Christine (1983 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Carpenter
Produced by Richard Kobritz
Larry J. Franco
Screenplay by Bill Phillips
Based on Christine
by Stephen King
Music by John Carpenter
Alan Howarth
Cinematography Donald M. Morgan
Edited by Marion Rothman
Columbia Pictures
Delphi Premier Productions
Polar Film
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • December 9, 1983 (1983-12-09)
Running time
110 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $9.7 million
Box office $21 million[1]

Christine is a 1983 American horror film directed by John Carpenter and starring Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul and Harry Dean Stanton. The film also features supporting performances from Roberts Blossom and Kelly Preston. It was written by Bill Phillips and based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King, published in 1983. The story, set in 1978, follows a sentient and violent vintage Plymouth Fury named "Christine," and its effects on the car's teenaged owner.


In the beginning, a red/white 1958 Plymouth Fury is being built on the assembly line. While a worker begins to inspect the engine for any mistakes, the car surprisingly closes its hood on his hand, injuring him. After the injured man is taken away, and during closing time, another worker is killed in the Fury, supposedly from inhaling exhaust fumes in the car.

Twenty years later, Arnold Cunningham (Keith Gordon) is a nerdy teen with only one friend, Dennis Guilder (John Stockwell). Arnie's life begins to change when he buys the same used Fury coupe, now named "Christine," that is in need of extensive repairs amounting to a full restoration over Dennis' objections and against his advice. He gets into a fight at school with Buddy Repperton, an overaged for high school teenager, who draws down on Arnie with a switchblade and is expelled as a result. Arnie begins to restore Christine in defiance of his parents (who force him to park Christine at Darnell's Do-It-Yourself Garage). As he spends more of his time repairing her, he begins to change, shedding his glasses, dressing better, and developing a cocky arrogance at odds with his previous nerdiness.

Everyone is interested in the hot new girl at school, Leigh Cabot (Alexandra Paul), even Dennis (who asks her out only to find that she has a date). As his best friend changes, Dennis returns to Christine's seller to ask some questions about the car. He discovers the Fury's previous owner, Roland LeBay, was obsessed with Christine despite his wife and daughter having died in the car; and that he had kept Christine until he killed himself in her.

Leigh and Arnie attend one of Dennis' football games as an official couple. Dennis not only sees them together, but that Christine is completely restored. Distracted by what he sees, he is gravely injured by a triple tackle. Arnie visits him in the hospital and learns that he was almost paralyzed and can never play football again.

Leigh and Arnie's relationship is going well until they attend a drive-in movie one rainy night. They are making out until Leigh stops and tells Arnie that she's uncomfortable in Christine, then bails out of the car. Arnie runs after her and she explains that she is too uncomfortable in Christine to have sex with him in it. He apologizes, so she returns to the car with him. Once back inside, Arnie notices that one of the windshield wiper blades is bent and gets out to fix it. Meanwhile, Leigh unwraps a hamburger and begins to eat it. The radio comes on by itself playing "We Belong Together," a blinding white light emits from the dash, and she begins to choke violently. As Arnie attempts to get into the car to save her, the doors lock by themselves. She is able to unlock the car while choking and another movie patron pulls her out and performs the Heimlich Maneuver, saving her. After they arrive at her house, they argue on her front porch about what happened, his behavior, and Christine herself. The incident puts a serious strain on their relationship.

The still-angry Repperton and his gang of toadies vandalize Christine while she is parked inside Darnell's. Leigh accompanies Arnie to Darnell's to retrieve his wallet from her and is with him when he finds the wreckage. He is devastated at the sheer amount of damage; when she tries to console him, he lashes out violently and swears at her, effectively breaking up with her.

He returns that night to start restoring the Plymouth. He speaks to Christine, saying that he knows she's safe now that the thugs have done all they could to her and that they can rebuild her together. He walks away only to turn around after hearing the creaking of metal and seeing the engine is now fully restored. Arnie steps in front of the car and commands Christine by saying, "Show me." As Arnie watches, Christine restores herself to showroom quality as if by magic.

Later that evening, she seeks out and targets Moochie Welch (Malcolm Danare) first, who she crushes to death in a small alley after running him to ground. A few days later, Rudy Junkins, a detective, finds Arnie at school. He questions him about Welch's death, and why the car he'd heard was trashed appears to be in brand new condition. Arnie replies that the damage wasn't as bad as Junkins had heard, and he was glad that Moochie had gotten what he deserved. Since Arnie's alibi checked out and he was in Darnell's car, the detective has to let him go.

