Review Date: December 17, 2004
Released by: Columbia
Release date: 9/28/2004
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
The claim that John Carpenter considers Christine
his worst film has been internet fodder for years. Fans, of course, have vehemently disagreed, often championing the film as one of his best. Consumers liked the first disc so much in fact, that Columbia even saw fit to issue a new special edition of Carpenter’s take on Stephen King (a better fate than the equally good Starman
, whose R2 special edition still has yet to make it overseas). Lo and behold though, Carpenter himself lends his expertise to a new commentary and a few featurettes. Consider the internet rumors of him hating the film expelled. Now, with the same video and audio tracks on both discs, do the extra features really warrant an extra purchase? Let’s rev this one up.
To the tune of George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone" the camera dollies down from the top of an automobile assembly line to reveal Christine, a red 1958 Plymouth Fury. New and nearly completed, a man takes a quick inspection of her motor only to have his hand crushed after her open hood mysteriously slams shut. Although regarded as an accident, this was certainly Christine's doing, and would serve as a prelude for the destruction she'd cause throughout her future.
Jump twenty years later to 1978, and best friends Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon
) and Denis Guilder (John Stockwell
) embark on their first day of school. While Denis is a jock popular with both the men and the ladies, Arnie is a timid and scrawny social nothing controlled by his parents aspirations. After his first shop class, Buddy and his friends reaffirm Arnie's social status by harassing him and destroying his lunch. Denis steps in and saves the day and gives Arnie a ride home. On the way Arnie forces Denis to stop and on a whim goes out and buys a now broken down and barely running Christine with his saved up college money.
Despite his parent's objections against Christine, Arnie keeps her and works vigorously to rebuild her from the bottom up at a nearby auto wrecking yard. As Christine beings to take shape (much to the surprise of everyone), so does Arnie's persona and confidence. Upon completely restoring her, Arnie is the new top dog in town, and even takes out dream girl Leigh Cabot (Alexandra Paul
). But his fascination and adoration for Christine
become so overwhelming that he beings isolating himself from his friends and family. Christine insures his love for her never dies, as she deals personally with anyone who tries to get in her way. She can be burned, trashed or crushed, but nothing will stop her from being with Arnie. To quote a song from her radio: "You're mine, and we belong together, for eternity."
is a classy and effective film that works on a number of layers. Foremost, as a horror film it is able to remain convincing and achieve a foreboding and creepy atmosphere whenever the title character is on screen. While the thought of a vehicle being scary is absurd, John Carpenter manages to make King's material appear convincing. The film also works as a biting commentary on teen life, which is at times more revealing than most of the other teen films of the era. Lastly, and perhaps most effectively, Christine
works as a character study of a weakling who gets his power and confidence from his car. Here is a guy who'd rather take his car out for a drive than his girlfriend to bed, and as John Carpenter has done so effectively before, his descent into madness is compelling.
The acting is top notch, as the three leads, Gordon, Stockwell and Paul are all very convincing and believable in their roles. They bring a required human element to the film, making their outcomes all the more concerning. We care about these characters because they are real, not just prototypes of cliché character types. Character actors Harry Dean Stanton and Robert Prosky both contribute memorable roles and make the most of their underwritten parts as well. Not a sour note in the entire film, this is another one of John Carpenter's traditionally well casted films.
Perhaps the biggest triumph of the film though, is John Carpenter's ability to keep things frightening, while shying away from his trademark gore and jump scenes. It is that looming presence of Christine
in the shadows, always conscious of the happenings around her that is scary, not how she dismembers her victims. Not since Halloween
has John Carpenter been able to achieve such an effectively creepy mood by showing so little. Not a single shot of gore is included in the film and it benefits immensely from that exclusion. Christine
is about the car's relationship with Arnie, not the people it kills, and by refusing to show any of the deaths she inflicts, it keeps the story focused and artful.
Creating an enjoyable film out of a big name collaboration like Carpenter and King is a tough feat. Viewers go in expecting that traditional Carpenter stylistic touches, while at the same time others go in demanding certain elements consistent in all of King's work. While Kubrick's The Shining
was a fine film, it strayed heavily from the book and therefore skewed audiences. Christine
though, stays true to King's source material while containing the traditionally effective photography and style that has made John Carpenter's films so memorable. Nearly twenty years later, Christine
remains effective and chilling, and still stands as one of Stephen King's best and most faithful adaptations to grace the silver screen.
Presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 Christine
looks like it just came off the assembly line. Given how many of John Carpenter's earlier efforts have appeared somewhat washed out on DVD, I was pleasantly surprised as to just how accurate the color representation was on this disc. From Christine
's passionate red finish to the lush greens of the leaves on the trees, all the colors here look vibrant and lively. Even the black levels are deep and strong, which is uncharacteristic for a low budget film from the early 80's. Fleshtones are nicely saturated and the print is extremely clean, with hardly any grain at all. The print looks very sharp, maybe even too sharp at times, but still, this is an excellent transfer from Columbia. The useless pan and scan transfer has thankfully been dropped for this release, although the widescreen transfer is the same as the previous disc.
