Posts Tagged ‘popularity

28
Apr
14

Christine (1983): Cars, Kids, Parents and Shitters

christine_poster_by_cakes_and_comics-d5ht3mc

“Let me tell you a little something about love, Dennis. It has a voracious appetite. It eats everything. Friendship. Family. It kills me how much it eats.” -Arnie Cunningham, Christine (1983)

a Primal Root written review

It’s all true, the legends are real, and we all must face it at one time or another: Growing up sucks.  When we’re children this is the last thing on our minds as we explore, grow and challenge the world around us. But then there’s those teenage years when the world of adulthood begins to rear it’s ugly head. The prospects of responsibility, paying bills, squelching all aspects of your individuality and creativity in order to fold neatly and unobtrusively into the 9 to 5 rat race world of ass kissing and corporate scumbaggery. The trick is not to fall into that trap so many of us find ourselves in where we become disillusioned, cynical, turning our backs on our dreams, our aspirations and that child of our youth that deserved so much better than us rolling over and letting the world at large stick the societal cock up our ass without lube and ride us the rest of our days. This is the true horror of life, the unspoken tragedy of adulthood.

Enter John Carpenter’s “Christine,” his 1983 adaptation of Stephen King’s BEST SELLING novel. Let me start by saying, yes, I have read the book and I do realize the movie isn’t exactly the book. Let me clarify, this is a completely different artistic medium than literature, this is film, and in the process of adaptation some events and characters must be changed in order to fit this new format.  I think Carpenter delivered a lean, mean, intelligent and heartfelt big screen version of King’s tale of adolescent yearning, the pain of being an outcast, the horrors of high school, and the often disheartening and nasty business of transitioning to adulthood.

 Christine is the story two childhood friends,  Dennis Guilder (John Stockwell) who is living the teen dream as the popular, well built and lusted after captain of the varsity football team who has laid back parents and his own car, and Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon, in a brilliant performance) a stereotypical nerd with greased over hair, thick, black glasses, parents who completely smother him and control his every move and lives a life of constant torment at the hands of the school bully, Buddy Rupperton, who looks to be about 38 years old and seems to live to hurt others along with his squad of goonish  teenage sidekicks. Dennis and Arnie grew up together, and as children, they were equals. But as time went on they both grew into their roles and dropped into their place in high school, teenage pecking order. Despite all this, the two maintain a close friendship, a brother like bond.

Buying-Christine

Arnie is obviously the outsider, ignored by his peers and brutally bullied and picked on by goons like the teenage asshole prototype Buddy Repperton who looks like he’s been held back about ten years and refers to Arnie Cunningham and “Cuntingham.”  Get it?   Repperton and his buddies live to inflict pain and be absolute jerks to anyone who crosses their paths, focusing the thrust of their efforts and ganging up on those who are the weakest and can’t fight back. Arnie does his best to stand up for himself through this humiliating torment, but he often has to rely on his friend Dennis for help. Shit, when it’s four or five blood thirsty teenage cavemen, we could all use a little assistance.  In one intense standoff where Buddy is brandishing a switchblade against the defenseless Arnie, the whole ordeal ends with Arnie getting his glasses stomped upon, Dennis getting his balls squeezed into lemonade and Buddy ending up expelled and lowering death threats at Arnie. Yep, sounds like a typical day in high school to me.

But soon Arnie finds solace and peace of mind in the form of an old, rusted out, Plymouth Fury he spots on the way home with Dennis. “Her name’s Christine.”  Bearded, smelly looking, back brace wearing, old timer George Lebay (Roberts Blossom) informs them as Arnie and Dennis check the death trap of a car out. Lebay reflects on the day his recently deceased brother brought Christine home fresh off the assembly line.  “My asshole brother bought her back in September ’57. That’s when you got your new model year, in September. Brand-new, she was. She had the smell of a brand-new car. That’s just about the finest smell in the world, ‘cept maybe for pussy.” Ah, George Lebay, you are a delight! Best character in the film and he’s got about 5 minutes of screen time.

Of course, Arnie buys the car and drives it home only to find his controlling to the point of it being borderline psychotic Mother refuses to allow him to park it in their drive way and goes total ape shit over the fact that Arnie bought something without consulting her and his Father (mostly her) first.  Dad’s a total pussy and just goes along with what his wife dictates to poor, unfortunate, Arnie who has done everything she’s told him to do his entire life. He defends himself admirably before stomping out of the house, slamming the door and driving his moveable beast over to a local garage owned by seedy businessman Will Darnell (Robert Prosky), another adult who decides to give Arnie a nice little helping of shit, hassling the kid and calling the poor guy a creep before Dennis gives Arnie a ride home where Arnie’s parents are locked and loaded, ready to pulverize Arnie with more verbal abuse. It’s been one Hell of a day for poor, sad, Arnie Cunningham.