That evening, Buddy Repperton (William Ostrander) and his toadie Richie Trelawney (Steven Tash) leave a liquor store in Buddy's Camaro and encounter a car that first puts its high beams on and then tailgates them, unaware that it is Christine. After stopping and backing up with her anticipating their actions, they take off at a high rate of speed with her tailing them. They believe they've lost her when they exit the car at the gas station where Repperton's other toady Don Vandenberg (Stuart Charno) works, but then she arrives, crashing into Repperton's car and smashing it nearly in two. With the Camaro locked to her front bumper, Christine crashes into the garage bay, killing Richie, rupturing the Camaro's gas tank, and causing an explosion that kills Don and sets her ablaze. Buddy believes he is safe until Christine comes roaring out of the garage and chases him down the highway, still on fire, eventually running him over and leaving his body burning on the asphalt.

When Christine arrives back at the garage, Darnell is just preparing to leave. He watches her enter, still smoldering. He calls the customer that Arnie was to deliver to and asks if he showed. When told he did, and in Will's Cadillac, Darnell hangs up and grabs a shotgun before leaving his office. He walks up to the car and grabs the handle, which is still hot from the fire. Christine allows him to open the door and he looks inside, seeing there is no one behind the wheel. He sits down behind the wheel with his shotgun, thoroughly confused. The radio comes on, playing "Bony Moronie," the door slams shut and locks, and the seat ratchets forward, crushing the overweight Darnell to death against the steering wheel.

The next morning when Arnie shows up, the police are there. Darnell is dead in Christine's front seat and she is once again in like-new condition. Junkins questions Arnie again and he gets angry, challenging him to call his mother to verify he was home all night and had had Darnell's car. Once again Junkins is forced to back off once he establishes Arnie has an airtight alibi for his whereabouts during the killings.

On New Year's Eve, Leigh calls Dennis, asking to come talk to him about Arnie. Dennis and Leigh reason that the only way to stop Christine and save Arnie is to destroy the car. Dennis scratches "Darnell's Tonight" into Christine's hood, then makes his way there with Leigh. Dennis hot-wires the bulldozer out back, moves it into the garage, and they discuss how to lure Christine inside so they can destroy her. The plan set, Leigh exits to head to the office so that she can close the overhead door on the street side after Christine arrives, trapping her so they can kill her.

However, Christine had been lying in wait the entire time under a pile of scrap metal and charges Leigh as soon as her feet hit the floor. Leigh runs from Christine as Dennis attempts to run interference and Christine smashes into a car abandoned in the garage, T-boning it as she had Repperton's Camaro. The Fury returns to the shadows to regenerate. When it emerges, it's revealed that Arnie is behind the wheel. (All the other times when she attacked her windows were too dark to see inside, but Arnie had not been driving, having solid alibis at the times of the attacks.) While attempting to kill Leigh by crashing into Darnell's office, Arnie is thrown through Christine's windshield. When he attempts to stand and grabs Leigh, she sees that he was impaled on a shard of window glass and mortally wounded. Before he dies, he reaches out to touch Christine one last time.

Leigh exits the wreckage of the office to tell Dennis that Arnie is dead. However, even without him Christine is not done. She continues to attack Dennis and Leigh, sustaining damage and regenerating even faster than before. Dennis pulls Leigh into the cab of the bulldozer and the two of them smash Christine with it, driving back and forth over her, tearing her apart and finally disabling her for good.

Dennis and Leigh return to the junkyard the next day and see the remains of the Fury crushed into a cube. Detective Junkins is with them, and tries to console them, pointing out that they managed to stop Christine even though they were unable to save Arnie. They are spooked momentarily when they hear a '50s rock and roll song playing and they think it's Christine regenerating — her radio only played 1950s rock and roll. They are relieved to find that it's just a workman walking through the junkyard with a boom box. The closing shot of the film is a closeup of the crushed cube that was Christine as a piece of the grill slowly begins to unbend.




