Christine (1983 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Carpenter|
|Screenplay by||Bill Phillips|
by Stephen King
|Cinematography||Donald M. Morgan|
|Edited by||Marion Rothman|
Delphi Premier Productions
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$21 million (US)|
Christine is a 1983 American supernatural horror film directed by John Carpenter and starring Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, Robert Prosky and Harry Dean Stanton. The film also features supporting performances from Roberts Blossom and Kelly Preston.
Written by Bill Phillips and based on Stephen King’s 1983 novel of the same name, the movie follows the changes in the lives of Arnie Cunningham, his friends, his family, and his teenage enemies after Arnie buys a classic Red and white 1958 Plymouth Fury named Christine, licence number CQB 241, a car that seems to have a jealous, possessive personality – and a mind of its own.
In September 1957, at a Chrysler Corporation assembly plant in Detroit, the hood of a newly assembled, red-and-white 1958 Plymouth Fury slams down without warning and crushes the hand of a line worker inspecting its front end. Another worker climbs in to sit behind the wheel, letting the ash from his cigar fall on the front seat. At the end of the shift, the line supervisor notices the car's radio is playing music; when he opens the door to shut it off, the worker's corpse falls out onto the floor.
Twenty-one years later, in September 1978, Arnold "Arnie" Cunningham is an awkward and unpopular teenager in Rockbridge, California, with only one friend, football player Dennis Guilder. Arnie's life begins to change when he buys the used, dilapidated Fury from George LeBay, whose late brother Roland had originally owned it. George tells Arnie several details about the car, including its name: "Christine". Since his parents will not let him keep the car at their house, Arnie begins to restore it at a do-it-yourself garage and junkyard owned by Will Darnell.
As Arnie spends more of his time working on the car, he discards his glasses, dresses more like a 1950s greaser, and develops an arrogant, paranoid personality. Unbeknownst to Arnie, Dennis learned from Arnie's mother that Roland actually committed suicide in the car. Confronted by Dennis, George admits that Roland's daughter had choked to death in the car and that his wife also committed suicide in it. George forced Roland to get rid of Christine after Roland's wife's death, but the car returned to him after three weeks.
During a football game, Dennis becomes distracted by the sight of Arnie kissing his new girlfriend, Leigh Cabot, in front of a now-perfect Christine and is tackled, suffering a career-ending injury. One of Christine's windshield wipers stops working while Arnie and Leigh are on a date at a drive-in movie theater. When he gets out to fix it, Leigh begins to choke on a hamburger. The doors lock themselves, leaving Arnie unable to help her, but she frees herself and is saved when a man in a nearby car administers the Heimlich maneuver. Soon afterward, school bully Buddy Repperton - angry with Arnie over being expelled after a confrontation in shop class - vandalizes Christine with the help of his gang. Arnie is devastated and determined to repair Christine but is surprised to see her quickly restore herself.
Christine then seeks out the vandals, crushing one in an alley, triggering a gas station explosion that kills two others and sets the car on fire, and finally running down Buddy himself. After the badly burned Christine returns to Darnell's garage, Darnell sits in the driver's seat and is crushed to death against the steering wheel when Christine pushes the seat forward. The next morning, Christine is back in its slot and fully repaired. State police detective Rudolph Junkins becomes suspicious of Arnie, having discovered paint from Christine at the scenes of two gang members' deaths. However, he has no direct evidence to implicate Arnie, who has an alibi.
Junkins either does not know or cannot believe that Christine can drive herself. Following the choking incident and Christine's initial vandalization, Leigh breaks up with Arnie. Dennis and Leigh conclude the only way to save Arnie is to destroy Christine. They set a trap for it at Darnell's garage: Dennis waits at the controls of a bulldozer, while Leigh stands ready to close the garage doors and cut off Christine's retreat once it enters. However, Christine has been lying in wait under a pile of debris in the garage the entire time, and it strikes when Leigh takes up her position at the door controls. Christine crashes through Darnell's office in an attempt to get at Leigh. Arnie – who has been driving the car himself – is thrown through the windshield and impaled on a shard of glass, which kills him.
Dennis and Leigh attack Christine with the bulldozer, but it continually repairs itself and strikes back. The battle continues until they repeatedly drive back and forth over the car, damaging Christine so much that it is unable to immediately regenerate. The next day, Dennis, Leigh and Junkins watch as Christine's remains are compacted by a car crusher in a junkyard and dropped on the ground as a solid block. Junkins praises Dennis and Leigh for defeating the demonic vehicle, despite them mourning the loss of Arnie and their inability to save him. As the camera zooms in slowly on the remains, a portion of the front grill begins to twitch.
