‘Christine’ – REVIEW (Columbia, 1983)

Christine Title Card SMALL

Christine‘ is a 1983 American supernatural horror film directed by John Carpenter. It starred Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, Robert Prosky and Harry Dean Stanton, with supporting performances from Roberts Blossom and Kelly Preston.

“She was born in Detroit.. ..on an automobile assembly line. But she is no ordinary automobile. Deep within her chassis lives an unholy presence. She is ‘Christine’ – a red and white 1958 Plymouth Fury whose unique standard equipment includes an evil, indestructible vengeance that will destroy anyone in her way..

..she seduces 17 year-old Arnie Cunningham, who becomes consumed with passion for her sleek, rounded, chrome-laden, body. She demands his complete and unquestioned devotion and when outsiders seek to interfere, they become the victims of Christine’s horrifying wrath..”

The screenplay was written by Bill Phillips, based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, which was also published in 1983. Filming began in April 1983, merely days after King had published his novel.

The movie follows the changes in the lives of Arnie Cunningham, his friends, his family, and those that cross him after he purchases a vintage 1958 Plymouth Fury named Christine.

Despite an initially lukewarm reception amongst critics, the film has gone on to become a cult classic.

Christine was shot largely in Los Angeles, California, including Calabasas High School, Van Nuys High School, Verdugo Hills High School and Canoga Park High School. The location of Darnell’s garage was located in Santa Clarita. Many of the locations, including Darnell’s, Le Bay’s house and the drive-in theatre have been demolished and no longer exist.

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.

Personal recollection

As stated in my ‘Children of the Corn’ review a friend of mine got me into Stephen King and this was one of the first novels I read.. ..I loved it!

I think we watched the film a year or so later on VHS. I wasn’t immediately taken with the film version as there were large sections of the story that had been changed or were missing.. ..including the criminal activities of Darnell [that Arnie becomes involved with] and how the car became evil because of Le Bay, not the other way around. However, over the years, I have watched the film many times.. ..and really enjoy it, it seems to age like a fine wine.

Synopsis (contains spoilers)

In September 1957, at a Chrysler Corporation assembly plant in Detroit, we see a production line of 1958 model Plymouth Fury’s. One immediately stands out as it has a custom red paint job. Whilst being inspected its hood slams down without warning crushing the hand of a line-worker. At the end of the shift another worker climbs in to sit behind the wheel, carelessly letting the ash from his cigar fall on the front seat. At the start of the following shift, the line-supervisor notices the same worker slumped in the seat and opens the door; the worker falling to the floor dead, a look of terror on his face.

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The ‘birth’ of evil! © Columbia Pictures

Via a really nice music cut of the original Buddy Holly version of ‘Not Fade Away’ to the 70’s version by Tanya Tucker, we find ourselves, twenty-one years later, in September 1978.

Arnold ‘Arnie’ Cunningham (Keith Gordon) is an awkward and unpopular teenager living in Rockbridge, California.. ..he has only one friend, a popular and handsome football player, Dennis Guilder (John Stockwell). Guilder attempts to integrate Arnie into the school culture, with little success.. ..they openly discuss Arnie’s virginity and nervousness concerning girls. Arnie is severely bullied at school and has overbearing partents, particularly his mother, Regina (Christine Belford).

On his first day back at school after the summer vacation, he is bullied and attacked whilst taking ‘shop’ (car repair) by the local bully, Buddy Repperton (played by William Ostrander, who although excellent, always looked way too old for the part) and his gang, who taunt him with names such as “Cuntingham”, finally breaking his glasses. Rescued by Guilder, Repperton is expelled after pulling a flick-knife on Arnie.

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Buddy Repperton – every school has one! © Columbia Pictures

Whilst driving home, sarcastically reflecting that “it wasn’t too bad for a first day”, they pass a house clearance containing a dilapidated red 1958 Plymouth Fury named ‘Christine’ for sale.. ..it is immediately implied that this is the same killer car seen on the assembly plant in Detroit twenty one years earlier. A strange old man, wearing a back brace and named George LeBay (Roberts Blossom) is selling the car, house and contents so he can retire to a ‘condo’. Although actively discouraged by Guilder, Arnie insists on buying the wreck, at whatever cost. Gilder desperately attempts to get LeBay to stop the sale to some “dumb kid”, but LeBay responds by telling Guilder that there is no stopping Arnie as he “has the same look his brother had when he owned the car” and that “you don’t know your friend.. ..shitter”!