Producer Richard Kobritz had previously produced the miniseries Salem's Lot, also based on a Stephen King novel; through producing the miniseries, Kobritz became acquainted with King, who sent him manuscripts of two of his novels, Cujo, and Christine.[2] Kobritz purchased the rights to Christine after finding himself attracted to the novel's "celebration of America's obsession with the motorcar."[2]

According to John Carpenter, 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."[3] He had previously directed The Thing (1982), which had done poorly at the box office and led to critical backlash.[2] 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."[3]

King's novel, the source material for Carpenter's film, made it clear that the car was possessed by the evil spirit of its previous owner, Roland D. LeBay, whereas the film version of the story shows that the evil spirit surrounding the car was present on the day it was built.[4] Other elements from the novel were altered for the film, particularly the execution of the death scenes, which the filmmakers opted for a more "cinematic approach."[5]


Initially, Columbia Pictures had wanted to cast Brooke Shields in the role of Leigh due to her publicity after the release of The Blue Lagoon (1980), and Scott Baio as Arnie.[2] The filmmakers declined the suggestion, opting to cast young actors who were still fairly unknown. Kevin Bacon auditioned for the role, but opted out when offered a part in Footloose (1984).[2] Carpenter cast Keith Gordon in the role of Arnie after an audition in New York City; Gordon had some experience in film, and was also working in theater at the time; John Stockwell was cast at an audition in Los Angeles.[2]

Nineteen-year-old Alexandra Paul was cast in the film after audition in New York City; according to Carpenter, Paul was an "untrained, young actress" at the time, but brought a "great quality" about the character of Leigh.[2] According to Paul, she had not read any of King's book's or seen Carpenter's films, and read the novel in preparation.[2]


Christine was shot largely in Los Angeles, California, while the location for Darnell's garage was located in Santa Clarita.[5] Filming began in April 1983, merely days after the King novel had been published.[6] 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.[5]

The car[edit]

One of the two remaining models of Christine used in the film

Although the car in the film is identified as a 1958 Plymouth Fury[7]—and in 1983 radio ads promoting the film, voiceover artists announced, "she's a '57 Fury"—two other Plymouth models, the Belvedere and the Savoy, were also used to portray the malevolent automobile onscreen. John Carpenter placed ads throughout Southern California searching for models of the car, and was able to purchase twenty-four of them in various states of disrepair, which were used to build a total of seventeen models of the Fury.[6]

Total production for the 1958 Plymouth Fury was only 5,303, and they were difficult to find and expensive to buy at the time. In addition, the real-life Furys only came in one color, "Buckskin Beige", seen on the other Furies on the assembly line during the initial scenes of the movie.[8] Several vehicles were destroyed during filming, but most of the cars were Savoy and Belvedere models dressed to look like the Fury.

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.[5]

Of the twenty cars used in the film, only two still exist. One is a stunt vehicle with a manual transmission and now resides in the hands of a private California collector.[9] The other vehicle was rescued from a junkyard and restored by collector Bill Gibson of Pensacola, Florida.[10]


Box office[edit]

Christine was released in North America on December 9, 1983 to 1,045 theaters.[11]

In its opening weekend Christine brought in $3,408,904 landing at #4. The film dropped 39.6% in its second weekend, grossing $2,058,517 slipping from fourth to eighth place. In its third weekend, it grossed $1,851,909 dropping to #9. The film remained at #9 its fourth weekend, grossing $2,736,782. In its fifth weekend, it returned to #8, grossing $2,015,922. Bringing in $1,316,835 it its sixth weekend, the film dropped out of the box office top ten to twelfth place. In its seventh and final weekend, the film brought in $819,972 landing at #14, bringing the total gross for Christine to $21,017,849.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

Based on 24 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, Christine has an overall 67% approval rating from critics, with an average score of 5.7 out of 10.[12] 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 deja vu premise [from the novel by Stephen King] combined with the crazed vehicle format, makes Christine appear pretty shop-worn."[13]

Roger Ebert gave the movie three out of four stars, saying: "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."[14] Janet Maslin of The New York Times gave the film a middling review, saying: "The early parts of the film are engaging and well acted, creating a believable high school atmosphere. Unfortunately, the later part of the film is slow in developing, and it unfolds in predictable ways."[15] Time Out said of the film: "Carpenter and novelist Stephen King share not merely a taste for genre horror but a love of '50s teenage culture; and although set in the present, Christine reflects the second taste far more effectively than the first."[16]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on VHS by Columbia Pictures, and later in a special edition DVD in 2004.[17] 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.[18] On September 29, 2015, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment re-released the film on Blu-ray.[19]

Soundtrack [edit]

