The Film (4/5)
Arnie Cunningham is an awkward teenage nerd. He is viciously tormented by his classmates. One day while getting a ride home from school with his pal Dennis he notices a fixer upper 1957 Plymouth Fury and buys it off it's owner. He begins to restore the car, which was called "Christine" by the previous owner. Immediately Arnie's behavior begins to change, he starts dressing better, and acting more arrogant. Of course, Christine isn't a normal vehicle, and anytime anyone tries to get between Arnie and Christine things don't end well for that person.
Since his first published work Carrie was adapted to the screen by Brian DePalma in 1976, the name Stephen King has been big business, not just in the literary world where he has made his name, but on the screen where adaptations of his work are frequently made to this day (see the recent TV series Under the Dome). Throughout the late 70's and early 80's it seemed A-List horror directors of all stripes were lining up to direct the work of this new literary horror master, and in the process viewers got to see Stanley Kubrick adapt the Shining, Tobe Hooper adapt Salem's Lot for a 2 part TV movie, and David Cronenberg take a crack at the Dead Zone.
Christine was made in 1983 by director John Carpenter. The novel was published earlier in the year by King, and was quickly given the greenlight by the studio for it's adaptation. I remember reading Christine as a teenager, and remember that for King it seemed to feel a lot looser, and more exciting. The novel read like a movie, and as such it made an easy transition from film to screen. However, upon seeing the film about a year later on video I found the adaptation a bit stilted.
John Carpenter as a director seemed to do almost no wrong between the 1976 release of Assault on Precinct 13 and In the Mouth of Madness. Until this recent viewing I've always viewed Christine as the first sign of weakness in Carpenter's proverbial armor. Watching Christine now for the first time in almost 20 years, I found myself enjoying the adaptation much more than I previously did. I always had fond memories of the King novel, but the film just never worked.
When Carpenter made Escape from New York, he included a heist scene at the beginning that was eventually cut. This scene was to establish the Snake Plissken character before he landed on Manhattan. It would eventually be deleted, to get straight to the action of the film. Christine on the other hand is more a slow burn. Carpenter is playing more in King's ballpark, but King is a man big on description and occasionally abstraction, and is hard for some director's to put down. Carpenter manages to channel King's story to it's visual essence.
There is a certain amount of horror from watching Christine seek revenge on those that are doing "her" wrong, but the true horror of the film stems from watching Arnie descend into obsession and madness from the almost innocent he started out as. The performances are across the board excellent, but Keith Gordon makes an excellent Arnie Cunningham as he takes the character slowly into darker and desperate places.
This new Sony release is taken from the same transfer as the prior Twilight Time, so if you have that, and don't feel the need to upgrade based on A/V alone that's fine. Sony presents Christine with a 2:39:1 AVC encoded 1080p transfer of Carpenter's film. There is excellent fine detail especially in faces, but most notably in Christine herself, who pops from the screen here. The black levels are nice and deep, and flesh tones are accurate.
The audio is presented with a splendid DTS-HD MA 5.1 track in English. The track is quite excellent as well with the film's dialogue coming through clearly, and the films soundtrack from the rock and roll, to the score, to the music from Christine's speakers coming through nicely.
Sony have included 3 featurettes, 26 minutes of deleted scenes, and a commentary track with director John Carpenter and Keith Gordon.
Christine was a film in John Carpenter's repertoire that never struck a chord with me. This time around my opinion has shifted, and I have to believe the Blu-ray certainly helped with that. The A/V looks and sounds fantastic, there are some nice extras included. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.