15 Facts About John Carpenter’s Christine

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Start your engines for the scariest Stephen King adaptation courtesy of the master of horror, John Carpenter. While Christine isn’t the most high-profile release in either King or Carpenter’s careers, the movie about an evil 1958 Plymouth Fury that possesses its owner remains a beloved cult classic that still spins the wheels of horror fans to this day. Here are some facts about Christine, which turns 35 this year.

1. STEPHEN KING PITCHED THE MOVIE TO GET MADE.

Producer Richard Kobritz helped adapt Stephen King’s novel Salem’s Lot as a TV miniseries in 1979, and the author asked Kobritz whether he’d be up for adapting any more of his works. King initially sent the producer the manuscript for Cujo, which Kobritz didn’t like (the book would eventually be published in 1981 with a movie adaptation also in 1983). When he passed on that, King sent over the manuscript for Christine, which Kobritz optioned because he identified with how it inverted "America's obsession with the motorcar."

2. JOHN CARPENTER SIGNED ON SIMPLY BECAUSE HE WANTED A JOB.

Kobritz approached John Carpenter after the critical and financial failure of his 1982 adaptation of The Thing, which is now widely regarded as one of the filmmaker’s best.

The pair previously worked together on Carpenter’s 1978 TV movie Someone’s Watching Me! and Carpenter agreed to take on the project because he wanted to jump immediately into another movie after his first high-profile box office flop.

3. CARPENTER AND THE SCREENWRITER WERE STEPHEN KING VETERANS.

Christine wasn’t Carpenter’s first foray into adapting the twisted mind of Stephen King. He was originally supposed to direct the adaptation of Firestarter, but was fired from the project because of the poor performance of The Thing. (Firestarter was eventually released in 1984 and directed by Mark L. Lester.)

Carpenter’s screenwriter on his version of Firestarter was Bill Phillips, who jumped ship once Carpenter was let go and joined up as the screenwriter on Christine once Kobritz hired Carpenter.

4. HORROR HITS AT THE TIME FORCED CHANGES TO THE SCRIPT.

In King’s book, Christine is seemingly haunted by her former owner, Roland D. LeBay, who appears to mild-mannered nerd Arnie in the backseat of the car as a rotting corpse taunting the car’s new owner.

Phillips, looking to distinguish his script from the book—as well as preemptively cut costs for what would inevitably be an expensive corpse effect—chose to cut Roland from the movie and instead have LeBay’s younger brother George sell Christine to Arnie.

Phillips also made the cut because a talking corpse taunting a movie’s main character was also used in John Landis’s 1981 horror-comedy classic An American Werewolf in London, when Griffin Dunne haunts his best friend, David Naughton’s protagonist character, and he didn’t want to seem redundant.

5. HIT SONGS PLAYED A PART IN SCRIPT CHANGES, TOO.

Each of the chapters in King’s book begins with a corresponding 1950s rock n' roll lyric, which inspired Phillips to include rock music cues written directly into scenes in his script. But he wanted to include a more contemporary song to set the tone for the movie. He found it when he saw the music video for “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood and the Destroyers playing on MTV. (Christine ended up being the first movie to use the song, which has now been used in countless movies and TV shows since.)

Carpenter loved the song so much that he invited Thorogood to have a cameo in the film as one of the junkyard employees at the end of the movie, but he chose to cut the scene because Thorogood’s acting wasn’t good enough.

As was his normal approach, Carpenter also wrote the electronic score with collaborator Alan Howarth, which they completely improvised to the final cut of the movie. The score shares similar themes with the infamous 1982 Michael Myers-less sequel, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which Carpenter produced and also wrote the music for with Howarth.

6. THE STUDIO WANTED A HARD R RATING.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Columbia Pictures wanted to take advantage of the ratings system and King’s reputation to have Christine be a hard-R-rated movie. But Carpenter specifically joined the project to get away from the blood, guts, and splatter that defined his previous movie, The Thing. Plus, most of the car-related carnage in Christine doesn’t involve gore.

So to achieve the MPAA rating the studio wanted, Carpenter simply had Phillips expound upon King’s colorful curse words used in the book to have the high school-aged characters constantly swear.

7. CARPENTER DIDN’T WANT TO CAST MOVIE STARS.

Columbia execs wanted a star-studded cast to round out their King adaptation, and suggested that Brooke Shields—coming off the hit film The Blue Lagoonbe cast as Leigh, and Scott Baio be cast as Arnie. But Carpenter didn’t want recognizable faces in the movie as a way to stress that the titular car was the real star of the movie.

8. KEVIN BACON WAS ORIGINALLY CAST AS ARNIE.

Carpenter held auditions in California and New York, looking for the right fresh faces for the teen characters in the film, and he found the perfect newcomer for Arnie: Kevin Bacon.

The now-famous actor’s only other significant work at the time was bit parts in Animal House and Friday the 13th, and Kobritz and Carpenter thought Arnie’s transformation from dweeby hero to suave villain was a perfect fit for Bacon. But after being cast, Bacon dropped out when he was offered a starring role in Footloose.

