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4.4 out of 5 stars
Christine [DVD] [1984]
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 29 September 2005
I've said it before and I'll say it again, any film maker who takes on the challenge of trying to bring a Stephen King book to the big screen is going to have his work well and truly cut of for him to attempt to condense all the history and details Mr King crams into his novels, in a watchable format. To his credit, the director John Carpenter does pretty darn well here and makes a very worthwhile effort.
The problem I have with Christine is that it was never the best of Stephen King's books to start with and I've never found the idea of a possessed car that sinister, ok it's no dafter than a possessed dog or cat, but there's just something that little bit to cumbersome about the idea of having a car commit murders.
Arnie Cunningham is the typical high school geek, skinny and with glasses he's the ideal target for the mean school bullies and it's good news for him that the high school football jock her, Dennis Guilder, is Arnie's best friend.
Arnie, in an attempt to break free from his mother's very tight apron strings, buys a beaten up wreak of a car from a dodgy looking character called George LeBay. The car in question is a red and white 1958 Plymouth Fury which we learn from Mr LeBay belonged to his brother, until his brother ran a pipe from the exhaust and killed himself.
Arnie buys the car and sets to work renovating it although as much work Arnie puts in the car seems to be helping him along by regenerating itself. When the car is finished it's a sight to behold, a classic piece of American Automobile, it's no wonder that behind the wheel Arnie cuts a different figure and his new found good looks lands him the prettiest girl in the school, Leigh Cabot. But the bullies haven't given up all ideas of keeping Arnie down. They break into the garage where Arnie keeps the car and smash it to pieces. But when only days later is it more amazing that the car is fully restored again, or that the bullies are picked off one by one, with Arnie's prized car always being near the scene?
As I say, the film is extremely watchable if for nothing else the excellent smashes and scrapes the car gets itself into, and then amazingly out of again. The regeneration sequences are great effects and although some of the action scenes are quite jerky, there are some brilliant iconic images, like the Plymouth cruising down the highway whilst being on fire.
There's nothing really special about the performances although they are all adequately done. Viewers may spot that Keith Gordon (Arnie) also appeared in the pretty awful Combat Academy and John Stockwell (Dennis) turns up as the pilot "Cougar" in Top Gun. Harry Dean Stanton appears for a small role as the cop assigned to investigate the murders.
What I did like about the film though were the extra areas it covered that aren't in the book. The opening sequence showing Christine on the Detroit production line was a nice touch and I loved the ironic radio set with a mind of it's own, managing to not only switch itself on whenever Christine was up to no good, but playing a suitable classic Rock and Roll hit. A great example would be playing Bony Maronie whilst crushing garage owner Will Darnell against the dashboard.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 30 November 2012
A evil car comes alive and kills people? Sounds daft to me, normally I would have avoided this movie but John Carpenter has made some of my favorite films 'The Thing' and 'Assault on Precinct 13' to name just a few and that little unknown film 'Halloween' that I decided to give this a try, and boy am I glad that I did.
First thing to say it looks great, not sure if my edition is exactly the same as the ones on Amazon but the picture quality was great for DVD with chrome glistening, the leather looking smooth and the blinding glare from Christine's headlamps making me shield my eyes. The characters are straight out of Steven King and I thought the performances were good. The special effects are fantastic pre-cgi they are all practical with one of the greatest practical special effects I have ever seen when the car gets covered in oil set on fire and chases after someone. This colossal burning ball of flame on wheels is made even more impressive as you can tell its a real car covered in real fire. That's just one of many great set pieces and on a technical level this is flawless, beautifully shot and lit, with brilliant sets and directing.
Fans of John Carpenters soundtracks will love this as it is one of his best ever having that unique sound that Carpenter creates while not being as raw as some of his other work. Add to this a great collection of 1950s rock'n'roll from the cars radio and the sound design becomes as perfect as the visuals.
Problems? Ok the script is kind of weak, the main character disappears for the whole middle section of the film, and most importantly it's not scary. But I don't believe it was ever really meant to be and is in fact often mislabeled as a horror. It is on the other hand extremely thrilling, exciting, tense and overall so much fun.
It made not hold a candle to some of Carpenter's best work but his fans will find lots to love in this and it is essential viewing for fans of real, practical special effects.
Trivia- Kevin Bacon was originally cast as the lead but left to do footloose.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Christine is directed by John Carpenter and adapted to screenplay by Bill Phillips from the novel of the same name written by Stephen King. It stars Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, Robert Prosky and Harry Dean Stanton. Music is by Carpenter and Alan Howarth and cinematography is by Donald M. Morgan.

