I’ve either never seen Christine before, or like Carpenter’s Starman, I may have seen it on network television in the 1980’s. Watched at Alamo on 35mm with The Car, and the best part of the double-feature is that they pasted the two film descriptions onto one page without bothering to revise, the Christine blurb arguing that the film is “masterful” and “brutally underrated,” and the other writeup saying The Car is totally badass and that Christine is “a total puss.”
Arnie (Keith Gordon, director of Mother Night) is the very nerdy, bullied friend of sporty dude Dennis (John Stockwell, also a director now). We meet Christine in 1957 claiming two victims while still on the assembly line, and Arnie sees it all junked up in 1978 and gets obsessed, buys it and moves it into a garage to restore. Later the seller (named LeBay, not quite LaVey, played by the next-door neighbor in Home Alone) admits that his brother’s whole family died in the car, so Dennis gets suspicious – more so when Arnie’s enemies start dying in unexplained accidents. Meanwhile, Arnie is looking late-50’s slick, has stolen the girl (Alexandra Paul of the Dragnet movie) whom Dennis liked, and Dennis is injured in a football game, so the cool/lame friends get reversed.
Chief tormentor is the extremely Travolta-looking Buddy, who sneaks into the garage with his boys to murder the car. Arnie takes this badly, acting like a shitter (the movie’s insult of choice) to his girl and his parents. The movie has been a disappointing teen drama shot with too many closeups until Buddy’s overweight henchman Moochie (of video store horror section standbys Popcorn and The Curse) gets killed in retaliation. He’s chased by Christine into an alley where the car can’t fit, but it scrunches in, destroying itself to splatter Moochie. Next it hunts the others down, blows up a gas station killing a couple guys, then runs down Buddy while on fire. Finally it drives to the garage, implodes to crush the curious garage owner (and Arnie’s surrogate father who’s been giving him odd jobs: Robert Prosky, the big bad in Thief), then fixes itself good as new overnight. Eventually the friend and the girl show up to save Arnie, battle the car with a tractor and win, the final line: “God I hate rock and roll.”
Also featuring investigating officer Harry Dean Stanton (the year before becoming a legend with Repo Man and Paris, Texas), Arnie’s supercold superbitch mom Christine Belford (a nazi villain in the 1970’s Wonder Woman series) who I’m surprised didn’t get car-murdered, and as the school hottie, Kelly Preston (future wife of the real Travolta). I guess if you’re stuck with Stephen King’s Christine, you do what you can – at least Carpenter wasn’t assigned Cujo.