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Arnie, Dennis and Le Bay © Columbia Pictures

We later learn from Arnie’s mother that upon registering the car, they find out that Roland LeBay (George’s deceased brother) himself died in the car, by putting a hose to the exhaust. Guilder later returns to confront a far more aggressive LeBay, learning that LeBay’s brother Roland put the car before everyone else, even keeping the car when his wife and daughter had also died in it, from suicide and choking, respectively. LeBay stating that his brother used to cruise in Christine without a care in the world and that if anybody ever got in the way of Roland or Christine then “watch out”! George LeBay also tells Guilder that he insisted that Roland get rid of Christine after Roland’s wife died, but Christine “came back three weeks later”!

Arnie’s parents are horrified that he has spent his scholarship savings on a wreck of a car that barely drives and will not allow him to keep the rusty old heap on their drive-way.. ..insisting that he get rid of it, whilst scolding Gilder for not stopping him buying the car. Arnie, for the first time in his life stands his ground and insists on keeping Christine stating he is doing “this one thing” against their will. This represents the very start of Arnie’s changing character.. ..eventually he discards his glasses, dresses like a 1950s greaser and develops an aggressive and arrogant, paranoid personality.

Christine is in need of extensive repairs and 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 (Robert Prosky). As he spends more time working on the car, his persona changes more and more, as the car restoration progresses.

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Dennis, Darnell and Arnie © Columbia Pictures

Meanwhile, a new girl, Leigh Cabot (Alexandra Paul) has started at the school, who is very attractive and scholarly. At various points most of the ‘jocks’ have asked her out, without success, including Dennis. However, during a football game, Dennis is distracted when he see’s Arnie openly kissing Leigh at the side of the field.. ..whilst leaning against a fully restored and now pristine Christine. He is roughly tackled at this point and suffers a career ending injury, almost being paralysed.

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Leigh begins to choke in Christine © Columbia Pictures

We later cut to Arnie and Leigh.. ..they are ‘making out‘ whilst watching a movie in Christie at a drive-in.. ..whilst it’s poring with rain. As the pair continue to get more intimate, Leigh suddenly stops saying that she doesn’t feel comfortable going any further in Christine. She gets out saying that “I hate that car” and “you care more about that car than you do me”. After some reassurance by Arnie they get back into Christine, but Leigh is still upset and slaps the seat, causing Arnie to visibly wince and get upset, Leigh stating “what’s wrong, don’t like me slapping your girl”? Leigh starts to eat some food that was being kept warm on the air vent when suddenly Christine’s wipers stop. Arnie immediately gets out to try to fix them. Leigh, now alone in Christine begins to choke on her burger.. ..the doors lock, the radio begins to play and there is an intense bright light. Arnie attempts to open the driver’s door without success, but Leigh manages to pull up on her door lock, just in time for a man in an adjacent car to rescue her and administer the Heimlich maneuver, saving her life. After this Leigh, expresses that she thinks the car is jealous of her.. ..as it also sometime stalls when they ‘make out’ and orders Arnie to “get rid of that car”.

The activities of Arnie and his new car have not gone unnoticed by Repperton. His friend ‘Muchie’ (Malcolm Danare) has learned that Christine is kept at Darnell’s. One night, Repperton, ‘Muchie’, and the other members of his ‘gang’ (‘Vandenburg’ and ‘Trewlany’, played by Stuart Charno and Steven Tash) enter the building, as Arnie is leaving for the night and vandalise Christine.

Arnie is devastated to find Christine wrecked, aggressively rejecting the comfort given to him by Leigh. Arnie’s parents also express concern and suggest that they will buy him a new car.. ..but his new persona leads to a violent confrontation.. ..after disrespecting his devastated mother he ends up strangle holding his now petrified father telling him to “back off, mother fucker!”.. ..serving to indicate that he has now totally changed personality and will put Christine before everything and everyone.

