Fear on wheels: 10 things you may not know about Christine
Stephen King taught us some important lessons while ascending to his rightful place as America’s most prolific author of horror and supernatural fiction. For instance: don’t dump pig’s blood on Carrie, never stay at The Shining’s Overlook Hotel (Here’s Johnny!”), and for goodness sake, tread lightly when dealing with a 1958 Plymouth Fury named Christine.
King’s characters didn’t have the benefit of hindsight, however, and their misfortunes still haunt many of us to this day. And for classic car lovers, no King story resonates quite like the “fear on four wheels” that we experienced on the pages of Christine—or better yet, in the 1983 film of the same name. Even the movie trailer raises the hair on the backs of our necks.
King takes the classic tale of boy-meets-girl to frightening heights when a geeky teenager named Arnie falls for a red Plymouth Fury with a sketchy past. Christine falls hard for Arnie, too, which would be roses and balloon drops if it weren’t for one tiny detail: the car is a killing machine with a long memory and a short fuse. Moral of the story: Never underestimate the fury of a Fury, particularly one that just…won’t…die.
As we hand out Halloween candy to all the little ghosts and goblins out there, here’s a little something for big kids: 10 things you may not know about the Christine movie:
- More than 20 cars were required to play the role of Christine (anywhere from 23–28, depending on the source), and not all of them were Furys. Columbia Pictures placed ads across the country and gobbled up not only Furys, but Belvederes and Savoys, as well. The majority were used on screen, and the rest served as parts cars.
- When filming wrapped, only a few unscathed cars remained, and they went on the road to promote the film before being sold to collectors. A fourth car also escaped the crusher and ended up in private hands. One of the movie cars sold for $198,000 at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction in January 2015. By comparison, our Hagerty Valuation Tool lists the average value of a 1958 Plymouth Fury in #2 (excellent) condition at $47,700.
- King said he chose a 1958 Plymouth Fury as the story’s central figure because it was a “forgotten car.” The fact that the model name seems to fit its angry disposition is purely coincidental. “I didn’t want a car that already had a legend attached to it, like the ’50s Thunderbird,” King said.
- The movie’s opening scene, showing Christine moving along a Detroit assembly line, wasn’t in King’s book; screenwriter Bill Phillips added it. The movie, by the way, went into production before the novel was released.
- Whenever Christine goes into a rage, the car’s windows are blacked out to accentuate its evilness, but the darkened glass also served a higher purpose—you couldn’t see the stunt driver. The problem was, those scenes were filmed primarily at night, which made it even more difficult for the driver to see.
- The illusion of Christine regenerating herself was created using hydraulic pumps inside the car that were attached to the sides of a plastic-paneled body double. The pumps sucked in the sides to create the damaged version of the car, and then the film was reversed, making it appear like the car was fixing itself.
- The sound we hear from Christine’s engine isn’t a Plymouth Fury. Filmmakers recorded the engine of a 1970 Mustang 428 Super Cobra Jet and used that instead.
- Speaking of memorable sounds, the F-word was used a lot in the dialogue, reportedly because executives thought no one would pay to see a horror film if it was rated PG, and there wasn’t enough violence to warrant an R rating.
- Partly to save money, filmmakers cast unknowns in the lead roles, although Scott Baio and Brooke Shields were originally considered. Some better-known actors and actresses (recognizable today, at least) appeared in the film, including Harry Dean Stanton, Robert Prosky, and Kelly Preston. It was Preston’s third movie role; she was 20 during filming. Kevin Bacon, virtually unknown at the time, was offered the lead role of Arnie, but he chose to play Ren McCormack in the blockbuster Footloose instead. Well, that certainly worked out well.
- If watching Christine gives you a sense of déjà vu, it’s because director John Carpenter also filmed 1978’s Halloween in the same neighborhood in South Pasadena, California, five years earlier. (Incidentally, Carpenter refused to attend Christine’s premiere, thinking his presence might be bad luck.)