's engine roars loudly in a 2-channel Dolby Surround track, but still leaves a lot to be desired. The audio is clear and well defined, with a nice balance between the dialogue and Carpenter's effective synthesizer score. The vintage music is presented in a similarly fine fashion, but unfortunately almost all of the sound stays up front. The surrounds are limited only to faint traces of the score and a few ambient sounds, making the film sound much more like a stereo track. There is no directional movement, but the overall this track is decent, if quite underwhelming. The audio tracks included on this disc are the same as on the previous one.
With a commentary, three new featurettes and 20 deleted scenes, this special edition sure looks good on paper. Given Carpenter’s always stellar commentary work, the new audio commentary with actor Keith Gordon will no doubt be the main draw to this disc. Both are professional and talkative throughout, rising above the standard plot description into really getting into the meat of what went on behind the scenes. Granted, this track isn’t nearly as fun as a Russell/Carpenter track, or even the commentary on Ghosts of Mars
, but Gordon makes up for it with intelligence. A smart and researched man, Gordon adds a lot of insight into what is happening on screen, and not only that, but his new directorial career path gives him and Carpenter plenty to discuss. They talk about superstitions (Carpenter doesn’t attend his own premiers!) and point out cameos like a very young Kelly Preston. Carpenter is very humble, quick to point out flaws in the film, but still it is obvious he holds a gentle affection for Christine
. Another solid Carpenter commentary.
Columbia enlisted the best DVD documentarian in the business, Laurent Bouzereau, who has done De Palma all the way to Spielberg, and he delivers three fine and expansive featurettes. All three feature the following people: Carpenter, the writer, producer, stunt man and the three principal cast members. The first featurette, “Fast and the Furious”, runs a beefy 29 minutes. The story and scripting process are first discussed, and then it goes into some of the acting complications. Keith Gordon mentions how tough it was kissing Alexandra Paul, and how they were able to break the ice. The drive-in scene is analyzed in more detail, as well as the special effects and the number of Plymouth Fury’s used throughout production. Talk of the rating is also interesting, as Columbia actually wanted more offensive material to get a hard R rating – something that most studios shy away from today. Everyone involved is very quick to discuss their recollection of the film, and there is enough of interest to satisfy fans. And to top it all off, it even ends with a little sodomy.
The next two featurettes, “Finish Line” and “Ignition”, run 7 and 12 minutes, respectively. “Ignition” documents how the entire film was started, from King optioning out his manuscripts to Carpenter looking for some money and prestige after his debacle with The Thing
. More interesting is the tidbit about how Carpenter and King were first going to collaborate with Firestarter
, but plans sadly fell through. Mention of Kevin Bacon is also a highlight, but I will not spoil that. “Finish Line” talks about the oldies music selection as well as Carpenter’s scoring choices. Box office and the release of the film is also discussed, as is Carpenter’s disgust with how many times his name appears on the poster. All in all, three very good featurettes that all merit a viewing.
Perhaps most surprisingly of all, this disc houses 20 deleted scenes, running a cool 26 minutes. There is a lot of great footage here, and very little overlap with the scenes that were used in the film. There are some extended scenes, like shots of one of the thugs actually taking a shit on poor Christine’s dashboard, but most of the scenes are new. Some great Keith Gordon footage was excised, from him breaking down and crying after Christine is destroyed to him homoerotically taunting a hospital-bound John Stockwell. The second last scene sets up a romance between Stockwell and Paul’s characters, and actually has some of fantastic composition and framing. There is even an additional death scene (pictured right). Not a single scene seems like a rehash, each and every one is interesting. This is definitely one of the best deleted scenes assortments I’ve ever seen on DVD.
The disc is rounded off with a useless list of filmographies for most of the people involved, as well as previews for Asylum of the Damned
, Secret Window
, and Kingdom Hospital
runs real nice. Carpenter fuels the film with a plethora of great performances, and creates scares through carefully mounted suspense rather than cheap jump tactics. It’s a solid picture, and has emerged over time as one of Carpenter’s better films. The audio and video on this disc is the same as the previous, but that is a good thing. The new supplements are great though, from a professional commentary to deleted scenes that are actually worth seeing. The featurettes give this disc an even greater depth above most “Special Editions” released today. The film is good enough for anyone to consider, and those who sprung for the first disc are going to have to buckle down and give this one a spin as well. Carpenter’s directorial career may have stalled, but thankfully his legacy continues to ride on with these new special editions. Highly recommended.
Movie - A-
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B-
Supplements - A-
- Running Time - 1 hour 51 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English 2.0 Dolby Surround
- French 2.0 Dolby Surround
- Spanish 2.0 Dolby Surround
- Portuguese 2.0 Dolby Surround
- English Subtitles
- French Subtitles
- Spanish Subtitles
- Portuguese Subtitles
- Chinese Subtitles
- Korean Subtitles
- Thai Subtitles
- Commentary with John Carpenter and Keith Gordon
- 20 deleted scenes
- Three featurettes
- Bonus trailers