How Do You Kill Something That Can’t Possibly Be Alive?

1983 was a busy year for Stephen King adaptations to the screen, along with Christine there was also Cujo and The Dead Zone, so for fans of the legendary author there was plenty to chew on. Christine tells the story of a possessed car that takes over the life of the school nerd, with devastating consequences. As a story that’s pretty much all there is to it, the beauty of the pic is how Carpenter ensures the car really does have a malevolent life of its own. The theme at work such as automobile obsession and the bonkers love story at the narrative heart, are not sacrificed for cheap shocks and gimmickry, but Carpenter rightly made the car the star and she doesn’t disappoint.

Christine’s move from being a knackered old banger to super shiny speedster runs concurrent with Arnie Cunningham’s (Gordon) transformation. Where once was the misfit being bullied, is now a supremely confident dude, he even dates one of the school babes. But with Christine’s love and protection comes great danger, and this lets Carpenter craft some super scenes. From self healing to fiery vengeance, the director brings his lensing skills to the party. Music, unsurprisingly for Carpenter, plays a key part as well. A ream of 50s Rock “n” Roll tunes play out of Christine’s radio to align with what is unfolding on screen, while the score is distinctly Carpenteresque.

Cast are very good in their efforts, though more of the wonderful H. D. Stanton should have been a requisite. Unfortunately the screenplay doesn’t afford many character instances to run smoothly, it sometimes feels like the studio demanded that Carpenter hurry up to the next Christine is evil scene instead of building the character bridges! However, it’s a film that may be undeniably 80s in tone of film making, but it has aged surprisingly well. Suspenseful, exciting and devilishly playful, this is another Carpenter movie worthy of re-evaluation. 8/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By 1983 the critical shine and excitement had worn off on John Carpenter's career: The Thing had flopped and, like the more financially successful Escape from New York, had disappointed many of his early supporters enough to convince them that maybe he wasn't the next big thing after all. The poorly paced Christine only reinforced the notion, doing modest business and pleasing few at the time with what should have been a killer concept made in horror movie heaven: a car that's born bad to the bone and its increasingly deadly love affair with the geek-turned-jock who restores it and becomes violently possessed by it. It's got a lot going for it - the script is more socially savvy than the average teen horror flick, most of the performances are good, particularly an increasingly intense Keith Gordon - but it's badly let down by the surprisingly leaden pacing and professional but unexciting direction: it's the kind of film that should run 93 minutes but somehow lasts 109 and is nearly half over before things take a turn for the really nasty. And even the nastiness seems surprisingly pedestrian, and not just because the film earned its R rating because of language rather than violence or gore: the film just rarely seems to kick into high gear or stir Carpenter's imagination. It's not until an hour has passed that the film finally gets its motor running as Christine's supernatural abilities are made manifest and even then it feels like it's just cruising despite the odd moment like the demonic car covered in flames as it pursues its victim raising hopes that things are going to finally get fast and furious.

Still, from the 26 minutes of deleted scenes on Twilight Time's now deleted limited edition region-free US Blu-ray, it could have been even slower, though these do include a few interesting moments that might have helped the film a little like a threatening hospital visit and more of detective Harry Dean Stanton's suspicions. But throughout Carpenter seems to be playing down the material rather than playing it up, avoiding certain aspects entirely and opting for an ambiguity over whether Gordon is behind the wheel when his former tormenters meet their end that rarely works. Much like the car itself, it's the kind of film that seems to completely crystallize audiences, its appeal to those who perhaps love their cars almost as much as its doomed anti-hero pretty much lost on others who'll be surprised at how tame and lethargic it all seems. Still, if you will buy a used car from Roberts Blossom...

