Stop me if you've heard this one before. A boy gets into a car, instantly forgetting everything that's wrong with his life: school bullies, overbearing parents, no luck with the ladies, and just about everything else. Behind the wheel, he feels like a different person. It doesn't matter that this particular car is a 1958 Plymouth Fury in terrible condition, whose previous owner died under horrific, questionable circumstances. This is a way for Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon) to rebuild something that used to be beautiful, because he just can't seem to fix himself.
Arnie buys the car from the deceased's brother, George LeBay (Roberts Blossom), against the opinion of charismatic jock friend Dennis (John Stockwell); his parents also balk at the purchase and won't even let Arnie park "Christine" in their driveway. Soon enough, he retreats to a do-it-yourself garage run by Will Darnell (Robert Prosky), who reluctantly lets the young man scrounge for parts in exchange for running errands and cleaning up around the joint. Eventually, Arnie's obsession with Christine's restoration eats up his free time, creating friction with everyone in his life including new girlfriend Leigh (Alexandra Paul) and even Dennis, who's stuck in the hospital after a football injury. He's completely switched gears: no longer a docile teenager, Arnie violently lashes out at random and isn't afraid to stand up to his parents or any other roadblocks. Is it all his doing, though, or is Christine partially to blame?
Based on Stephen King's bestselling novel---still in a top seller when Christine (1983) was shooting---Carpenter's film does an admirable job with the source material; I'm immediately reminded of how Robocop toed the line four years later, carefully avoiding the plunge into full-on camp...though in all honesty, you could say the same thing about most of Carpenter's output during that era. Not surprisingly, this wasn't by accident: the director and his team consciously focused on the story's broader human themes instead of playing paint-by-number with its supernatural elements, which is largely why Christine did well with critics and audiences alike (even outperforming The Thing on both counts, surprisingly) and has aged extremely well during the last 32 years. It's got equal portions of comedy, drama, and horror (though light on gore), deftly playing it straight at almost every turn while somehow not making first-timers laugh for all the wrong reasons. It's not among Carpenter's most successful or well-known works, but Christine still stands as an underrated slice of 1980s cinema that can be enjoyed without a whiff of irony.
Sony's new Blu-ray serves up the same terrific A/V specs as Twilight Time's long out-of-print edition; other than the packaging design, they're identical with extras that match Columbia's 2004 Special Edition DVD (aside from an isolated score track, which is exclusive to the Twilight Time Blu-ray). Sony's disc includes options for playback, chapter selection, audio/subtitle setup, and supplements, with fast loading time and few pre-menu distractions. It's packaged in a standard keepcase with a matching slipcover and Digital Copy redemption code.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Sony's got a solid track record with new and catalog Blu-rays, so it's not surprising that Christine looks spiffy in 1080p. Again, the A/V specs here are identical to Twilight's disc: this 2.35:1, 1080p transfer absolutely sparkles with detail and clarity, featuring well-saturated and natural colors (especially the cherry red Plymouth, which steals almost every frame it's featured in), excellent black levels, and a pleasing amount of texture along the way. Christine has obviously never looked better on home video, and this sterling restoration job is likely more consistent and impressive than most theatrical prints from 30-odd years ago. Overall, I can't imagine die-hard fans being anything less than thrilled with this Blu-ray, as it clearly heightens the film's overall mood and effectiveness from start to finish.
NOTE: The screen captures featured in this review are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-ray's native 1080p resolution.
Again, the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio matches Twilight Time's Blu-ray, offering a clear sonic upgrade to the DVD's Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. Christine is heavy on atmosphere and it comes through nicely, with strong channel separation and a few potent rumbles of LFE along the way. Dialogue and music are mixed well and don't fight for attention, creating a well-balanced presentation overall. A handful of rear-channel effects feel a little forced at times; this leads to a few boxy-sounding moments, but I'd imagine this stems from the film's age and/or source material. An optional two-channel mix might have been nice for purists, but I can't fathom many folks being disappointed with how Christine sounds in high definition. Optional dubs are offered in several languages on this region-free disc, as well as nearly a dozen sets of subtitles. The extras are all subtitled in English, too...even the audio commentary.
As mentioned earlier, everything of interest has been ported from Columbia's 2004 Special Edition DVD
; these recycled extras include three Featurettes
, a terrific Audio Commentary
with director John Carpenter and actor Keith Gordon, plus nearly two dozen Deleted and Alternate Scenes
. Sadly, the original trailer
is still nowhere to be found.
It's a few notches below John Carpenter's best work, but Christine plays most of its cards exactly right to create the most believable "high school nerd gets possessed by a demonic car" movie possible. Featuring solid performances, terrific cinematography, good pacing, and a ridiculous amount of one-liners, this enjoyable slice of tongue-in-cheek horror remains an entertaining diversion more than 30 years later...and it doesn't feel nearly as dated as you'd think. The film's potent atmosphere is aided by a top-notch A/V presentation that, like the recycled extras, is mostly identical to Twilight Time's out-of-print Blu-ray. It's great that more folks will finally get to grab Christine for a low price, as those hanging on to their DVDs should consider this a very safe upgrade. Firmly Recommended.
Original poster designs by Dan Mumford and jordievszombies. Click each name for more details.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.