Carpenter went back the the drawing board to cast Arnie, and eventually found actor Keith Gordon in a play in New York City. Carpenter initially took to Gordon as Arnie because of the actor’s previous appearance in Brian De Palma’s thriller Dressed to Kill.

9. CARPENTER HAD A DRIVING MISHAP ON HIS FIRST DAY.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

The assembly-line opening of the movie was the first scene shot for Christine, but the director almost didn’t make it to the set. On the way to the massive warehouse in the San Fernando Valley where they were shooting the scene, which had been outfitted to look like a post-World War II Detroit factory, Carpenter was pulled over by the highway patrol because they thought he was drunk or speeding. Carpenter eventually made it, and was able to get the shots for the day.

Christine’s origin story sequence was the only part of the movie shot on Fuji film to give it a softer, more period-appropriate look. The rest of the movie was shot using Kodak film to make the scenes sharper and more contemporary.

10. THE PRODUCTION REUSED A KEY SET.

Darnell’s Auto Body Shop was shot at a massive warehouse space previously used as a wire factory during World War II, and located in Irwindale, California—and it was more than just a set. Production designers used half of the space to stand in as the actual garage and junkyard, but the other half was used as a body shop to assemble and fix the numerous versions of Christine used in the actual movie.

11. CARPENTER’S DIRECTING STYLE WAS INSPIRED BY HIS ROVING MOVIE MONSTER.

In his genre-defining classic Halloween, Carpenter was among the first filmmakers to use the Panaglide camera system, a predecessor to the ubiquitous Steadicam system used today that allows handheld shots to seamlessly glide anywhere the operator chooses.

Carpenter revisited the technique extensively in Christine, relying on the Panaglide and long dolly shots for the visual aesthetic of the movie with the movement of the camera representing the relentless and rolling nature of Christine.

12. THERE WAS A CAR FOR EVERYTHING.

Since there were no big expensive movie stars in the film, Carpenter allotted a large portion of the budget toward 17 different versions of Christine created for the movie.

Those 17 complete cars were reassembled from 24 different models of the 1958 Plymouth Fury the production tracked down and refurbished from across the country in pre-production. A different Christine was used depending on what happened in particular scenes. The special effects team, led by supervisor Roy Arbogast—known for his work on Close Encounters of the Third Kindput together reinforced Christines for stunts; Christines with souped-up engines; spotless, camera-ready Christines and more.

All but two of the 17 Christines made for the movie were destroyed.

13. CHRISTINE’S RESURRECTION HAPPENED AFTER PRODUCTION WRAPPED.

Carpenter originally had the scene where Christine resurrects herself in front of Arnie happen offscreen, but a lack of special effects in an initial cut made Carpenter think some needed to be added. He asked Arbogast to create the pre-CGI effects of Christine going from completely trashed to totally spotless after production wrapped.

The effect was achieved by hitting carefully placed hydraulic clamps positioned inside one of the Christines, filming it upside down so the gravity would trick the eye into thinking it looked more real, and playing the footage backwards in the final film.

14. KEITH GORDON WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN CHOOSING HIS WARDROBE.

Gordon was initially given contemporary wardrobe to wear as Arnie, but after reading the script he helped develop his character’s fashion changes as he becomes more and more possessed by Christine.

Gordon suggested that as his character becomes more evil, his wardrobe should become more and more over-the-top to reflect his crazed mental state. At Gordon’s suggestion, as the movie progresses, Arnie’s clothes add more deep reds to the color scheme (just like Christine), and become a mix between a 1950s greaser and a bad guy in a western.

15. THE PRODUCTION BUILT A GAS STATION JUST TO DESTROY IT.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Stunt coordinator Terry Leonard, perhaps best known for doubling Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones movies, did most of the stunt driving for Christine. Most notably, Leonard supervised and was the driver for the gas station sequence where the entire building explodes and a flame-covered Christine careens out of the destruction to chase down school bully Buddy Repperton (played by then-actor William Ostrander, who is currently a Democratic candidate for District 35 of the California State Assembly).

Throughout the sequence, Leonard wore a fireproof suit equipped with limited oxygen to keep him safe for the duration of the stunt. Given the blacked out windshield and side windows of the evil Christine, Leonard had to complete the stunt without being able to see anything.

Amazon's Best Black Friday Deals: Tech, Video Games, Kitchen Appliances, Clothing, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Black Friday is finally here, and Amazon is offering great deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

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Instant Pot/Amazon

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Roomba/Amazon

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Sony

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Microsoft/Amazon

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Apple/Amazon

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Beats/Amazon

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HBO/Amazon

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Amazon

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Casper/Amazon

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Haus/Amazon

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Ganni/Amazon

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12 Spirited Facts About How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Each year, millions of Americans welcome the holiday season by tuning into their favorite TV specials. For most people, this includes at least one viewing of the 1966 animated classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Adapted from Dr. Seuss’s equally famous children’s book by legendary animator Chuck Jones, How the Grinch Stole Christmas first aired more than 50 years ago, on December 18, 1966. Here are 12 facts about the TV special that will surely make your heart grow three sizes this holiday season.

1. Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel And Chuck Jones previously worked together on Army training videos.

During World War II, Geisel joined the United States Army Air Forces and served as commander of the Animation Department for the First Motion Picture Unit, a unit tasked with creating various training and pro-war propaganda films. It was here that Geisel soon found himself working closely with Chuck Jones on an instructional cartoon called Private Snafu. Originally classified as for-military-personnel-only, Private Snafu featured a bumbling protagonist who helped illustrate the dos and don’ts of Army safety and security protocols.

2. It was because of their previous working relationship that Ted Geisel agreed to hand over the rights to The Grinch to Chuck Jones.

After several unpleasant encounters in relation to his previous film work—including the removal of his name from credits and instances of pirated redistribution—Geisel became notoriously “anti-Hollywood.” Because of this, he was reluctant to sell the rights to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. However, when Jones personally approached him about making an adaptation, Geisel relented, knowing he could trust Jones and his vision.

3. Even with Ted Geisel’s approval, the special almost didn’t happen.

By Al Ravenna, World Telegram staff photographer - Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Whereas today’s studios and production companies provide funding for projects of interest, television specials of the past, like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, had to rely on company sponsorship in order to get made. While A Charlie Brown Christmas found its financier in the form of Coca-Cola, How the Grinch Stole Christmas struggled to find a benefactor. With storyboards in hand, Jones pitched the story to more than two dozen potential sponsors—breakfast foods, candy companies, and the like—all without any luck. Down to the wire, Jones finally found his sponsor in an unlikely source: the Foundation for Commercial Banks. “I thought that was very odd, because one of the great lines in there is that the Grinch says, ‘Perhaps Christmas doesn’t come from a store,’” Jones said of the surprise endorsement. “I never thought of a banker endorsing that kind of a line. But they overlooked it, so we went ahead and made the picture.”

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas had a massive budget.

Coming in at over $300,000, or $2.2 million in today’s dollars, the special’s budget was unheard of at the time for a 26-minute cartoon adaptation. For comparison’s sake, A Charlie Brown Christmas’s budget was reported as $96,000, or roughly $722,000 today (and this was after production had gone $20,000 over the original budget).

5. Ted Geisel wrote the song lyrics for the special.

No one had a way with words quite like Dr. Seuss, so Jones felt that Geisel should provide the lyrics to the songs featured in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

6. Fans requested translations of the “Fahoo Foraze” song.

True to his persona’s tongue-twisting trickery, Geisel mimicked sounds of classical Latin in his nonsensical lyrics. After the special aired, viewers wrote to the network requesting translations of the song as they were convinced that the lyrics were, in fact, real Latin phrases.

7. Thurl Ravenscroft didn’t receive credit for his singing of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

The famous voice actor and singer, best known for providing the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, wasn’t recognized for his work in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Because of this, most viewers wrongly assumed that the narrator of the special, Boris Karloff, also sang the piece in question. Upset by this oversight, Geisel personally apologized to Ravenscroft and vowed to make amends. Geisel went on to pen a letter, urging all the major columnists that he knew to help him rectify the mistake by issuing a notice of correction in their publications.

8. Chuck Jones had to find ways to fill out the 26-minute time slot.

Because reading the book out loud only takes about 12 minutes, Jones was faced with the challenge of extending the story. For this, he turned to Max the dog. “That whole center section where Max is tied up to the sleigh, and goes down through the mountainside, and has all those problems getting down there, was good comic business as it turns out,” Jones explained in TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas special, which is a special feature on the movie’s DVD. “But it was all added; it was not part of the book.” Jones would go on to name Max as his favorite character from the special, as he felt that he directly represented the audience.

9. The Grinch’s green coloring was inspired by a rental car.

Warner Home Video

In the original book, the Grinch is illustrated as black and white, with hints of pink and red. Rumor has it that Jones was inspired to give the Grinch his iconic coloring after he rented a car that was painted an ugly shade of green.

10. Ted Geisel thought the Grinch looked like Chuck Jones.

When Geisel first saw Jones’s drawings of the Grinch, he exclaimed, “That doesn’t look like the Grinch, that looks like you!” Jones’s response, according to TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas Special: “Well, it happens.”

11. At one point, the special received a “censored” edit.

Over the years, How the Grinch Stole Christmas has been edited in order to shorten its running time (in order to allow for more commercials). However, one edit—which ran for several years—censored the line “You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch” from the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Additionally, the shot in which the Grinch smiles creepily just before approaching the bed filled with young Whos was deemed inappropriate for certain networks and was removed.

12. The special’s success led to both a prequel and a crossover special.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Given the popularity of the Christmas special, two more Grinch tales were produced: Halloween is Grinch Night and The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat. Airing on October 29, 1977, Halloween is Grinch Night tells the story of the Grinch making his way down to Whoville to scare all the Whos on Halloween. In The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat, which aired on May 20, 1982, the Grinch finds himself wanting to renew his mean spirit by picking on the Cat in the Hat. Unlike the original, neither special was deemed a classic. But this is not to say they weren’t well-received; in fact, both went on to win Emmy Awards.