Back at Darnell’s as Arnie starts to work on Christine telling the car “we’ll make it better.. ..they can’t hurt us anymore.. ..we’ll show those shitters what we can do”, he hears metal bending as he collects a tool from the adjacent workbench. We turn to see that Christine’s twin carburettor air filters are now in perfect condition. In a fantastically filmed scene, which includes a seductive soundtrack (‘Harlem Nocturne‘) we see Christine slowly restore herself back to showroom condition, with Arnie watching as someone would an erotic dance after stating “OK.. ..show me”!

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‘Muchie’ about to meet his fate © Columbia Pictures

Christine then autonomously seeks out the vandals.. ..crushing and bisecting ‘Muchie’ in a narrow alley and triggering a gas station explosion, killing ‘Vandenburg’ and ‘Trewlany’. A burning Christine then chases and runs down a terrified Repperton, leaving his burning corpse in the middle of the road. The badly burned and searing Christine returns to Darnell’s garage.. ..Darnell believes that someone must have been joy-riding in Christine, as he confirms that Arnie is at another garage delivering parts in his own Cadillac. Taking a shot gun he attempts to confront the driver, but upon opening the car (burning himself in the process), finds it empty. He then climbs in to sit behind the steering wheel and is crushed to death when Christine pushes the driver’s seat forward, whilst playing ‘Bony Moronie’. The next morning, Arnie returns to the garage, which is now a crime scene with Christine once again, fully repaired and in pristine condition.

State police detective Rudolph Junkins (Harry Dean Stanton) is suspicious of Arnie, having discovered the rare paint from Christine at the scenes of two gang members’ deaths. However, he has no direct evidence to implicate Arnie, who always has alibis. Junkins either does not know or cannot believe that Christine can drive and repair herself.

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Christine in a particularly menacing state © Columbia Pictures

After a high speed, hair-raising drive in Christine, where Arnie declares to Dennis how much he cares for Christine.. ..not Leigh; Dennis and Leigh agree that Arnie has now become fully deranged with his obsession for Christine and the only way to save him is to destroy the car.

They set a trap for Christine at Darnell’s now largely empty garage; Dennis waiting at the controls of a hot-wired bulldozer, while Leigh stands ready to close the doors and cut off Christine’s retreat once it enters. However, Christine has been lying in wait under a pile of debris in the corner the entire time. When Leigh takes up her position at the door controls, it strikes. Christine crashes through Darnell’s office in an attempt to get to Leigh. Arnie, who it is implied has been driving the car himself this time, is thrown through the windshield and is killed by being impaled on a shard of glass. As Arnie dies, he reaches out to touch Christine, which seemingly ‘dies’ with Arnie.

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Arnie’s transformation is complete © Columbia Pictures

Thinking they are now safe, but in mourning for Arnie they suddenly hear ‘Pledging my love’ from Christine’s radio and the car continues the attack. Dennis and Leigh attempt to crush Christine with the bulldozer, but it continually repairs itself, playing ‘Rock n’ Roll is Here to Stay’. They are eventually successful in destroying Christine when they repeatedly drive back and forth over the car, damaging Christine so much that it is unable to immediately regenerate.

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Christine is destroyed? © Columbia Pictures

We then see Dennis, Leigh, and Det. Junkins, at a later point, watch as the remains of Christine; now a compacted cube are removed from a car crusher. As the camera pans back to reveal the junkyard, we hear ‘Come on let’s go‘.. ..thinking it is Christine coming back to life, we see that it is actually coming from a workman’s radio, to which Leigh states “God, I hate rock and roll”!

The camera zooms in to a close-up of Christine’s crushed front grille, where a piece of metal moves slightly and the film ends.

What did the critics think?

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 déjà vu premise [from the novel by Stephen King] combined with the crazed-vehicle format, makes Christine appear pretty shop worn

Roger Ebert gave the movie three out of four stars, stating “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”. Time Out commented “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”.

Rotten Tomatoes gives Christine an overall 69% approval rating, based on 26 reviews.

Producing the film

Producer Richard Kobritz had previously produced the mini-seriesSalem’s Lot‘, also based on a Stephen King novel. Because of this, he 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”.

