Arnie (Keith Gordon) is your average bespectacled high school nobody, nerd-division. In a time-honored tradition he decides that owning cool stuff will make him popular (hey, it worked for Bill Gates) and turns his covetous eye toward a glorious red and white 1958 Plymouth Fury. Well, alright, not too glorious since it's a bit rundown and requires restoration but, heck, the previous owner named it "Christine" so who's not gonna love such a hunk of US-made machinery, right? Especially when the car turns out to have a few options not installed by the factory, such as a radio that will only play rock 'n' roll oldies and a tendency to kill Arnie's tormentors. You know how things are between a boy and his car. Especially when Arnie's newly minted popularity attracts a girlfriend, among other kinds of attention.
Stephen King worked on the original novel Christine while he was writing the movie Creepshow for director George Romero (Night of the Living Dead). The novel was dedicated to Romero and his wife, not so coincidentally named Christine. Romero might have seemed an obvious choice for the film version and he has said as much himself: "I really wanted to make that movie." He added, "It was dedicated to us and I thought it could be fun." At the time, John Carpenter was involved in the early stages of another King adaptation, Firestarter, but when that fell through he ended up directing Christine instead of Romero.
The lead role of Arnie went to Keith Gordon, previously almost-notable for parts in Dressed to Kill, Jaws 2 and Back to School. Gordon later left his nerd roles behind to become an acclaimed director himself with A Midnight Clear, Waking the Dead and Mother Night (though he passed on an opportunity to direct American Beauty). Gordon credits John Carpenter and Brian DePalma as giving him some of the best advice on the directorial craft. (By the way, when Gordon got married he also took his wife's name, so that legally he's now "Keith Griffin Gordon" though he uses his former moniker for films to avoid confusion.) Arnie's girlfriend is played by Alexandra Paul, who later donned a swimsuit to serve a few years on Baywatch and then put on street clothes for a brief stint on Melrose Place. Kelly Preston, the future Mrs. John Travolta, made one of her first film appearances here. And how could we fail to mention Harry Dean Stanton, the quirky veteran of Repo Man, several David Lynch films and numerous cult classics.
Christine is a MonsterVisual feast of delights from its hip music to the opportunity to wreak vengeance on your high school enemies. For the counts, let's now turn to The Artist Formerly Known as Joe Bob Briggs:
Now. Steverino's gonna be really really mad, right? But HOW LONG will Steverino be mad? One day? Two days? If he stays mad for MORE than three days, Wanda will consider him the evilest, most abusive husband who ever lived. And, in fact, if Steverino is like most men, he WILL forget about it after a couple days, and he'll NEVER BE ABLE TO BRING IT UP AGAIN. Now let's see what happens when the tables are turned.
Steverino goes to a party at Wanda's office, gets a little drunk and pays a LITTLE BIT too much attention to Cecilia, the 19-year-old mini-skirted office intern. I don't mean he asks her for a DATE. I mean, he just talks to her a little bit too long. When they get home, Wanda is mad. Now. How long will Wanda REMAIN mad? How long will she REMEMBER this party? We're talking the half-life of plutonium, aren't we? Fifty years from now, the guy can be on his DEATHBED, and Wanda can be missing all her teeth and deaf in one ear, and she'll STILL be screechin at him, "I remember that time you hit on that hussy Cecilia!"
You ever get this one? "Well, if you don't know what day this is, I'm certainly not going to TELL you." And you think, "Oh, my God, it's her birthday! No. Her birthday's not for four months. Our anniversary! No. That was in the summer." And you go around for HOURS worryin about it, and then she finally tells you: "It was on this day six years ago that you bought me that dinette set and then we went out for spaghetti." And you go, "I forgot THAT?" And for a full minute, you actually think you SCREWED UP. You really start saying to yourself, "What an ignorant scuzzball I am, I can't even remember a dinette set." And then you realize, SHE is the one with the Looney Tune memory warp.
Speaking of warped, let's watch another flick by our favorite warped bestselling author, Stephen King, and directed by the twisted John Carpenter: Christine. Roll it. [fading] What is this memory thing? I really don't like it.
"CHRISTINE" Commercial Break #1
Whoa! Who spiked HER Geritol? No wonder Arnie's a complete wimp. I mean, first his mom makes him take his lunch in one of those little brown bags, then they won't let him have a car. His parents probly make him play Scrabble with em, too. That's Keith Gordon as Arnie. And did you guys notice Kelly Preston as the bimbo cheerleader? She was a tender young 21 when this flick was made in 1983. On the other hand, the guy who plays Buddy the high school meanie looks like he was about 36. Guess he got held back a few times.
