DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Christine: Special Edition

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Nestor_Ramos, Sep 27, 2004.

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  1. Nestor_Ramos

    Nestor_Ramos Stunt Coordinator

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    [​IMG]

    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    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
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] 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.
     
  2. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

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    Does anyone know if any B&M stores will have this on sale tomorrow? I'm reluctant to order it from DDD, because they've screwed up my last few orders, but I didn't notice it in any of the ads.

    BTW...good review. Sounds like another great Carpenter commentary.
     
  3. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    :: Why does Sony keep re-releasing these titles without 5.1 tracks?

    Maybe because the film wasn't mixed in 5.1 to begin with? I also don't see how the lack of 5.1 would hurt the low-frequencies of CANDYMAN. CANDYMAN has NEVER been 5.1, so if you've heard heavy "low frequencies" on that mix in the past, there's no reason they wouldn't be on the DVD's 2.0 soundtrack, which should be an exact replication of the original mix.

    This "5.1 or nothing" stuff tends to lead to more problems than it corrects (i.e., remix screw ups on such films as SUSPIRIA, RESERVOIR DOGS, DAY OF THE DEAD, and others), if it "corrects" anything at all, that is. Give me the original mixes any day of the week.

    Vincent
     
  4. Nick Sievers

    Nick Sievers Producer

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    I agree Vincent, there seems to be a lot of emphasis on having a 5.1 track when it isn't even the Original Soundtrack.

    I'm buying this release but to save on shipping i've bundled it with some early October titles.
     
  5. Nestor_Ramos

    Nestor_Ramos Stunt Coordinator

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    Hey guys, thanks for reading.

    I agree with you (Vincent and Nick) to a point. I wouldn’t want to see Citizen Kane with a 5.1 track, and have Orson Welles muttering “Rosebud!” through my left surround channel. In this case, though, I respectfully disagree. When a mix is already encoded as Dolby Surround, it’s not a big artistic leap to make it a discrete 5.1 track – particularly for a horror film which, in my opinion, would clearly benefit. Also, it would’ve been quite easy to include both the original and a new mix, as discs used to do that regularly.

    I’m all for preservation of original artistic vision, but – and this is simply a matter of personal opinion – turning a dolby surround track into a 5.1 track does not constitute a marring of the original work. It’s simply a means of delivery and, I think, a better one. A 5.1 track, in this case, represents a more accurate way to accomplish what the original sound engineer intended, with effects in the rear channels and dialogue pegged to the screen. But I do see the other side of the argument.

    Thanks for reading!

    Nestor
     
  6. Jordan_E

    Jordan_E Cinematographer

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    I believe Carpenter movies are better with decent 5.1 mixes. Look at HALLOWEEN. I was bitterly disappointed when the new version of THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS was not remixed, because Carpenter's score in that movie was terrific and sort of got "lost" amid the various sound effects. And CHRISTINE deserved a remix. No "Oompf" during the gas station explosion? But I'll still be picking up this new version because of the Carpenter commentary, the only ones I really listen to anymore.
     
  7. Nestor_Ramos

    Nestor_Ramos Stunt Coordinator

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    Maybe "no oomph" is an overstatement, because in relation to the rest of the soundtrack, that scene is definitely more powerful. But with a well-calibrated subwoofer and the volume at a reasonable level, I was underwhelmed. It is the film's biggest effects sequence, after all. I want to feel it.
     
  8. Jordan_E

    Jordan_E Cinematographer

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    Maybe I've been spoiled by the Star Wars set, because those movies gave me plenty of "bang!" for the buck...
     
  9. MikeEckman

    MikeEckman Screenwriter

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    I think this should be an easy recommend for fans of the movie. Sure, the soundtrack isn't anything special, and there are still faults with the transfer, but it IS improved from the original release. The colors are much more vivid on this new release, and perhaps its just me wanting to see an improvement, but this whole transfer looks slightly more detailed than the original 1998 DVD.

    The commentary is excellent (as is most John Carpenter commentaries) and his bantering with Keith Gordon makes this a must-listen for fans. The deleted scenes and the cheesy documentaries are just icing on the cake. Yeah, it could have been better, but with B&Ms selling this for $14.99 and the fact that the previous DVD is more than 5 years old, I would say this is an easy recommend for fans of the movie. To a casual viewer it might not be, but I love this film and am glad to double-dip.
     
  10. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    I eBayed my original Christine DVD as soon as this one was announced. Any disc with a John Carpenter commentary gets a spot on my DVD shelf! Thanks for the review. Told me precisely what I wanted to know.
     
  11. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

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    Amen, Scott!
     
  12. Mark Cappelletty

    Mark Cappelletty Cinematographer

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    I'm with Mike and Scott here. I've only listened to bits and pieces of the commentary track, but it reads like a good one. And the featurettes are much more than the fluff pieces you might expect from reading the review above. I'm really impressed by this-- come on Sony, what about the Carpenter/Jeff Bridges commentary track that's available in other regions for Starman!

    I bought a cheap copy of the R2 They Live with the Carpenter/Rowdy Roddy Piper commentary track and need to pick up Prince of Darkness for the solo Carpenter track. Has anyone heard this-- how is it?
     
  13. Justin_S

    Justin_S Producer

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    The Prince of Darkness commentary also has Peter Jason. Its one of my favorite Carpenter tracks, which is saying a lot. Its also my favorite Carpenter film (along with The Thing). Anyway, I got this SE today. The featurettes are really great. I'm listening to the commentary soon.
     
  14. Paul Strilka

    Paul Strilka Stunt Coordinator

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    Most of Carpenter's commentaries are a great listen. But he may have the worst ever recorded commentary on the "In the Mouth of Madness". which is a shame- it's one of my favorite JC flicks.
     
  15. Mark Cappelletty

    Mark Cappelletty Cinematographer

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    Thanks for the heads-up, Justin. I'll pick this up when I get a chance. Do you know of a good cheap online place to get it? It was £15 when I was in the UK, and really didn't want to pay $30 for something I already have (save for the commentary!). Big fan of "Prince of Darkness" as well.
     

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