John Carpenter was Kobritz’s first choice for director. Carpenter has commented that ‘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 just finished directing ‘The Thing’ (1982), which had received a poor showing at the box office and had led to a 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”.

The ‘Fury’ that is Christine

Although the car in the film is identified as a 1958 Plymouth Fury and in 1983 radio ads promoting the film, voice-over artists announced, “she’s a ’57 Fury“—two other Plymouth models, the ‘Belvedere‘ and the ‘Savoy‘, were also used to portray the malevolent automobile on screen. John Carpenter placed adverts throughout Southern California searching for models of the car.. ..he was able to purchase 24 of them in various states of disrepair, which were used to build a total of 17 copies of the film car. All of the cars used were two door hardtops.

There were only 5,303 Plymouth Furys ever built in 1958.. ..as such, they were difficult to find and expensive to buy in 1983. In addition, the real-life Furys only came in one colour, ‘Buckskin Beige’ as seen on the other Furys on the assembly line during the initial scenes of the movie. The Fury also got anodized gold trim on the body and ‘Fury’ script on the rear fender. In order to by-pass 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.

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A production still showing a camera/car ‘dolly© Columbia Pictures

Originally, Carpenter had not planned to film the car’s regeneration scenes, but decided after the shoot had finished to include them. The shots of the car regenerating itself were shot in post-production and done using hydraulics.

Of the twenty odd cars used in the film, only two still exist. One is a stunt vehicle with an automatic transmission and now resides in the hands of a private collector in Clayton, Ohio. The other vehicle was rescued from a junkyard and restored by a collector in Pensacola, Florida.

Commercial releases

The film was released on VHS by Columbia Pictures, and later as 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.

Deleted scenes

The special edition DVD reveals 20 deleted, extended, or alternate scenes:

  1. a brief scene of Arnie and Dennis driving to school in which Arnie recites a dirty limerick;
  2. an alternate scene of Arnie being bullied by Repperton and his gang;
  3. Arnie driving to Darnell’s in a junked out Christine showing the exhaust falling off,
  4. Arnie breaking down in anger in Dennis’s car;
  5. Darnell and a friend talking to Arnie while he is fixing up Christine.. ..amazed that he is finding all of the parts he needs from Darnells scrap pile;
  6. an extended scene of Arnie’s first visit to Dennis at the hospital.. ..where he notices jealously that Leigh has signed his leg cast;
  7. an extended scene of Repperton’s gang trashing Christine.. ..including ‘Moochie’ defecating on the dashboard;
  8. an extended scene of Arnie and Leigh walking into Darnell’s before discovering the trashed Christine;
  9. a scene in which a distraught Leigh visits Dennis in the hospital.. ..this is where she starts to divulge the sense of a link between the changing Arnie and Christine.. ..we also see that Leigh and Dennis are obviously developing feelings for each other;
  10. a brief scene of Arnie’s distraught mother looking in on him while he is sleeping,
  11. an extended scene of Arnie’s second visit to Dennis in the hospital.. ..which includes Arnie getting physically intimidating with Dennis;
  12. an alternate scene of Det. Junkins questioning Arnie in the school parking lot;
  13. a brief scene of Leigh telling Arnie over the phone that she can’t see him anymore as her parents don’t want her to have anything more to do with him;
  14. a brief scene of the gas station bully being crushed by a car lift.. ..explaining his death rather than it being implied;
  15. an extended scene of Det. Junkins questioning Arnie at Darnell’s after his death. He divulges that Christine’s odometer is going backwards, that Darnell was effectively ‘waffled’ to death and that he had checked with Baker’s Auto.. ..they had no record of selling red paint of that specific ‘autumn red’ colour, nobody makes it or sells it.. ..and finally that ‘Muchie’ had paint embedded in his pelvic bone which would have required a considerable amount of force.. ..it was ‘autumn red’ paint (I am not sure why this scene was removed, as it is quite informative.. ..maybe for reasons of pacing);
  16. an alternate scene of Leigh calling Dennis;
  17. an extended scene of Leigh visiting Dennis at his house.. ..showing that a further change in Arnie was his written signature;
  18. an alternate scene of Arnie and Dennis driving in Christine.. ..in which Arnie is speeding and drinking alcohol;
  19. a scene of Leigh and Dennis kissing in Dennis’ car.. ..Arnie pulls up behind them in Christine and catches them, with Dennis damaging Christine before Arnie drives off (I am glad this scene was dropped, as it makes you loose some sympathy with Dennis and Leigh as characters);
  20. an extended scene of Dennis and Leigh waiting in the bulldozer for Christine to arrive.