Christine: Music from the Motion Picture
Film score by John Carpenter
and Alan Howarth
Released June 1, 1990
Genre Soundtrack
Length 33:14
Label Varèse Sarabande
Producer John Carpenter and Alan Howarth

Two soundtracks were released, one consisting purely of the music written and composed by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth, the other consisting of the contemporary pop songs used in the film.[20]

Christine: Music from the Motion Picture (by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth)
No. Title Length
1. "Arnie's Love Theme"   1:15
2. "Obsessed with the Car"   2:07
3. "Football Run/Kill Your Kids"   2:42
4. "The Rape"   1:10
5. "The Discovery"   1:30
6. "Show Me"   2:36
7. "Moochie's Death"   2:25
8. "Junkins"   3:33
9. "Buddy's Death"   1:27
10. "Nobody's Home/Restored"   1:44
11. "Car Obsession Reprise"   1:53
12. "Christine Attacks (Plymouth Fury)"   2:30
13. "Talk on the Couch"   1:23
14. "Regeneration"   1:25
15. "Darnell's Tonight"   0:13
16. "Arnie"   1:01
17. "Undented"   1:54
18. "Moochie Mix Four"   2:26
Songs appearing in film

The soundtrack album containing songs used in the film was entitled Christine: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and was released on LP and cassette on Motown Records.[21] It contained 10 (of the 15) songs listed in the film's credits, plus one track from John Carpenter and Alan Howarth's own score. The track listing was as follows:

  1. George Thorogood and the Destroyers - Bad to the Bone
  2. Buddy Holly & the Crickets - Not Fade Away
  3. Johnny Ace - Pledging My Love
  4. Robert & Johnny - We Belong Together
  5. Little Richard - Keep A-Knockin'
  6. Dion and The Belmonts - I Wonder Why
  7. The Viscounts - Harlem Nocturne
  8. Thurston Harris - Little Bitty Pretty One
  9. Danny & The Juniors - Rock n' Roll is Here to Stay
  10. John Carpenter & Alan Howarth - Christine Attacks (Plymouth Fury)
  11. Larry Williams - Bony Moronie

The following tracks were not included on this LP release, but were used in the film and listed in the film's credits:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Overall Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 22, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Carpenter, John; Kobritz, Richard (2004). Christine: Ignition. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. 
  3. ^ a b "Extracts from SFX Interview with John Carpenter". SFX. Retrieved November 28, 2015. 
  4. ^ Carpenter, John. Audio commentary, Christine [Blu-ray]. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d Carpenter, John; Gordon, Keith; Paul, Alexandra; Stockwell, John (2004). Christine: Fast and Furious. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. 
  6. ^ a b Von Doviak 2014.
  7. ^ Kerr & Wollen 2004, p. 355.
  8. ^ Benjaminson 1994, p. 124.
  9. ^ [1], Christopher Rutkowski, theAFICIONAUTO, autoblog, Living Christine
  10. ^ "30th Anniversary of Stephen King's "Christine"". WEAR-TV. February 16, 2013. Retrieved November 25, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Christine (1983)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 28, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Christine Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved October 22, 2010. 
  13. ^ Variety Staff (December 31, 1982). "Christine". Variety. Retrieved November 28, 2015. 
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 13, 1983). "Christine". Chicago Sun-Time. Retrieved November 27, 2015. 
  15. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 9, 1983). "Film: 'Christine,' A Car". The New York Times. 
  16. ^ "Christine, directed by John Carpenter". Time Out London. Retrieved November 27, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Christine (Special Edition)". Amazon. Retrieved November 27, 2015. 
  18. ^ Kauffman, Jeffrey (March 18, 2013). "Christine Blu-ray: Screen Archives Entertainment Exclusive / Limited Edition to 3000". Retrieved November 28, 2015. 
  19. ^ Liebman, Mark (September 28, 2015). "Christine Blu-ray". Retrieved November 28, 2015. 
  20. ^ "Christine – Production Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved October 22, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Christine (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Retrieved 31 May 2015. 


  • Benjaminson, James (1994). Plymouth, 1946-1959. Motorbooks International. ISBN 978-0-87938-840-9. 
  • Von Doviak, Scott (2014). Stephen King Films FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the King of Horror on Film. Applause Theatre & Cinema. ISBN 978-1-48035-551-4. 
  • Kerr, Joe; Wollen, Peter (2004). Autopia: Cars and Culture. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-1-86189-132-7. 

External links[edit]