpenter’s masterpiece They Live, but he was obviously having a lot of fun with the plot, working with a very young cast plus a couple of quirky veterans in the form of Stanton and Blossom.

The Blu-Ray re-release from Powerhouse Films’ Indicator series includes a commentary by John Carpenter and Keith Gordon, an isolated score and some deleted scenes (although they don’t add much to the film, which at 110 minutes is already pushing the boundaries for a horror film). There’s also a 48-minute documentary and an image gallery, plus a selection of trailers and TV spots, and a 24-page booklet featuring a new essay by Jeff Billington. John Carpenter also has penned a great “guilty pleasures” list includes a bunch of crappy ‘50s monster movies, like The Giant Claw and Attack of the Crab Monsters, and couple of John Wayne’s lesser films, such as The Green Berets and The Conqueror. It’s a very impressive package for the first release from this brand new company.

★★★½

Ian Schultz

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