A deleted scene not included in the special edition DVD, but mentioned by screenwriter Bill Phillips during the ‘featurettes’.. .. occurs at the end of the film and featured George Thorogood and Bill Phillips as junk yard workers.. ..they smash Christine into the junk cube.

Differences compared to the novel

In Stephen King’s novel, it was made clear that the car was possessed by the evil spirit of its previous owner, Roland D. LeBay, whereas in the film the evil spirit of the car manifests itself on the day it was built.

Other elements from the novel were altered for the film, particularly the execution of the death scenes, for which the filmmakers opted for a more “cinematic approach“.

The criminal activities of Darnell (and subsequently Arnie) are also ignored in the film and the developing relationship between Dennis and Leigh is toned down.

Retrollection recommendation?

Christine‘ is in many ways a strange film.. ..it is a film that the director didn’t necessarily want to make, but did so anyway.. ..a film that deviates from the novel it is based upon, although being made at a similar time.. ..and a film that failed at the box office, but went on to become a cult classic.

Do I like ‘Christine‘?

Yes.. ..I love it! But it was not love at first sight for me.. ..like it was for Arnie.

This is a film that has grown on me and I like the film the more I watch it.. ..there is some subtly good acting and a really interesting story. Although I think some of the key scenes in this film were unfortunately left on the cutting room floor, the pacing is generally good and the soundtrack is fantastic.

So my recommendation is.. ..go on, why not take ‘Christine‘ for a ride?

