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On Her 35th Birthday, the ‘58 Plymouth Fury Named Christine Is Still the Meanest
This year, one of the most deadly, dangerous and beautiful cars in movie history turns 35. She is not aging, she is only getting better: Christine, the mistress of mayhem from the John Carpenter horror movie of the same name.

On Her 35th Birthday, the ‘58 Plymouth Fury Named Christine Is Still the Meanest

One of the 4 remaining original Plymouth Furies used in the making of Christine, 1983One of the 4 remaining original Plymouth Furies used in the making of Christine, 1983One of the 4 remaining original Plymouth Furies used in the making of Christine, 1983One of the 4 remaining original Plymouth Furies used in the making of Christine, 1983Christine, the most evil car of all timesChristine, the most evil car of all timesChristine, the most evil car of all timesChristine, the most evil car of all timesChristine, the most evil car of all timesChristine, the most evil car of all times
Christine, the movie, opened in select U.S. theaters in the first days of December 1983. With a $10 million budget, the film made only $21 million upon opening, which is not great. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either.

On the plus side, in the years that have passed, the world has learned to regard Christine as a true horror classic, one that gets better with each viewing. At the same time, we’ve come to appreciate the beauty of the film’s leading lady, so much so that the 4 remaining vehicles are now worth a fortune, while Christine Clubs have sprouted all over the U.S.

The storyline of the film was pretty straightforward: a teen with no real friends but plenty of enemies forms a special bond with his 1958 Plymouth Fury, named Christine, which he bought as used and fixed her up. Christine is no regular car, though, as Arnie soon finds out; she has a mind of her own – and a very evil one. To sum it in only a handful of words, whoever crosses Arnie comes to meet their maker way ahead of time. Christine will spare no expense to kill whoever she thinks must die, and viewers learn that she is impervious to fire, accidents or any other type of damages.

Based on a script by Bill Phillips, who worked off on Stephen King’s still-unreleased (at the time) book, Christine brought something new to cinemas: the horrifying idea that something as seemingly trustworthy as a car could kill you on purpose. Americans (and not only) consider their vehicles part of their family, and King’s book came to turn the tables on them, to show them what would happen if that member of the family suddenly became sentient, murderous and apparently indestructible.

Christine is one of the first movies to feature a car in the titular role. Not surprisingly, the biggest chunk of the budget went to Christine – not literally, though. Producers bought 20 or 24 (sources can’t agree on the exact number) Plymouths, some of which they used for parts and other for stunts. They wanted only 1958 Furies, but they also got Belvederes and Savoys, and some 1957s, too. They used those for parts mostly.

Because so much of the film’s budget went on cars and fitting them for stunts, producers had to rethink their initial casting right before shooting. They could no longer afford to pay known actors, so they went with relative newcomers, which, in the long run, worked to their advantage because it further allowed Christine to shine in all her evilness.

Today, when we rarely get to see a decent horror movie, Christine stands out. It’s a smart piece of moviemaking, especially if you consider that, back in the day, they did not have CGI to make everything easier. For instance, the film used 20 stunt drivers, one of whom was Terry Leonard, who used to do stunt work for Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones movies. All of the action was shot in real life and all the effects are practical ones, not computer-generated.

When Christine gets murderous, her windows turn black. This was Carpenter’s idea, to show Christine’s intent but it also served a practical purpose: to prevent audiences from seeing the driver. On the downside, this meant that the poor dude at the wheel had to drive blind – and, some times, this meant driving through buildings or with the car in flames.

The only thing that wasn’t real about Christine was the roar of the engine. Producers thought the engine sounds of any of the Plymouths they had were not aggressive enough, so they dubbed them in post-production. They used the engine sound of a 1970 Mustang 428 Super Cobra Jet for voiceover, which they chose for being very distinctive, memorable and aggressive: much like Christine herself.

Once asked why he would make a car into the main character of his book, Stephen King said that he chose the Plymouth Fury because it was a “forgotten car.” “I didn’t want a car that already had a legend attached to it, like the ‘50s Thunderbird,” he added.

And this decision, with help from Carpenter’s movie, turned Christine into the most evil movie cars of all time, genuine “fear on wheels.” Happy 35th birthday, darling!



 
 
 
 
 

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