- Keith Gordon as Arnold "Arnie" Cunningham
- John Stockwell as Dennis Guilder
- Alexandra Paul as Leigh Cabot
- Robert Prosky as Will Darnell
- Harry Dean Stanton as Detective Rudolph "Rudy" Junkins
- Christine Belford as Regina Cunningham
- Robert Darnell as Michael Cunningham
- Roberts Blossom as George LeBay
- Kelly Preston as Roseanne
- William Ostrander as Clarence "Buddy" Repperton
- Steven Tash as Richard “Richie” Trelawney
- Stuart Charno as Donald “Don” Vandenberg
- Malcolm Danare as Peter "Moochie" Welch
- David Spielberg as Mr. Casey
Producer Richard Kobritz had previously produced the miniseries Salem's Lot, also based on a Stephen King novel. Through producing the miniseries, Kobritz became acquainted with King, who sent him manuscripts of two of his novels, Cujo, and Christine. Kobritz purchased the rights to Christine after finding himself attracted to the novel's "celebration of America's obsession with the motorcar."
Kobritz's first choice for director was John Carpenter, who was initially unavailable due to two projects: an adaptation of another King novel, Firestarter, and an adaptation of the 1980 Eric Van Lustbader novel The Ninja. However, production delays on these projects allowed Carpenter to accept the director position for Christine. Kobritz and Carpenter had previously collaborated in the 1978 television film Someone's Watching Me!. Bill Phillips was Carpenter's choice for writer and was brought on shortly after Carpenter arrived. Carpenter was also joined by special effects supervisor Roy Arbogast, who had previously worked with Carpenter in The Thing (1982). According to Carpenter, Christine was not a film he had planned on directing, saying that he directed the film as "a job" as opposed to a "personal project." He had previously directed The Thing, which had done poorly at the box office and led to critical backlash. In retrospect, Carpenter stated that upon reading Christine, he felt that "It just wasn't very frightening. But it was something I needed to do at that time for my career."
King's novel, the source material for Carpenter's film, made it clear that the car was possessed by the evil spirit of its previous owner, Roland D. LeBay, whereas the film version of the story shows that the evil spirit of the car manifested itself on the day it was built. Other elements from the novel were altered for the film, particularly the execution of the death scenes, which the filmmakers opted for a more "cinematic approach."
Initially, Columbia Pictures had wanted to cast Brooke Shields in the role of Leigh due to her publicity after the release of The Blue Lagoon (1981), and Scott Baio as Arnie. The filmmakers declined the suggestion, opting to cast young actors who were still fairly unknown. Kevin Bacon auditioned for the role, but opted out when offered a part in Footloose (1984). Carpenter cast Keith Gordon in the role of Arnie after an audition in New York City; Gordon had some experience in film, and was also working in theater at the time; John Stockwell was cast at an audition in Los Angeles.
Nineteen-year-old Alexandra Paul was cast in the film after audition in New York City; according to Carpenter, Paul was an "untrained, young actress" at the time, but brought a "great quality" about the character of Leigh. According to Paul, she had not read any of King's books or seen Carpenter's films, and read the novel in preparation.
Christine was shot largely in Los Angeles, California, while the location for Darnell's garage was located in Santa Clarita. Filming began in April 1983, merely days after the King novel had been published. An abandoned furniture factory in Irwindale was used for the opening scene. The film's stunts were primarily completed by stunt coordinator Terry Leonard, who was behind the wheel of the car during the high-speed chase scenes, as well as the scene in which the car drives down a highway engulfed in flames. During that scene, Leonard wore a Nomex firefighter's suit complete with breathing apparatus.
Alexandra Paul's identical twin sister Caroline Paul wrote that she and her sister pulled a prank during filming, sending Caroline on set in place of Alexandra without telling Carpenter that they had made the switch until after he had shot a scene. She wrote, "My highly skilled clutch-pushing actually made it into the movie."
Although the car in the film is identified as a 1958 Plymouth Fury – and in 1983 radio ads promoting the film, voiceover artists announced, "she's a '57 Fury" – two other Plymouth models, the Belvedere and the Savoy, were also used to portray the malevolent automobile onscreen. John Carpenter placed ads throughout Southern California searching for models of the car, and was able to purchase twenty-four of them in various states of disrepair, which were used to build a total of seventeen copies of the film car. All cars were two door hardtops.
