Welcome to Fraser Fast Facts • Vol. 1, Issue 38
She'll love you, possess you, and then destroy you.
Enjoy this first installment of "Scary Cars", our October series
Set in 1978, Christine chronicles how a possessed 1958 Plymouth Fury named Christine impacts the lives of Arnie Cunningham and those around him. Possessed by a demon spirit, hellbent on destroying anyone who does the car, or its owner, wrong.
Although the car in the movie is identified as a 1958 Plymouth Fury – two other Plymouth models, the Belvedere and the Savoy, were used to portray Christine onscreen. John Carpenter placed ads throughout Southern California searching for models of the car, and was able to purchase twenty-four of them in various states of disrepair. These were used to build seventeen Christines.
Only 5,303 total 1958 Plymouth Furys were produced. They were difficult to find and expensive to buy at the time, and only came in one color, “Sandstone White” with a “Buckskin Beige” interior. They had a 350 cu. in. V-8 with 10:1 compression, 300 horsepower, a three-speed TorqueFlite push-button transmission, and weighed in at 3,500 lbs.
The original Furies had anodized gold trim on the body and Fury script on the rear fender. In order to circumvent the issue of finding and obtaining the rare trim, the Christines were all fitted with the more common Belvedere “Dartline” trim. All of the Fury, Savoy, and Belvedere models were dressed to look as close to exactly the same, as possible. Just one ’57 Savoy was used, its front end modified to look like a ’58.
A different Christine was used depending on what happened in particular scenes. There were fortified Christines for stunts; Christines with souped-up engines; and spotless, camera-ready Christines. There was, of course, the destroyable Christines, and the “regenerating” one as well.
Sadly, the sound coming from Christine’s engine isn’t a Plymouth Fury at all. The production team recorded T far-more aggressive-sounding engine of a 1970 Mustang 428 Super Cobra Jet instead.
There were some movie mistakes about Christine. During Leigh’s choking scene, Christine is shown to have the common vertical lock “buttons” on the inside door panels. Plymouth-Chrysler vehicles of this era were not equipped with such buttons. To lock the door, the door handle has to be pushed downward. King also mentions a shift lever for the automatic transmission, but in real life it had push-button controls.
Originally, there was no plan to film the car’s regeneration scenes. After production finished, Carpenter gave special effects supervisor Roy Arbogast three weeks to devise a way for the car to rebuild itself. Arbogast and his team made soft plastic molds from one of the cars, including a whole front end. Then the car was stripped of its engine and interior to install hydraulics pumps and cables that, when actuated, sucked in the panel sides in to result in bent and deformed damage. The footage of the crumpling car was then played in reverse, making it appear like Christine was fixing herself. A low-tech, non-CGI effect that stands today as excellent special effects work.
King selected a 1958 Plymouth Fury as the story’s central villain because it was a “forgotten car,” and, the model name seemed to fit its angry disposition fairly well.
Fraser Fast Facts
- The scenes in Christine may seem familiar because director John Carpenter also filmed 1978’s Halloween in the same neighborhood in South Pasadena, California, five years earlier.
- The production team built a gas station just to blow it up.
- Author Stephen King was so popular Christine went into production before the book was even published.
- Kevin Bacon was originally offered the lead role, but was already committed to Footloose .
Scott Baio was considered to play Arnie, and Brooke Shields for Leigh. But “unknowns” were cast to save money for building Christine(s).
- 15% of the film’s entire budget was spent on buying 23, and creating 16 Plymouth Fury Christines. Some of which were Belvederes and Savoys.
- Christine’s license plate begins with “CQB” which stands for “Close Quarters Battle”.
- All cars were filmed with stunt drivers. There were no remote controls used.
- “Evil” Christine cars had blacked-out windows, except a small area covered with window tint, where the stunt driver could see forward. They had no side or rear vision.
- The infamous “burning Christine”, was achieved by covering one of the cars with rubber cement and lighting it on fire.
- The movie technically didn’t have enough violence back then to justify an “R” rating, but afraid a Stephen King movie with a PG rating wouldn’t draw a crowd. To fix it, they simply had the work “f*ck”, along with other derivatives, uttered by the cast, thus pumping the MPAA rating up to “R”.
Thinking about building a replica with an american-made engine? Fraser has the right engine ready for you!