Okay, once again, I didn't get to the drive-in totals before we started, so here they are:
Seven dead bodies.
Three pints blood.
No kung fu.
One motor-vehicle chase.
Extra credit for drive-in scene where the bimbo almost gets choked to death by the car.
Great crash-and-burn scene.
One exploding gas station.
One attack by a road grader.
Three and a half stars. We shall return, and I WILL be giving you the full report on Stephen King as he recovers from his big accident.
[fading] Next week is the year anniversary of "The Accident." That's how Big Steve's friends refer to it. And around here, we are definitely friends of Big Steve's. We were showing Maximum Overdrive on this show at the exact moment the accident happened -- but it's not our fault. I hope he got my card. Kathy Bates sent him a card, and all it said was "Got Novril?", which is the drug she gave James Caan after she broke his legs in "Misery." Stephen King movie. Don't make me explain any more.
"CHRISTINE" Commercial Break #2
You know, I hate when the geeky character stops wearing his glasses with no explanation. Why does that always happen in movies? I want either a scene where they get contacts, or a scene where they trip over a curb and say "Hey, all in the name of beauty." All right, so lemme catch you up on Stephen King. For those of you who don't know about it, a year ago Big Steve was taking a walk along the road near his house, when a guy driving a blue 1985 Dodge Caravan was paying too much attention to his dog and slammed into one of the bestselling writers of our time. Steve's head shattered the windshield -- his glasses ended up IN the car -- and he was hurled over the vehicle and landed in a ditch 14 feet away. Now. Lemme pass over the gory details for a minute while I point out a few interesting facts. 1) It happened the very night we showed a movie Stephen King himself directed, "Maximum Overdrive," which is about a bunch of cars and trucks and machines going haywire and killin people. 2) Our movie that night was sponsored by a motor-oil company, further solidifying the automotive theme. 3) The dog in the Caravan was named Bullet. Stephen King's new short-story, which you can only get by downloading it off the Internet, is called "Riding the Bullet." And 4) Well, I'll tell you number four when tonight's movie is over. You'll appreciate it more then. Plus I'm out of time.
[fading] Motor vehicles with demonic personalities are a recurring theme in Big Steve's work. Hmmmmmmmmmm. Don't mess with that stuff, I say.
"CHRISTINE" Commercial Break #3
Now, if I remember correctly, the hoodlums that just trashed Christine deposited a little present on the dashboard, in the form of human waste, if you know what I mean and I think you do. Looks like the censors didn't like that. But they did leave in the part about the foxy Alexandra Paul choking on her cheeseburger. Actual attempted murder, yes. Gross high school pranks, nyet. You know, the novel "Christine" was still on the best-seller list when the movie came out. But they added that whole beginning part on the assembly line where the car kills the guy for dropping cigar ashes on the seat. In the book, Christine gets possessed by the evil spirit of her first owner. Also in the book, Arnie ages as Christine gets younger. Kind of a Dorian Gray thing. In the movie, we only see the odometer go backwards, which is just plain confusing without the other part. But I still love this flick. I think John Carpenter did a great job, and he got some good actors for it. Okay, Rusty's gonna be out here with the mail at the next break. Speaking of which, lemme give out my addresses while I'm thinking about it. You can write care of TNT, 1010 Techwood Drive, Atlanta, Georgia, 30318, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Might as well give the website a plug, too: tnt.turner.com/joebob. Go.
[fading] Alexandra Paul is a cutie, isn't she? She's got an identical twin sister who's a firefighter. I just have one thing to say about that: Anybody got a match?
"CHRISTINE" Commercial Break #4
[letter (w/bug baggie), large manila envelope]
"Dear Joe Bob,
"I enjoy watching your show on TNT (in Panama it's channel 25 on cable). But I was highly offended by remarks you made [last night] during 'Creepshow.' Not all women are squeamish about cockroaches; I've seen my sister smash em with her bare hands. I've even seen my brother eat one (although I did ask him to please not do that in front of my kids again.)
"Personally, I don't have a qualm about scraping them off my shoes (better than picking it out of my blueberry muffins!) So please, refrain from making these CHAUVINISTIC remarks - here in the tropics, as I'm sure in Southern states in N. America, we gotta live with em. (Roaches, not the remarks!) So to remind you, I'm sending you a small gift from Panama!