The Blu-ray release offered a fine 2.35:1 widescreen transfer and ported over the three making of documentaries that can be found on the still available DVD special edition and added an isolated score and booklet but sadly not the film's excellent teaser trailer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 December 2013
A classic Steven Kings scary movie that has you glued to your screen or seat (what ever floats your boat) read the book many times now I have the movie thank you.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 6 November 2008
She can't (and won't) drive 55.... Stephen King's novel about the twisted love affair between a boy and his car gets transferred to the screen, courtesy of suspense master John Carpenter. Although lacking some of the more outré supernatural elements of the source material, this high-octane cinematic tune-up more than delivers the goods, horror-wise (Christine's midnight rampages will never be forgotten)--as well as being a sly exposé of the random cruelties within the high-school pecking order. Keith Gordon (who has gone on to become a stellar director in his own right, with films such as A Midnight Clear and Mother Night to his credit) gives a wonderfully controlled central performance.

Keith Gordon makes the most of the lead role as the nerdy Arnie who quickly becomes the disturbed owner of "Christine". Support cast, including John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul and Harry Dean Stanton have precious little to do, though Robert Prosky does a good job of being gross.

Carpenter's atmospheric original score is backed up by a well-chosen collection of rock classics, including George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone" (the titular character's all-too-apt theme song). I don't know if anyone has mentioned this before, but the 50s music was interesting in that most of it came from artists who suffered untimely, tragic deaths....Buddy Holly and Richie Valens of course were killed in a plane crash at the height of their careers...Johnny Ace ("Pledging My Love") died playing Russian Roulette with a pistol....Larry Williams ("Bony Maronie") was killed in 1980 by a gunshot wound to the head; he had been involved with drug dealing for years and it was thought to be a gang execution....I think Dion was still alive at the time this movie was made("I Wonder Why"); I'm not sure about the rest of the Belmonts....
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on 17 October 2013
"Christine" is one of Carpenters' best directed films. It's about an evil car (which is at least an improvement on the books' "haunted car" premise), yes, but it's really well cast, well acted, well written, well staged, attractive to look at, and has one of Carpenter's best scores.

There's some great character actors dotted around the movie - Harry Dean Stanton (also in Carpenter's ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK), Roberts Blossom (from DERANGED and the "You can be too old for a lot of things, never too old to be afraid!" OLD MAN from HOME ALONE), Robert Prosky (GREMLINS 2), but this film belongs to the three stars - Keith Gordon (DRESSED TO KILL) as Arnie, John Stockwell as Dennis (most sympathetic movie jock ever) and Alexendra Paul (a convincing "smart and sexy" movie girl). Stockwell and Gordon get a really terrific scene near the end driving the wrong way down the highway, emotions souring high. I used to think Gordon was doing a well-intentioned but unconvincing job, but re-watching the movie recently I realised what a great performance it is - I cringe because I see myself there, everyone, I'm not afraid to admit that now.

CHRISTINE also has the distinction of being the most thematically rich film Carpenter has made - is Christine the car so very different to a drug entering a friend's life and asserting control? Note how much paler Arnie gets as the movie goes on (and like all good macguffins on this front, from the One Ring, the spice Melange, Aylmer in BRAIN DAMAGE, the bug powder in NAKED LUNCH...it doesn't fit EXACTLY, which is why it's so compelling). CHRISTINE only plays old rock and roll songs on her radio, too - is Christine a spectre of the baby boomers, continuing to haunt the teenagers of the late 1970s? Alexendra Paul gets a great line on this front near the end, where it counts: "I hate Rock & Roll".

Carpenter's score is also fantastic - it's got something of HALLOWEEN III's score in it's DNA, but it is its own beast. The use of old rock and roll songs is very smart (particularly a cut from Buddy Holly's original "Not Fade Away" to a very bouncy 1970s cover version), but Christine's song choice most likely to burn into your head is BAD TO THE BONE by George Thorogood and the Destroyers, which plays to bookend the film. Not only is it a neat choice to highlight a big change from the book's plot - here "Christine" is bad from day one at the Detroit factory - it's also a perfect set up for the hilarious, blackly comedic, first injury by Christine.

I'm not sure, but I think the movie did quite well on release - not well enough to salvage Carpenter's reputation after THE THING's flop performance (probably, it's success was attributed to King's popularity more than Carpenter's direction), though I have to wonder about what the target audience is. If it's aimed at the teenage audience, the same age as the characters, why set it five years in the past (when the book was set, I think, but the book is bookended by "four years later" stuff that the film thankfully lacks)? I read that the film was all set for a PG based on the screenplay as written, so they punched up the violence somewhat (not much, this is not a gory or grisly film by any means) and added a lot of swearing - I believe it's the first film I heard the "C word" in, and there's tons of f-bombs and mf-bombs.

