The Music of John Carpenter’s CHRISTINE

When the Literary Master of Horror meets Film’s Master of Horror, it’s a recipe for some truly furious cinema. That’s exactly what the result was with John Carpenter’s 1983 adaptation of Stephen King’s best selling novel Christine, another female titled tale like Carrie that dealt with the supernatural. In this case the gal in question was a demonically possessed 1958 Plymouth Fury.

Thurston Harris’ good time 1957 rock n’ roll single “Little Bitty Pretty One” is turned into a foreboding theme of doom.

The year is 1978, A nerdy kid named Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon) is cruising around with his best friend Dennis (John Stockwell) a high school football jock and notices an old car for sale and it’s love at first sight. Dennis can’t understand why Arnie would want such a junker, but there’s something about the dust covered vehicle that makes Arnie feel good. The current owner George LeBay (Roberts Blossom) an old man who wears a backbrace sees the same gleam in Arnie’s eyes as his late brother who died in the car years earlier under mysterious circumstances. LeBay tells Dennis that his brother became enraptured with the car, it was a sickness. To him, this is a blessing, and sees Arnie as a way to get the damned thing out of his life, even though he secretly knows its potential for destruction. When Arnie drives “Christine” home to show his strict parents, they are angry and refuse to let him keep it there. An uncharacteristically rebellious Arnie who has never had anything of his own decides to keep the car anyway. He soon finds a local junkyard where he makes a deal with the cantankerous owner Mr. Darnell (Robert Prosky) to let him store the car there, in return he’ll work around the place and spend time fixing the delapitated car up.

As Arnie works hard renovating Christine, it begins to transform back into its original state. What was once a decrepit old pile of metal has turned into a beautiful, sleek, firey red hot rod. Simultaneously, Arnie begins to change in appearance and attitude. His clothing style gets funkier, gone are his horn rimmed glasses and greasy hair. Suddenly he has an air of coolness about him but he’s also more aggressive towards people too.

One day at a football game Dennis sees Arnie kissing Leigh Cabot (Alexandra Paul) the new brunette beauty in school he had tried to get a date with and failed. As Dennis stares dumbfounded at the two, he is nearly paralyzed after being tackled because he lost his focus. As time passes, Arnie’s friends and family can see he is changing for the worse and is more and more obsessed with the car, flying into rages when someone disrespects “her”. Along with nearly suffocating Arnie’s new girlfriend Leigh one night at a drive-in movie, the kids that once bullied Arnie in school are being targeted by the car and begin turning up dead.

Like American Graffiti which came out 10 years earlier, Christine’s soundtrack is a variety of classics featuring early rock n roll pioneers such as Little Richard, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. The main difference between the two films is how the music is used within the action of the movie. In American Graffiti the songs act as a background chorus for the different characters and adventures they have. In Christine the upbeat pop tunes are used as death cues.

The special effects in Christine are mostly automobile related and the film mixes high octane car action with some really outstanding visual FX work in which Christine undergoes several crashes but then restores herself each time. To do this, the car was installed with hydraulic pumps that were attached to cables that were connected to the body. As the compression was turned on the car was sucked inward. The shots were then played in reverse to give the effect of the car expanding and regenerating. As can be seen in the clip above, Christine even crushes herself into small spaces to get her revenge.

FURIOUS FILM TRIVIA

– Christine is supposed to be a Plymouth Fury but two other Plymouth models, The Savoy and the Belvedere were used as well.

– The movie playing at the drive-in scene is Thank God It’s Friday.

– Kevin Bacon was offered the lead role but ended up choosing Footloose instead.

– The license plate of Christine reads begins with “CQB” which is an acronym for “Close Quarters Battle”.

– Screenwriter Bill Phillips and rocker George Thorogood filmed a cameo appearance as the junkyard workers who compress Christine and dropped the cube at the end but the sequence was cut because neither one could act very well (as Phillips states in the documentary). It was Phillips who also suggested that they use Thorogood’s “Bad To The Bone” as the movie’s theme song.

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Peter

Editor-In-Chief of The Grindhouse Cinema Database/Furious Cinema contributor. Pete is a rabid movie geek who enjoys everything from wild n' crazy exploitation/cult flix to big budget mainstream classics. His other interests include: graphic design, cartooning and music.

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