Prior to John Carpenter’s Christine, the last limited edition Twilight Time title to experience an ultra-quick sell-out was Tom Savini’s 1990 Night of the Living Dead. While that remake of Romero’s zombie classic was met with largely hostile response due to color timing changes in the transfer (beyond Twilight Time’s control), no such controversy accompanies Christine. The 1983 release looks simply outstanding, with a consistently sharp, detailed image. While the 3,000 copies have already been snatched up, this is the ultimate presentation of Christine to date. Try to find a copy on the collector’s market if you’re a serious fan.
Not a particularly popular film at the box office 30 years ago (it grossed $21 million, roughly $52 million adjusted for inflation), Christine has endured remarkably well over the decades. I’d say this is due to the ongoing popularity of both director John Carpenter and source novelist Stephen King. I’ve never read King’s book, but there was a very significant change made for the adaptation. As explained by Julie Kirgo in the Blu-ray booklet, King’s Christine (a bright red 1958 Plymouth Fury) was not inherently evil. The car was possessed by the spirit of its previous owner. Carpenter and screenwriter Bill Phillips’ Christine is a murderous presence from the moment we meet her during the 1957-set prologue, before she’s even left the factory.
The “supernatural car” conceit could’ve easily degenerated into pure silliness, but Carpenter deftly avoids such pitfalls. The story leaps forward to 1978, with Christine sitting in a state of horrible neglect on the property of George LeBay (Roberts Blossom). High school student Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon) and his friend Dennis (John Stockwell) happen to be driving by when Arnie spots it. He becomes immediately obsessed, purchasing it from George for $250 despite Dennis’s plea that he reconsider. What develops is a kind of a love affair between Arnie and Christine, as he lovingly restores the automobile at a junk yard run by Will Darnell (Robert Prosky). Before long, Arnie transforms from good-natured nerd to ice cold sociopath. And Christine, now fully functioning once again, begins taking out anyone who messes with her new owner.
Keith Gordon turns in impressive work as Arnie, making the character’s radical transformation entirely smooth and believable. The movie wouldn’t have worked without such a strong lead, with Gordon really owning the part. He and the demonic car seem to feed off each other. At its most violent, Christine isn’t really all that violent a movie. Even as the car begins targeting young punks, the most overtly aggressive scene occurs as school bully Buddy (William Ostrander) and his gang try to destroy Christine. While the gang works hard to turn the Plymouth into a heap of scrap metal, we see the car repair itself in a brief (but incredibly effective) special effects sequence.
Christine is, at its core, a B-movie. Carpenter must certainly have been aware of that during production. Saddled with a piece of machinery for a central villain, he mines the horror in watching a decent young man turn into an obsessed monster. While we may have a hard time really taking the idea of a homicidal car at face value, we have no problem accepting the psychosis that creeps into Arnie’s soul. Good supporting work from Prosky (slyly revealing Darnell’s unscrupulous nature) and Harry Dean Stanton (as suspicious Detective Rudy Junkins) help make Christine a memorable entry in the wildly uneven catalog of Stephen King adaptations.
As I already mentioned, Twilight Time’s Blu-ray looks astonishingly fresh while also retaining the natural film grain expected of an early ’80s film. If you want to see the flame-engulfed Christine driving at night with as much detail as possible, this is the ticket. Colors are beautifully vivid, particularly the reds of Christine’s paint and Dennis’s letterman jacket. Very occasionally a minor flaw in the print pops up, but for the most part the presentation is extremely clean. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is similarly trouble-free, with some effective directional effects whenever Christine is on the move. Carpenter’s score (available as an isolated track in DTS-HD 2.0) remains appropriately subtle, while the ‘50s rock oldies that blare from Christine’s radio are crisp and clear.
Besides the aforementioned new isolated score feature, several good supplements have been ported over from a previous DVD edition. Director John Carpenter and star Keith Gordon sat together for a chatty, friendly commentary track that contains a ton of good production information. The video features are presented in standard definition and include about 25 minutes of deleted scenes and three featurettes. The lengthiest is a half-hour piece called “Fast and Furious” that nicely complements what is discussed in the commentary.
Whether you love John Carpenter, Stephen King, or ‘80s horror films in general, Twilight Time’s Christine Blu-ray is well worth acquiring if you can track down a copy. For more information about Twilight Time’s catalog of limited edition releases, visit their exclusive distributor’s official website.