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She was born in Detroit… on an automobile assembly line. But she is no ordinary automobile. Deep within her chassis lives an unholy presence. She is CHRISTINE a red and white 1958 Plymouth Fury whose unique standard equipment includes an evil, indestructible vengeance that will destroy anyone in her way. She seduces 17-year-old Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon), who becomes consumed with passion for her sleek, rounded chrome-laden body. She demands his complete and unquestioned devotion and when outsiders seek to interfere, they become the victims of Christine’s horrifying wrath. (Taken from the official synopsis.)

John Carpenter’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Christine has previously been released in the US on limited edition Blu-ray by Twilight Time (which quickly went out of print) and by Sony itself in both Europe and the US. Until now there’s been no official UK offering, but new label Indicator from Powerhouse Films has arrived seemingly from nowhere with a feature-laden disc due for imminent release. We’ve been fortunate enough to get our hands on an advance copy, so read on to find out how it stacks up against the previous offerings.

Video


Christine’s UK Blu-ray début utilises the same 2K master that Sony itself used for the Euro releases of the film (and that Twilight Time used for its limited edition release). Given that the same master is in play the only real differences between the various editions is the encoding. Twilight Time’s effort was decent, but as usual Sony’s Euro release improved upon things (which was also the case with Fright Night – oh for a UK release of that film). Powerhouse’s disc was authored by David McKenzie, who some of you may know from various forums and because he’s worked on numerous Arrow titles. In my experience David seems to be able to deliver results that eclipse most other authors; certainly, recent Arrow titles not authored by Mr. M have suffered in comparison to the titles he has worked on. Anyway, the top and bottom of it is that you should be very happy that he was involved with this release.

Sony’s 2K restoration was supervised by Grover Crisp (who also did Fright Night if memory serves) and it’s very impressive. Colours are vibrant and well-saturated (Christine herself looks marvellous), and the image is crisp with some particularly wonderful fine detail in the close-ups. The picture is also free from any obvious or memorable film artefacts; in fact, it’s so pristine if it weren’t for the seventies/eighties feel you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s a much more recent production. There are no digital anomalies to report either, and comparison with the other Blu-rays reveals this to be possibly the best video encode yet (although the differences between them are very minor). I’ve read other reviews that mentioned minor issues with the contrast, but I didn’t notice anything particularly untoward. Some of the darker scenes are quite impenetrable, but there’s no crush and the murkiness can be attributed to the original photography so it’s hardly a fault with the Blu-ray presentation. In fact, Christine is one of the most visually impressive catalogue titles in my collection.

Audio


Those of you lamenting the lack of the original 2.0 Stereo soundtrack on the Twilight Time and Sony Euro releases of the film can rejoice! It’s included here along with the 5.1 remix, and so bests the audio options offered by the other releases. The 2.0 track is an LPCM affair, while the 5.1 effort utilises DTS-HD Master Audio. The multi-channel track is surprisingly atmospheric and engaging, offering some decent channel separation during the livelier moments. The various musical cues and Carpenter’s score are all well-represented, as is the dialogue, although that never strays far off-centre. Minimal LFE is present when the car revs its engine and during one of the more explosive scenes. Overall fidelity is very good and there are no audio artefacts to report. My only real criticism is that surround utilisation is a little unbalanced at times. As you’d expect the 2.0 Stereo option is less expansive, but dialogue is clear and there is some limited stereo panning. More than anything it’s just nice to have for that authentic theatrical experience!

The accompanying notes also mention that the disc features ‘new and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing’, but I haven’t compared them to the Sony disc to verify.

Extras


Powerhouse has included all of the material found on the Twilight Time edition, including the isolated score that was missing from Sony’s own Euro releases. Also included are trailers, TV spots, an image gallery and an exclusive booklet, making this the most comprehensive set of Christine home video extras to date. Here’s a complete breakdown of the supplements:

  • Audio commentary with director John Carpenter and actor Keith Gordon
  • Christine: Ignition, Fast and Furious & Finish Line (2003, 48 mins): three-part ‘making of’ documentary, featuring interviews with cast and crew, including John Carpenter and Keith Gordon
  • Deleted scenes (26 mins): twenty-one sequences which never made the final cut
  • Isolated score: experience John Carpenter’s original soundtrack music
  • Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
  • Theatrical trailers
  • TV Spots
  • Limited edition exclusive 24-page booklet with a new essay by Jeff Billington and a 1996 article on Carpenter’s cinematic ‘guilty pleasures’

Overall


As a long-time fan of John Carpenter’s work I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t watched Christine in its entirety until fairly recently. Sold ostensibly as a horror, I didn’t find it all that scary if truth be told (and I’m a self-confessed wuss). If I had to label the film I’d say it’s more of a supernatural psychological thriller. Admittedly the overall effect is very eerie – particularly as things progress and Christine’s new owner Arnie transitions from nervous, put upon geek to unhinged, willing accomplice to his car’s murderous rampage – but honestly there’s really nothing here to justify the film’s 18 rating (a few choice bits of language excepted). Still, silly premise aside, Carpenter’s assured direction, wonderful cinematography, a memorable score and some impressive practical effects serve to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

As an introductory offering from a new label, Christine sets the bar pretty high. Admittedly the Sony-supplied source material is of very good quality to begin with, but Powerhouse has taken said material and produced the best version of the film yet to be released on home video. The visuals are on a par, if not better than the other Blu-ray editions of the film, it offers the most comprehensive audio options yet, and even the bonus material trumps everything that’s come before. I think it’s fair to call this a very impressive debut.

It’s worth mentioning that this initial dual-format release with the booklet is limited to 5,000 copies, which might not sound like a lot, but is 2,000 more than the original Twilight Time release and in a much smaller market than the US. Even so, if you want to get hold of a copy of the limited edition I wouldn’t hang around, especially given the very attractive price point it currently enjoys. If you’re not too concerned about the DVD or the booklet a standard version will be available in the future.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

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