At 1 hour 45, Christine is something of an epic in evil car pictures and frankly, there'll never be a better one. THE CAR, for example, just doesn't have the resonance of this one. They could do better car crashes but the movie's heart lies elsewhere.
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This film will be effective and pungent forever. We can regret the reduced presence of old rock and roll music in the film, as compared to the novel. We can regret the absence of the pregnant theme of Arnold's being haunted by the car to the point of the car getting him away from the crime scene when necessary. Then the ending is a lot less pathetic, poignant and powerful. It is even slightly weak. But the film as a whole is a masterpiece. A masterpiece about these teenagers and their only interests in life, the car and the girl they possess, want to possess or aspire to possess, just like they drink beer, out of spite. But it is always a question of possession. King inverts the direction of this fatal element and the owner is possessed by his own piece of property. The depicting of the possessive and tyrannical parents is superb. The magic of the car is beautiful. The bullies and the way they are treated all along and the way they are reduced to trashing a car and defecating on its dashboard is absolutely pitiless and treats them just the way they should and must be treated: like trash. We find it a good positive thing that these worth-nothing individuals are crashed and crushed and exploded and burnt to death by the car they have dared insult and trash themselves. Vengeance has such a sweet taste to the virginal tongue of a teenager who still thinks his tongue is done to lick ice-cream cones. There is little more to say about it except that it is obvious adults are giving little damn about teenagers. The film only has five adults. The parents who are aggressively possessive. The workshop teacher who is absent when he should not be and then violent when he should have prevented it by being in his place at the right time: that is called duty. Then Darnell who is suspicious, hostile, greedy, rotten and corrupt, and yet impotent in front of such a miracle: a teenager kept on a leash by a magical car. Finally the inspector did not understand anything, or rather, if he understood anything, did not do what he should have done: put Arnie and his car under surveillance, and even the car in custody, not to say in prison. He let the criminal and its accessory free to go on killing. And that was a state cop, from the State of California. That's what I call a respectable body of the security forces of our modern world. Yet I do prefer the book, even if John Carpenter avoided the pink color of the bulldozer which is in the film a pink kaka-eater. Plain yellow is more visually realistic. A pink bulldozer sounds like a pink panther.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines, CEGID
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on 31 August 2008
Shot in 1983 within a 30 mile radius of LA, this is an absolutely terrific little horror flick from John Carpenter ("The Fog", "The Thing", "Vampires", "Halloween") about a car, a 1958 Plymouth Fury, apparently possessed by its dead owner who bought it new and ended up choking to death on its exhaust fumes, as did his wife and daughter.

Except that even as it was rolling down the production line, the car had an evil influence on surrounding people (first a guy had his hand trapped in the bonnet then another who dropped ash on the seat was found dead in the car) so it isn't quite as simple as it being haunted by the original owner, more like whatever possessed the car already simply manifesting itself as that person.

The car special effects, as it is first slowly restored from clapped-out banger into brand new condition and then constantly returns itself to new after any damage, are truly magic. There are also some amusing lines such as "You can't polish a turd".

Apparently $500,000 was spent acquiring 23 1958 Plymouth Fury's and making them all look exactly alike.

Love interest is provided by Alexandra Paul ("Paper Dolls", "Bay Watch") as Leigh Cavot "the most beautiful girl in school". Harry Dean Stanton turns up too (doesn't he always?). Otherwise, as the car was the star, relative unknowns were chosen.

Pleasant music (other than the 50s stuff constantly on the car's radio) include George Thorogood & the Destroyers "Bad to the Bone".

British car buffs discover that American cars already had central locking in the 1950s.

The transfer is good with brilliant colours and little unwanted intrusion such as sparklies and, whilst the sound is perfectly acceptable, once again it's a great pity that the soundtrack is only the original stereo, and not a decent 5 or 6.1 surround remix as given to lots of older films on transfer these days.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 September 2012
I was wondering how on earth a film about a murderous car would work, but checked it out because it's John Carpenter. I'm glad I did - this film has some genuinely creepy moments and tracks two best friends as the geekier one buys the classic car Christine and refurbishes it. He becomes obsessed and changes hugely - it is a fascinating transformation.

The car's murders are impressive and, bizarrely, convincing. It's a great movie and is hugely entertaining. Check it out.
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