Total production for the 1958 Plymouth Fury was only 5,303, and they were difficult to find and expensive to buy at the time. In addition, the real-life Furys only came in one color, "Sandstone White" with a "Buckskin Beige" interior, seen on the other Furys on the assembly line during the initial scenes of the movie, though the car in King's novel was ordered with a red-and-white custom paint job. The original Furies had anodized gold trim on the body and Fury script on the rear fender. In order to bypass the problem of obtaining the rare trim, the cars featured the more common Belvedere "Dartline" trim. Several vehicles were destroyed during filming, but most of the cars were Savoy and Belvedere models dressed to look like the Fury. At least one '57 Savoy was used, its front end modified to look like a '58.
Some of King's details about the car were incorrect in the novel. The 1956-1958 Plymouth Fury was only available as a two-door coupe, while the book described it as a four-door sedan, which would have made it a Savoy or Belvedere model. During Leigh's choking scene, Christine is shown to have common vertical lock "buttons" on the inside door panels. Chrysler vehicles of this era were not equipped with such buttons. To lock the door, the door handle has to be pushed downward. King also mentions a shift lever for the automatic transmission, but in real life it had push-button controls.
Originally, Carpenter had not planned to film the car's regeneration scenes, but gave special effects supervisor Roy Arbogast three weeks to devise a way for the car to rebuild itself. Arbogast and his team made rubber molds from one of the cars, including a whole front end. One of the cars was stripped of its engine to accommodate internally-mounted hydraulics that pulled the framework inward, crumpling the car, with the shot then run backwards in the final film.
Christine was released in North America on December 9, 1983, to 1,045 theaters.
In its opening weekend Christine brought in $3,408,904 landing at #4. The film dropped 39.6% in its second weekend, grossing $2,058,517 slipping from fourth to eighth place. In its third weekend, it grossed $1,851,909 dropping to #9. The film remained at #9 its fourth weekend, grossing $2,736,782. In its fifth weekend, it returned to #8, grossing $2,015,922. Bringing in $1,316,835 in its sixth weekend, the film dropped out of the box office top ten to twelfth place. In its seventh and final weekend, the film brought in $819,972 landing at #14, bringing the total gross for Christine to $21,017,849.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Christine holds a 69% approval rating based on 29 reviews, with an average rating of 5.94/10. The consensus reads: "The cracks are starting to show in John Carpenter's directorial instincts, but Christine is nonetheless silly, zippy fun.”
Roger Ebert gave the movie three out of four stars, saying: "by the end of the movie, Christine has developed such a formidable personality that we are actually taking sides during its duel with a bulldozer. This is the kind of movie where you walk out with a silly grin, get in your car, and lay rubber halfway down the Eisenhower." Janet Maslin of The New York Times gave the film a middling review, saying: "The early parts of the film are engaging and well acted, creating a believable high-school atmosphere. Unfortunately, the later part of the film is slow in developing, and it unfolds in predictable ways." Variety gave the film a negative review, stating: "Christine seems like a retread. This time it’s a fire-engine red, 1958 Plymouth Fury that’s possessed by the Devil, and this deja-vu premise [from the novel by Stephen King] combined with the crazed-vehicle format, makes Christine appear pretty shop worn." Time Out said of the film: "Carpenter and novelist Stephen King share not merely a taste for genre horror but a love of '50's teenage culture; and although set in the present, Christine reflects the second taste far more effectively than the first."
The film was released on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment on August 4, 1998. THX Lucasfilms LTD (with titles "Digitally Mastered"). DTS-ES, Dolby Digital. The film was released on VHS by Columbia Pictures, and later in a special edition DVD in 2004. On March 12, 2013, Twilight Time video released the film on Blu-ray for the first time in a limited edition run numbered at 3,000 copies. On September 29, 2015, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment re-released the film on Blu-ray. The film was released on 4K UHD Blu-Ray on September 11, 2018.
