Christine: Special Edition Studio: Columbia Tri-Star Year: 1983 Rated: R Film Length: 110 Minutes Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Audio: DD 2.0 Color/B&W: color Languages: English, French, Portuguese, Spanish Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai MSRP: $19.94 Release Date: September 28 The Feature 1/2 To some extent, the names involved with the production of ‘Christine’ are all anyone needs to know: Stephen King. John Carpenter. But just as King makes a habit of confounding those who paint him as a one-note horror master, Carpenter is also capable of nuance with which he’s not often credited. And though “Christine” has one of the odder premises in recent memory – a haunted car and the nerd who loves it – it works. From very solid performances by a cast of young unknowns to special effects work that was ahead of its time, “Christine” is an admirable piece of work. This film has a great many fans, and rightfully so – it’s smartly written, psychologically logical and, as I mentioned, well acted. Unlike much of the horror genre, it has very little violence or gore. The “horror,” such as it is, comes from the protagonist’s slow descent into madness. Having said all that, revisiting “Christine” after a number of years, I was disappointed. While I still admire how heady the material is – there’s very little shock or gore for flaws to hide behind – the film is far from subtle. The first act, which establishes the characters, is simultaneously over-the-top (could anyone really be as nerdy as Artie is in those early scenes?) and inert. As engaging as John Stockwell is in the role of Dennis, essentially nothing happens for forty five minutes. Much has been trimmed from King’s novel – a necessity considering the authors legendary verbiage – but perhaps something in the book’s first third could’ve enlivened these early scenes? By the time the real star, Christine, shows up fully restored, it feels as though the cast could be out of high school, out of college and working on graduate degrees. Once Christine is prowling the street and offing bullies, and Artie is turning into Dustin Hoffman’s best James Dean impersonation, the pace picks up. For those unwilling or unable to suspend their disbelief, though, it’s impossible to take this film seriously. Why is the car evil? Is it just a bad seed, as the opening scenes suggest? What does that mean, exactly, and is it something you can check for before you purchase a vehicle? Can you get this information from Carfax? But I digress: this remains a powerful and smart horror film, which improves each year as the American horror genre continues to circle the bowl. Gordon’s performance is stellar in a role that could’ve been thoroughly hammy. Is it the outright classic that many claim? Not in my book. But I certainly admire its many strengths. Video Edge enhancement and artifacting in highly detailed shots, as well as some medium close-ups, distract from the generally pleasing color balance of the transfer. Check out the vines around Artie’s house, which are so fuzzy they look like they’re bleeding. But the bread and butter of this transfer is the car, its blazing headlights in the dark and its glossy red and chrome. Few of the film’s high dollar shots disappoint too terribly, and whether the lack of detail and punch is a result of the film’s age (it’s 20 years old, after all) or shoddy mastering, I’m not sure. Some shots are tremendous, particularly in the crucial scene when Artie begins to grasp Christine’s full power. Even so, there’s little excuse for clearly defined white ringing around the heads of characters. Audio 1/2 Why does Sony keep re-releasing these titles without 5.1 tracks? This is a passable stereo track, encoded for Pro Logic, but so what? There’s very little low end impact – even when a whole gas station goes up in flames. There are almost no surround effects, even the weak stuff that usually comes out of the rear channels in a 2.0 track. Note that Sony also re-released Candyman in a special edition package that didn’t include a 5.1 track. This situation is not quite as egregious as that one, where some of the film’s low frequency effects are crucial to the experience, but Christine does have a killer soundtrack. There’s no question it would’ve benefited from a serious remaster. Special Features All features are 4:3 (except deleted scenes, which are wide format but unfinished) and stereo Padded with clips and snippets that couldn’t be considered “scenes” by any practical definition, the 20 Deleted Scenes here are mostly pointless. The exception are a few scenes, scattered throughout the lot, that make up a trashed subplot in which Dennis and Leigh bond over their concern for Arnie, feeding his paranoia and dementia. Christine: Fast and Furious is the most in-depth of the three featurettes included here. It’s an overview of the production that includes interviews with Carpenter, writer Bill Phillips, producer Richard Kobritz, actors Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, and Alexandra Paul and stunt coordinator Terry Leonard. Leonard had the pleasure of doing a lot of the stunt driving, including piloting a flaming Christine out of a burning gas station and down the street. Christine: Finish Line and Christine: Ignition are quickie documentaries that seem to have been culled from the outtakes of the primary featurettes. “Ignition” is more interesting because it answers a number of questions about the book-to-screen process. Notably, King is not a participant in any of the disc’s materials. I don’t know whether one can infer that he was unhappy with the film, but there were major, major differences in plot and tone. The commentary track features Carpenter and Gordon, who have great chemistry. If the discussion strays from the actual film fairly often, it’s probably for the best: the two are frequently hilarious in talking about their fellow cast members, and surprisingly candid. Gordon wonders aloud why he and Stockwell never became friends, and it’s probably not a stretch to say that they didn’t particularly get along. Filmographies, available on the previous release, appear here as well. Conclusion ½ If you own a previous edition of Christine, I can’t recommend a double-dip on the strength of 20 minor deleted scenes, a vaguely interesting featurette and a slightly better than average (for the period) transfer. (I haven’t viewed the previous release on a big-screen set-up, and so can’t make informed comparisons of the transfers.) If you’re a fan of the film, though, and don’t own it, this is easily the best version available.