Soon, Arnie isn’t around as much. Every spare moment he has he’s at Darnell’s garage working on Christine. The car’s mileage is running backwards, her paint job is restored despite the fact that style of paint isn’t manufactured anymore, and the cracks in her windshield seem to be shrinking. Arnie seems to be changing to, he is cold, distant, loses his glasses and is soon dating the hot new girl in school whom all the boys lust for, Leigh Cabot (Alexandra Paul), which still baffles me when there’s the voluptuous, gorgeous head cheerleader Roseanne (Kelly Preston) around who looks to be up for getting down and dirty. Anyhoo, Dennis ends up getting severely injured and nearly paralyzed during a football game and ends up int he hospital for several months.  This gives him a perfect vantage point to witness Arnie’s strange behavior and disturbing changes in character as Arnie drops by sporadically to visit and his spirit becomes darker, meaner.

Arnie

Before long Christine is in tip=top shape and is the envy of everyone at school. Even Leigh becomes jealous of all the attention Arnie lavishes on Christine. This would be really stupid if it weren’t for the fact Christine is actually full of evil and tries to kill Leigh at the Drive-In by making her choke on a delicious hamburger in a creepy yet somewhat hysterical scene. Sorry, I know I shouldn’t laugh, but Leigh’s chocking face is kind of comical. I know, I’m going to Hell.  Thankfully, a nearby Drive-In patron is there to save Leigh in time while Arnie fumbles with Christine’s door handle.

Christine also catches the eye of Buddy Repperton, the local asshole, and his crew of violent idiots. The decide to break into Darnell’s garage after hours and totally destroy Christine in a scene that’s tantamount to a gang rape.  The teens bash Christine to pieces with led pipes, sledgehammers, and knives. One even pauses to drop his trousers and drop a Cleveland steamer right on Christine’s dash. This scene is a testament to all those horrible human beings int her world who crave pleasure by hurting others. Watching these complete scumbags work over Christine is infuriating and makes you crave vengeance. When Arnie and Leigh walk into Darnell’s garage and find his beloved Christine in pieces, Arnie’s reaction is completely understandable if  not a bit savage. When Leigh goes to comfort Arnie he lashes out at her, screaming at her, calling her a “shitter.”

Suddenly, Christine has become a rape revenge film. Christine reforms herself in a matter f seconds with the coaxing of her teenage lover, Arnie and it’s off to the races as Christine begins killing off each of her rapists one by one. Arnie, in the midst of he and Christine’s nightly killing sprees, visits Dennis and is creepily unhinged, making jokes about the recent death of a fellow classmate who took part in trying to demolish the unkillable Christine.  When interrogated about the incident by Detective Rudolph Junkins (Harry Dean Stanton, never anything less than outstanding), the detective mentions how the murdered young man had to be scraped of the ground with a shovel to which Arnie replies “Isn’t that what you do with shit? Scrap it off the ground with a shovel?” Way to maintain your innocence, Arnie. Please, next time, go grab your attorney.

Everyone knows Arnie and Christine are to blame for this rash of killings and all those who love and care for Arnie the most are those who are in danger, the ones Christine has manipulated Arnie into believing are “The Shitters” of the world. Those who want to keep Arnie from being with Christine,  the one thing that is his, the one thing that gave him unconditional love in return.  It will all lead to a final confrontation at Darnell’s Garage, but who’s motor will be left running when all is said and done?

FlamingChristine

At the end of the day, cars aren’t very scary. They are inanimate objects that require human interaction for them to work. They are tools to be utilized.  However, John Carpenter makes it work by relying one very trick in his film making vocabulary. He focuses more on the human aspects of the story and concentrates on making all the moments between the human players feeling almost painfully genuine. As a film goer, I’ve seen few movies, horror or otherwise, that portray high school and the experience of being a teenager with such bleak, gritty, unfiltered honesty. This time in your life can really suck, and I am sure many of us can relate, even if it is only a little bit, with Arnie Cunningham, the kid who has tried so hard to please everyone and put up with all the bullshit constantly shoved in his face, that when he finally finds that one thing that he falls in love with and loves him back, in this case, cherry red evil on wheels that speaks to him through hand picked oldies radio selections, he loses himself totally to this seduction, this perceived love.