|Christine: Music from the Motion Picture|
|Film score by|
|Released||June 1, 1990|
|Producer||John Carpenter, Alan Howarth|
|John Carpenter & Alan Howarth chronology|
|John Carpenter chronology|
|1.||"Arnie's Love Theme"||1:15|
|2.||"Obsessed with the Car"||2:07|
|3.||"Football Run/Kill Your Kids"||2:42|
|11.||"Car Obsession Reprise"||1:53|
|12.||"Christine Attacks (Plymouth Fury)"||2:30|
|13.||"Talk on the Couch"||1:23|
|18.||"Moochie Mix Four"||2:26|
Songs appearing in film
The soundtrack album containing songs used in the film was entitled Christine: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and was released on LP and cassette on Motown Records. It contained 10 (of the 15) songs listed in the film's credits, plus one track from John Carpenter and Alan Howarth's own score. The track listing was as follows:
- George Thorogood and the Destroyers – "Bad to the Bone"
- Buddy Holly & the Crickets – "Not Fade Away"
- Johnny Ace – "Pledging My Love"
- Robert & Johnny – "We Belong Together"
- Little Richard – "Keep A-Knockin'"
- Dion and The Belmonts – "I Wonder Why"
- The Viscounts – "Harlem Nocturne"
- Thurston Harris – "Little Bitty Pretty One"
- Danny & The Juniors – "Rock 'n' Roll is Here to Stay"
- John Carpenter & Alan Howarth – "Christine Attacks (Plymouth Fury)"
- Larry Williams – "Bony Moronie"
The following tracks were not included on this LP release, but were used in the film and listed in the film's credits:
- ABBA – "The Name of the Game"
- Bonnie Raitt – "Runaway"
- Ritchie Valens – "Come on, Let's Go"
- Tanya Tucker – "Not Fade Away"
- The Rolling Stones – "Beast of Burden"
- The Love Bug (1968) - an earlier film about a car with a distinct personality and mind of its own
- Little Bastard (James Dean's car that is claimed to be cursed)
- List of films about automobiles
- The Wraith (1986) - a later film about a mystery car and driver challenging a car-racing gang in a small town in Arizona. The movie stars Charlie Sheen, Randy Quaid, and Clint Howard.
- Muir, John Kenneth (2005). The Films of John Carpenter. McFarland & Company. p. 30. ISBN 9780786422692.
- "Overall Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 22, 2010.
- Suckley, Jamie (July 31, 2013). "Christine". Static Mass Emporium. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
- Carpenter, John; Kobritz, Richard (2004). Christine: Ignition. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
- Martin, R. H. (January 1984). "Richard Kobritz and Christine". Fangoria (32): 14–18 – via Internet Archive.
- "Interview With John Carpenter from SFX magazine". SFX. Retrieved November 28, 2015 – via OoCities.org.
- Carpenter, John. Audio commentary, Christine [Blu-ray]. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. 2015.
- Carpenter, John; Gordon, Keith; Paul, Alexandra; Stockwell, John (2004). Christine: Fast and Furious. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
- Von Doviak 2014. sfn error: no target: CITEREFVon_Doviak2014 (help)
- Paul, Caroline (2015). Almost Her: The Strange Dilemma of Being Nearly Famous. Shebooks. p. 15. ISBN 9781940838816 – via Google Books.
- Kerr & Wollen 2004, p. 355.
- Benjaminson 1994, p. 124.
- "Christine (1983)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
- "Christine Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
- Ebert, Roger (December 13, 1983). "Christine". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved November 27, 2015.
- Maslin, Janet (December 9, 1983). "Film: 'Christine,' A Car". The New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
- Variety Staff (December 31, 1982). "Christine". Variety. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
- Rothkopf, Joshua (January 23, 2017). "Christine, directed by John Carpenter". Time Out London. Retrieved November 27, 2015.
- "Christine (Special Edition)". Amazon. Retrieved November 27, 2015.
- Kauffman, Jeffrey (March 18, 2013). "Christine Blu-ray: Screen Archives Entertainment Exclusive / Limited Edition to 3000". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
- Liebman, Mark (September 28, 2015). "Christine Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
- Duarte, M. Enois (September 5, 2018). "Christine – 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray". ultrahd.highdefdigest.com. Retrieved June 12, 2018.
- "Christine – Production Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved October 22, 2010.
- "Christine (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Discogs.com. Retrieved May 31, 2015.
- Benjaminson, James (1994). Plymouth, 1946–1959. Motorbooks International. ISBN 978-0-87938-840-9.
- Von Doviak, Scott (2014). Stephen King Films FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the King of Horror on Film. Applause Theatre & Cinema. ISBN 978-1-48035-551-4.
- Kerr, Joe; Wollen, Peter (2004). Autopia: Cars and Culture. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-1-86189-132-7.
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