Beep beep, it’s Burl! Ha ha, yes, I’m here to review a movie about a haunted possessed killer car, and no, I don’t mean The Car! Not yet, anyway! I’m talking Christine, a movie that I and my friend Dave won tickets to see a special preview of from a radio station contest! Ha ha, we felt pretty lucky, being big Stephen King fans at the time!
I’d read the book, and so was very eager to see what John "Halloween" Carpenter, whose previous picture The Thing had rocketed instantly onto my Favourite Movies Of All Time list (and, remarkably, has stayed there all these years!), had done with the killer car story! All the ingredients seemed present and accounted for: the glasses nerd Arnie, his unlikely BMOC best pal Dennis, the new girl in town Leigh, and of course the murderous conveyance itself, Christine! There are assorted parents, bullies, cops and garage owners in there as well, all trying to figure out why Arnie has fallen in love so deeply with his ’58 Plymouth Fury, and how he has transformed from a glasses nerd into a weasel of cool!
Well, it’s because the car is possessed! In the book, it’s more or less possessed by the rotting corpse ghost of its original owner, Roland D. LeBay! And this is where I was knocked for a bit of a loop when I saw that radio station promo screening lo those many years ago: no Roland D. LeBay! Ha ha, I was really looking forward to that creepy back-seat corpse, but he was nowhere to be found! The great Roberts Blossom, so creepy as the killer farmer in Deranged and so gentle as the painterman in Escape From Alcatraz, plays his brother, George LeBay, and he’s excellent in the role, but it was still disappointing at the time!
Now I can see the logic: it would have been distracting from the simple concept of a possessed auto! Ha ha, the movie more or less leaves the idea of where the car’s powers come from to us, the viewers, to figure out! I myself settled on the notion that it’s simply a car with more personality than most, rather than some sort of bedevilment or ghost scenario!
The movie itself is what I’d describe as a solid piece of work! The acting is of a generally high quality, and there are great character performers decorating the fringes: guys like Roberts Blossom, Robert Prosky (from Gremlins 2 and The Keep), the great Harry Dean Stanton (who was also in Escape From New York, don't forget, and the fabulous Repo Man), and even Kelly Preston from Secret Admirer! John "The Fog" Carpenter pulls off some stylish scenes (Christine blazing down a dark highway on fire after a fleeing John Travolta lookalike is a doozy!), but mostly keeps it pretty basic! Donald M. Morgan’s cinematography is really quite good, and there’s plenty of golden oldies on the soundtrack, courtesy of Christine’s anachronistic radio!
It’s funny that the two lead guys, Keith Gordon and John Stockwell, both became directors a while after making this picture! Quite different directors too: Gordon, whom we know from his performances in Jaws 2, Dressed to Kill and Back to School, ended up making movies like Mother Night, which was based on my favourite Kurt Vonnegut book, while Stockwell, the star of the teen science picture My Science Project, made Blue Crush and other such cheesecake pictures!
I feel an affection for Christine even though there’s not much horror action in the movie and no Roland D. LeBay, and I appreciate the movie a lot more now than I used to! I give it three lunchbags filled with yogurt!