Twilight Time // 1983 // 110 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // April 1st, 2013
She's hell on wheels.
By the early-to-mid 1980s, Hollywood was churning out Stephen King movies almost as fast as King could put them on the page. One of Stephen King's most beloved novels, Christine was put into the hands of another horror master, director John Carpenter (The Fog). Available in a now sold out limited issue of 3,000 units from Twilight Time, Christine revs its engine for the first time on Blu-ray.
Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon, Back to School) is a typical high school geek who gets his lunch taken away by bullies and struggles with girls not finding him attractive. Arnie's life turns around for the better -- and then worse -- when he stumbles upon an old, dilapidated 1957 Plymouth Fury sitting for sale in an old man's junkyard. Much to the dismay of his best friend, Dennis (John Stockwell, Top Gun), Arnie buys the car -- named "Christine" -- for $250 and slowly finds a new sense of self-worth in Christine's slinky leather interior. Even with a newfound girlfriend (Baywatch's Alexandra Paul), Arnie can't seem to keep his eyes off of Christine...even after she begins to display homicidal tendencies towards anyone in Arnie's rearview mirror!
Christine is probably one of director John Carpenter's lesser beloved films. Carpenter's career highs includes some of the best horror, action, or science fiction films of the past four decades: Halloween, Escape from New York, Big Trouble in Little China, Starman, and They Live are all far more respected than Carpenter's Christine (which followed the then-flop but now cherished The Thing). I can almost understand the reason for this; while Carpenter's most revered films feature some truly fantastical ideas, Christine is much more grounded and doesn't include drooling, twisted monsters or an rapid uzi gunfire.
The fact is, Christine is easily one of Carpenter's better movies. As a filmmaker, Carpenter has a very distinct style that feels beautifully cinematic; the director has always made great use of the widescreen format, filling it with imagery and action. With Christine Carpenter gives us a horror movie of spectacular beauty; although the film isn't particularly scary or terrifying (It's hard to be frightened by an inanimate object that can't emote), Christine certainly is a marvel to look at. There are splendid set pieces, including a jaw-dropping sequence where Christine is decimated by some local thugs, and then formed back into being by the car's sheer, demonic willpower.
Much like the novel by Stephen King, Christine finds its tension more in the disturbing behavior that Arnie starts to show than the car itself. We are basically witnessing the systematic breakdown of a kid who no one accepted, a kid who finally finds the love of a beautiful girl but at the price of his soul. Carpenter was wise to choose Keith Gordon as Arnie. Gordon is able to successfully straddle the line between clichéd nerd and (eventually) nutcase obsessive. Arnie's descent into madness isn't shocking since the character isn't very likable to begin with; Arnie is clearly an unhappy kid who knows that he's destined to be the butt of everyone's jokes. Although Arnie certainly doesn't deserve his fate, he also doesn't do a lot to avoid it. Gordon's performance is what gives the movie, in a weird way, its heart...and then eventually rips it out of its six cylinder carburetor. Christine is filled with good performances, from John Stockwell's best friend who tries to help Arnie to Alexandra Paul as the girl who is second banana to Christine. It's also nice to see veteran actors like Roberts Blossom (Deranged, Home Alone) as the bizarre brother of the car's pervious owner, and Harry Dean Stanton (The Green Mile) as a detective trying to piece together clues as to who's murdering the local citizens. Stanton is especially good, leaving behind his weirdo persona that he's displayed in films like Blue Velvet.
Christine is an enjoyable thriller that never attains the status of Carpenter's other films. As a Stephen King adaptation it falls somewhere in the middle; there are better King movies out there (Pet Sematary, The Shawshank Redemption) and far, far worse ones cluttering up the $5 bin at Walmart (Children of the Corn, anyone?). Carpenter's vision shines through on Christine while the performances and effects work (Christine reassembling herself is a real hoot) make the film a worthwhile watch.
Christine is presented in 2.39:1 widescreen in 1080p high definition. Twilight Time has taken this Sony title and made it look new again; Carpenter's ode to man-on-automobile love looking as if it were filmed just yesterday. Colors are bright and pop (especially Christine's red and sliver body) and the black levels are solid throughout. I didn't notice any major defects in the print, except for a light amount of grain that feels natural to the film. Overall, this is a great looking transfer by Twilight Time.
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround in English. Not surprisingly, the track isn't a hugely bombastic nor does it feature a ton of surround sounds. That being said, it still does a nice job of offering a clear audio mix with a few scattered directional cues (especially during Carpenter's evocative music score and when it uses classic rock and roll songs). Also included on this disc is a DTS-HD 2.0 mix in English, as well as English subtitles.
Happily, most of the supplemental features included on the previous "Special Edition" DVD release of Christine are also included on this Blu-ray. Special Features include an informative and entertaining commentary track by director John Carpenter and actor Keith Gordon (who has gone on to become a director himself); nearly a half hour of deleted scenes; three featurettes on the music score, casting, the car, and more ("Ignition", "Fast and Furious", "Finish Line"), and an isolated track featuring Carpenter's film score.
Although John Carpenter and Stephen King have fashioned better stories in their careers, Christine is still a slick, entertaining horror yarn. Twilight Time has done a fine job on this disc, although it's a shame the release was limited to only 3,000 copies. Fans of the film will have to head to eBay or Amazon and shell out triple (or more) what the original cost was for this sought after Blu-ray disc.
Christine is worth the ride.
Review content copyright © 2013 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Twilight Time
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 1983
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Isolated Score