John Carpenter’s Christine on Blu-ray

September 13, 2013 | By | Add a Comment

For the May 2013 issue of Rue Morgue, I reviewed Twilight Time’s Blu-ray edition of Christine [M] (1983), John Carpenter’s still-effective film version of Stephen King’s best-selling novel. I’ve uploaded the review to the main & mobile sites at this time since this one of his masterworks, The Thing (1982), recently played at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

On the big screen the film is even more impressive, and the theatre was maybe 2/3’s full for the 4K digital screening. Yeah, it wasn’t a film print, but the trade-off for a surviving, worn 35mm print seems to be a cleaned up digital copy with robust sound, and the detail typical of an HD transfer.

Like a friend who’d seen the film many more times than myself, I also blinked a few times when I saw one of the actors (Richard Dysart) sporting a nose ring – something either not visible or barely visible in all prior SD home video editions. It’s admittedly an odd thing to notice, but the detail offered by Blu-ray has frequently revealed little missed details to fans who’ve seen a specific film 5, 10, or 20+ times.

My first exposure to The Thing was quite unconventional. I was too young to catch the nasty R-rated film in cinemas, and had in fact never heard of it or Carpenter when I was around 10 or 12 years old. The way I saw the movie was at a friend’s house. Her dad had gotten the film on video, and instead of showing us kids the film from start to finish, he shuttled to and played only the gore parts – basically a highlight of ‘you won’t believe the shit that’s in this film.’

It took another 10 years before I saw the film properly, and I actually didn’t like it, perhaps because I was then a bit more of a purist, preferring the original 1951 film ‘directed by Christian Nyby’ (er, Howard Hawks). Certainly when I was a kid, that film scared the crap out of me, especially when the arctic eggheads open the door to the greenhouse and almost get mauled by the Thing; and the dead dog that flops down when a bottom cabinet is opened up by a suspicious egghead.

I think I came round to appreciating the film when I watched it on DVD, originally to see how well Ennio Morricone’s amazing score fit the drama. The good in seeing it on the big screen is being able to appreciate the colours, exceptional compositions, and solid cast in what was a glossy studio production for Carpenter. The bad is that being ‘the ant-E.T.‘ film that year, the movie did not perform well and was written off as a dud, and arguably along with that failure, Carpenter had even fewer chances to make films with low A or ‘upper B-level’ budgets.

I’ll have a proper review of the film when I eventually get around to buying the Blu-ray – perhaps best to save that screening for a cold dark winter night during a snowstorm – but for now, there’s Christine.

That film I never saw until video, but the teaser trailer was regularly screened in front of each of the 5 Alfred Hitchcock films that were re-released in cinemas after being out of circulation for decades. (The quintet were Rope, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rear Window, The Trouble with Harry, and Vertigo.)

I caught the 5 Hitchcock films with my dad at the old Don Mills Centre Cinemas (which became a Bally’s, and then was knocked down), and that trailer remains a great piece of advertising. Naturally, it’s neither on the prior DVD nor Twilight Time’s Blu-ray, but you can see it online to appreciate the brilliance and wit in its visual economy and brevity. The car was the film’s true star, and as testament to its legacy, it’ll be one of the star attractions at this year’s Macabrecon 2013.

Last odd bit of temporal memories: hearing the pulsing ‘Moochie’s Death’ music from Christine during a particular season of General Hospital when a psychotic doctor was out to kill a ski bunny. I hope Carpenter earned some residuals from the show’s heavy usage that summer.

Those into rare cult films should check out VCI’s DVD release of Laslo Benedek’s The Night Visitor (1971), a fascinating puzzle thriller starring Max von Sydow, Trevor Howard, Liv Ullmann, Per Oscarsson, and the bleak Danish countryside, plus underscore by Henry Mancini. My review’s in the current September issue of Rue Morgue, plus a soundtrack review of Javier Navarette’s Byzantium from Silva Screen Records.

Coming next: soundtrack reviews.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor ( Main Site / Mobile Site )

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