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Film trivia

  • There are many subplots in the book that didn’t make it to film, or were changed:
    • Roland LeBay himself sells the car to Arnie, but dies soon after.
    • Darnell is using the garage as a front for his smuggling business, with Arnie getting arrested while smuggling cigarettes for him.
    • Darnell, also gets arrested on income tax evasion and is brutally killed by Christine after it’s implied he’ll cut a deal with prosecutors to tell what he knows about the car.
    • The romance that develops between Leigh and Dennis is almost entirely removed from the film.
    • Det. Junkins is killed by Christine near the end of the book.
    • In the book, Christine is vandalised at an airport, Sandy Galton, an airport worker and a friend of Buddy Repperton’s, serves as a lookout whilst Repperton and his gang vandalise the car. He soon skips town and at the very end is found to have been run over by a car, implying that Christine is ‘alive’ again.
    • Finally, Arnie and Dennis worked on a construction crew over the summer.. ..this explains how Arnie saved up enough money to buy Christine in the first place and how Dennis knows how to drive a bulldozer. However, the book’s finale does not feature a bulldozer but instead a pink semi-truck named ‘Petunia’. Stephen King’s idea was for a final battle between two powerful ‘ladies’.
  • In the book, Darnell’s death is far more brutal; Christine smashing into his house through a window and ramming his staircase repeatedly whilst he tries to climb upstairs to safety. Due to his asthmatic condition, he can barely breathe and then his heart stops causing him to fall down the stairs where Christine proceeds to run him over, again and again.
  • After reading over the book, Keith Gordon (Arnie) and the costume designer came up with a visual way to show Arnie being possessed by Christine. As the movie progresses, Arnie begins to wear clothes that reflect the era of Christine’s manufacture. At various points, especially when Arnie is yelling at Leigh on the phone, he is seen wearing button up shirts open with black t-shirts, black pants, and boots like a 1950’s ‘greaser’. When he’s talking to Det. Junkins (both times), he’s wearing a leather vest over a button up shirt (a nod to western TV shows which were popular in the 50’s), and he even starts to wear a red suede jacket like James Dean in ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ (1955).
  • According to the screen writer Bill Phillips, the movie technically didn’t have enough violence to justify an ‘18’ rating. But they were afraid that if the movie went out with a PG rating (‘12A’ and ’15’ didn’t exist at the time) nobody would go to see it. So he purposely inserted the word “fuck” and its derivatives in order to get the ‘18’ rating. He then recalls that they were criticised at the time for their use of the word.
  • When Arnie first brings Christine to Darnell’s Garage, he walks back to Dennis’ car and asks him to honk his horn. In the background, the bulldozer that will be used to destroy Christine can be seen.
  • Stephen King’s popularity was such that the film went into production before the book was even published.
  • As a joke, Alexandra Paul‘s identical-twin sister, Caroline Paul, stood in for her during some scenes, most notably the ride on the bulldozer. It is reputed that John Carpenter was sometimes unaware he was directing a totally different person.. ..Carpenter recalling, “It was like ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ and Alexandra was a pod person“.
  • Stephen King chose a ’58 Plymouth Fury for Christine because it was a “forgotten car“. Stating, “I didn’t want a car that already had a legend attached to it like the ’50s Thunderbird“.
  • The opening scene, which shows Christine being assembled in Detroit the ‘Motor City’, was added for the movie; it was meant to explain the origin of Christine’s evil nature, which had been changed from the original Stephen King novel. This never really worked for me as the car is still just instantly ‘evil’ with no satisfactory explanation.. ..In the novel, Christine was just a normal ’58 Plymouth Fury that was purchased by Roland LeBay, the brother of George LeBay, the man who sold Christine to Arnie in the movie. It’s Roland LeBay who made Christine evil.. ..his love for Christine overriding even his love for his wife and daughter, both of whom died in the car. Thus, Roland’s evil spirit became one with Christine. When Roland died and with no one to love her and drive her around, Christine ceased ‘living’ and began to rot, until Arnie came along. Roland’s evil spirit and love for Christine was then transferred to Arnie.. ..which makes a lot more sense. Bill Phillips the script writers response was that he cut out this aspect of the novel’s plot line, not only to save time and compress the story, but because he didn’t want it to look like they were copying ‘An American Werewolf in London’ (1981) where Jack does the same thing to David.
  • According to Keith Gordon, he kept having trouble with Christine’s ‘TorqueFlite’ automatic transmission control. The 1958 Plymouth’s (along with all other Chrysler products that year) used push buttons to select ‘Reverse’, ‘Neutral’, ‘Drive’ etc. (The buttons can be seen in some shots located near the steering column but are never seen being pushed in the film). Gordon, revealed that it would routinely take several tries to put the transmission in gear. In a few instances, filming would be delayed so that a technician could repair the selector buttons, and even then he’d still have trouble with it.
  • 28 Plymouth ‘Furys’ (many of which, in reality, were ‘Belvedere’s or ‘Savoy’s) were purchased and restored for the film. A few were ‘showcase’ cars that were used whenever Christine is just sitting there ‘looking pretty’ or whenever Arnie is driving her. There were ‘hot rod’ versions with souped-up engines and airplane landing lights, used when Christine’s goes on her killing spree. There were ‘junked’ and ‘shell’ cars for the versions of Christine in disrepair or for her ‘death’ scene. There is an easy way to tell which cars are the showcase hot rod cars and the stunt cars; if you look at the under grill beneath Christine’s front bumper, the showcase cars have a chrome under grill while the stunt cars have a red painted under grill.