"Lori Anne Sweet Eckersall."
Okay, Lori Anne so you're a cockroach killer, fearless. I give up. [looks in plastic packet] Wait, is this what I think it is? Oh, gosh . . . [he starts to faint again, putting head between legs] Gimme that envelope back.
[Rusty gives him back manila envelope and looks at plastic packet, unmoved.]
"CHRISTINE" Commercial Break #5
You know why he had to die? Because he was DIRTY and he never shaved and he chewed his cigar down to the nub. Rule number 47. So that was the end of Robert Prosky, who plays Darnell the garage owner, and the rest of the young hoodlums. What did we learn from that? We learned that any turkey who plays the Stones on his radio is a goner. But it's the BEGINNING of Harry Dean Stanton as the curious detective, and of Arnie's new black leather vest. Cause when you become cool, you always start wearin leather. Also, when you're being chased by a rabid flame-engulfed Plymouth, always run down the middle of the road. Course, ducking into an alley didn't help Moochie, so what the heck. Plus we got to see that EXCELLENT plow-and-burn, where Buddy ends up lying on the broken yellow like a freshly ignited piece of charcoal. I should point out that Keith Gordon -- that's Arnie, remember -- he put away his nerd-boy image and DID become cool. More specifically, he became a director. Wrote and directed "Waking the Dead," which I believe is still playing, and he also did "The Chocolate War," "A Midnight Clear," and "Mother Night," that Nazi flick with Nick Nolte. So, hey, go Keith. Okay, back to "Christine," after the ads.
[fading] Wonder what the first meeting with Nick Nolte was like. "Mr. Nolte, this is the demonically possessed geeky guy who falls in love with a car in "Christine" -- he'll be DIRECTING you."
"CHRISTINE" Commercial Break #6
You know, that one speech, where Keith Gordon, as Arnie, chugs beer and drives with no hands and plays chicken and says "Love has a voracious appetite" -- one of the greatest speeches in horror movie history, in my opinion. And now John Stockwell has carved a little message into Christine's hood. Why do I think she is NOT going to be happy about that? By the way, was he CRYING when Arnie was drinking and driving around like a maniac? So the cool guy becomes a wimp, and the wimp becomes a cool guy, is that it? Okay, I wanna see what's gonna happen at Darnell's Tonight, so let's return to "Christine," after the commercials.
[fading] Dennis seemed to accept that Christine is alive pretty darn easily, didn't he? Course, when you've got Alexandra Paul rubbin up all over you, you'll believe just about anything. "Oh, yes, honey, let's go kill the car, mm hm. Whatever you say. Can I smell your hair again?"
And . . . WHAT did we need Harry Dean Stanton for? To ask about the paint job, and then attend an automotive funeral? I should point out that another difference between the book and the movie is that, in the book, Arnie and his mom get killed in a separate car accident while Christine is being destroyed. So Christine doesn't kill Arnie, like she does here. That seemed weird to me. Also, I wanted to point out that the famous Dodge Caravan that ran over Stephen King was purchased by his lawyer to keep it away from souvenir hunters. And King's lawyer says it WILL be destroyed.
Okay, next week we return to the world of independent low-budget action flicks, otherwise known as B-movie hell, with "Within the Rock." A loose moon is headed toward Earth, and some outer-space miners have just unleashed an alien. Sounds vaguely familiar.. .
That's it for me, Joe Bob Briggs, reminding you that power corrupts. Absolute power is kinda neat, though.
You guys hear the one about the blonde whose car breaks down on the highway? She eases it over onto the shoulder, gets out and opens the trunk. Out jump two men in trench coats who walk to the rear of the vehicle, where they stand facing the oncoming traffic, opening their coats and exposing themselves to approaching drivers. A HUGE pile-up happens, and it's not long before the highway patrol shows up. Cop yells at the blonde, "What the heck is going on here?" Blonde says, "My car broke down." Cop says, "Well, what are these perverts doing here by the road?!" Blonde says, "Those are my emergency flashers!"
Joe Bob Briggs, reminding you that the drive-in will never die.
[fading] Why did the blonde have to break her car window? Because she left her keys in the ignition and her two blonde sisters were locked inside.
Last seen on Monstervision, June 10, 2000. Rating: TV-14LV
These movies continue to run on TNT, TBS, and even the SYFY Channel in their original form. Simply print out the host segments for the movie when it comes around and read Joe Bob's comments on each segment as you watch the movie. It's the next best thing to having Joe Bob on the couch next to you...