  • To simulate the car regenerating itself, hydraulic pumps were installed on the inside of some of the film’s numerous Plymouth Fury ‘stunt doubles’. A mock-up in plastic that looked more like metal on camera than actual metal was then bent and deformed. The hydraulic pumps were attached to cables, which were in turn attached to the cars’ bodywork and when they compressed, they would ‘suck’ the panelling inwards. Footage of the inward crumpling body was then reversed, giving the appearance of the car spontaneously repairing itself.
  • 15% of the budget was spent just on the cars. By the end of filming, all but 2 of the 28 were destroyed.
  • One of the Plymouth Furys from the movie was sold for $167,000 in 2004.
  • Det. Rudolph Junkins (Harry Dean-Stanton), also drives a Plymouth Fury, most noticeable when he questions Arnie in the school parking lot. Junkins’ car appears to be a 1977 or 1978 Plymouth Fury – a popular police car of the late 1970s.
  • Christine is said to be a 1958 Plymouth ‘Fury’, which had similar panels and trim to the 1957 model. When the ‘Fury’ line was introduced, it was essentially a sport and trim package version of the ‘Belvedere’ – notably with two doors, gold anodized trim, gold grille, and dual four-barrel carburettors. Christine, as shown in the movie, could have been any two door Belvedere with a 318 or 360 engine. Although over 5,300 ‘Fury’s and far more ‘Belvederes’ were built in 1958, they have since become very rare and are now collector’s items. There were between 13 and 16 (depending on source) ‘Belvedere’s/’Fury’s smashed in the making of the movie (out of the 28 used), but it is unknown whether they were 1957 or 1958 models, or a combination. In any event, Plymouth enthusiasts were infuriated. Although the movie did popularise the car and subsequently, probably saved many more of them – in the same way that ‘Back to the Future’ (1985) did the DeLorean.
  • In the original Stephen King book, the car had four doors, but this was changed to a two-door model when it was realised that there never was a four-door 1958 Plymouth ‘Fury’.
  • Although all 1958 Plymouth ‘Fury’s had Buckskin Beige exterior paint and gold anodized aluminum side trim and grille, the book mentions that this particular car was custom ordered in ‘Ford red’.
  • According to script writer, Bill Phillips, Robert Prosky (Will Darnell) asked for more dialog, to make his character more interesting. Prosky cited the scene in the novel where Darnell offers Arnie a job, particularly the line: “You can pick up around the place. Do a few lubes.. ..put the toilet paper on the little spools…” So Phillips added the scene to the script, keeping the dialogue almost verbatim from the novel.
  • Darnell’s was shot in a huge old wire factory. Half of it was made to look like a body shop and the other half was turned into an actual body shop to keep the ‘Christine’s’ running.
  • John Carpenter deliberately blacked out Christine’s windows (sometimes a little too obviously) so you never know if Arnie is driving her or she is acting autonomously.
  • The movie playing during the drive-in scene was ‘Thank God It’s Friday’ (1978) which features a running gag in which a character’s cherished automobile keeps getting continuously damaged (both deliberately and inadvertently) throughout the course of the film.
  • ‘Christine‘ was shot largely in Los Angeles, California, including Calabasas High School, Van Nuys High School, Verdugo Hills High School and Canoga Park High School.. The location of Darnell’s garage was located in Santa Clarita. Many of the locations, including Darnell’s, Le Bay’s house and the drive-in theatre have been demolished and no longer exist. Coincidentally, the location of Le Bay’s house (Osborne Place, Los Angeles) is now built over with condominiums, which is what Le Bay was planning to move to in the film.
  • There are many similarities to the film ‘Carrie’, released 7 years earlier. In both movies the main character is: (i) a high school outcast who is a target of bullies, (ii) becomes possessed by a supernatural force, and (iii) uses a supernatural force to kill off their enemies.
  • Upon release the film was seen as somewhat of a failure, both by Stephen King and John Carpenter fans; indeed within the industry as a whole. Both the box office returns on this and the critical reaction were middling to mediocre at best, especially considering the talent involved. The most successful ‘evil car’ movie, made to date, is still Steven Spielberg‘s 1971 TV movie cult-classic ‘Duel’.
  • Christine’s license plate begins ‘CQB’ which is an acronym for ‘Close Quarters Battle’.
  • Dennis’ car is a 1968 Dodge Charger 440.
  • Buddys’ car is a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro.
  • Will Darnell’s car is a 1974 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.
  • Arnies parent’s car is a 1971 Volvo 144 Automatic.
  • The other car next to ‘Christine’ at the drive in movie theatre is a 1972 Chevrolet Impala Convertible.
  • The bulldozer was a Caterpillar 977 K.

Fair use

‘Christine’, film stills & imagery © 1983 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved. Used under fair dealing and fair use for research and commentary purposes only. No copyright infringement is intended. Please refer to the ‘Welcome to Retrollection‘ page for full terms and conditions.

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Sharing of content from this article is to be in accordance with the ‘Creative Commonsattribution, non-commercial and share-alike licence agreements.

Page layout, original text, images and design are © 2019 Dr Woody and Retrollection.net.

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