 Christine can be interpreted many different ways. At face value, it’s simply a story of possession at the hands of an evil monster car, which is one fantastic B-Movie concept. But here, in the hands of John Carpenter and screenwriter Bill Phillips, Christine offers up so much more than that.  I’ve heard a lot of folks compare Christine to a fable about drug addiction, and I can certainly see the what they mean.  Arnie finds the one thing in life that brightens his life, gives it some kind of meaning outside of the expectations of others and he follows that road of self destruction to it’s sad, tragic ending.  It totally makes sense and I think that interpretation is entirely valid.

I’ve always seen the film as a horrible tale of growing up and away from the kid you once were. Being shaped by those around you and letting their behavior and treatment of you shape you into something you never wanted to be. Bullied, beaten down, mistreated and an outcast, Christine represents Arnie’s out, but also, as the model of the care suggests, the embracing of Arnie’s internal fury, the cynical side, the  insecure, self deprecated side which has been nurtured by those around him his the gasoline and Christine is the spark that begins Arnie’s transformation into adulthood, and into a man those around him hardly recognize. A cold, uncaring, mean spirited loner who murders those he, and Christine, perceive as a threat.  Christine is most assuredly a form of evil on wheels, but she unlocks something that already existed in Arnie. A teenager who was a really good guy, but always taken advantage of, picked on and made to feel inferior.  At one point int he story Arnie says a chilling line to Dennis while visiting him at the hospital;  ” Has it ever occurred to you that part of being a parent is trying to kill your kids?”  It’s a perfect,  if dramatic summation of the child vs. parent in a strict, repressive household. Where individuality is squelched rather than cultivated and the goals and standards of the parent are enforced rather than ever taking into account what their child wants or is passionate about.  So is the world of adults, and once Arnie crosses that threshold, there’s no turning back. He can bully just like those who bullied him and he can attack with the same amount of verbal venom as his overbearing mother.  His parents took for granted the sweet, subservient son they had and now he’s gone forever.

Sorry to go off on a tangent there, if you’ve read my reviews before, I’m sure you used to it. Christine isn’t all teenage horror melodrama, the film actually boasts a wicked, intelligent sense of humor that helps keep the energy level up and the proceedings a pleasure to watch. One of my favorite aspects of the film is Christine’s ability to play the most appropriate oldies possible in any given situation . someone tries breaking into her? “Keep A-Knockin’, but you can’t come in!” Little Richard begins wailing.  Someone tries to destroy Christine? “Rock and Roll is Here to Stay” by Danny and The Juniors starts blasting from the stereo system. It’s a clever and cool way to give Christine her own unique voice.

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Also, Christine features one of John Carpenter’s great, sparse synth scores and it’s used to great effect. The theme begins with a wind blowing, giving way to a high pitched whistle where one is immediately filled with a feeling of dread, growing anticipation and given the impression that there’s something truly sinister at work here. This whistling slowly gives way to a sweeter, more charming melody, but it’s played in dwindling, soft, somber tones. It’s the sound of childhood innocence dying away, a void opening up, where an adolescent is susceptible and easily corrupted. It’s a slow, yet blazingly brilliant score that’s both sad and frightening and fits Carpenter’s vision of Christine perfectly.

My biggest disappointment with Carpenter’s Christine is that Arnie’s parents vanish in the final third of the film.  After playing such a pivotal part in the majority of the film it’s a real disappointment that we never get to see them grieve or react to what happens to Arnie in the climax. It’s a real let down that these characters are built up through the film only to be completely removed in the final act and given no pay-off, no closure. Also, the death of Buddy Reperton seems a little anticlimactic. That guy got off easy, if you ask me.

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I know Christine was never really embraced by either John Carpenter or Stephen King fans,  but I’ve always felt this is one of the better King adaptations and among Carpenter’s most underrated films.  The visual of Christine barreling down the highway engulfed in flames is the stuff of nightmares, but the moments where Arnie is confronted by the onslaught of human cruelty is a deeply troubling depiction of the nightmare of reality. It’s a beautifully shot film with a flawless score, some astoundingly cool practical effects and a cast that all deliver performances above and beyond the call of duty. However,  Christine belongs to Keith Gordon. His performance at Arnie Cunningham is excellent and witnessing the character’s transformation is haunting and heart breaking.  Christine, the drop dead gorgeous, cherry red, Plymouth Fury is certainly the eye candy of the piece, but it’s all the human talent in front of and behind the camera that really make hitching a ride with Christine a trip though teenage Hell worth taking.

I give this sucker Four and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets

Stay Trashy!

-Root

04
Jan
14

Chatterbox (1977) Little Bit of Lip Service

 

chatterbox

a Primal Root written review

Ah, vaginas.  The warm, wondrous realm from which so much feminine magic resides.  Men and women both lust for it, strive for it, Hell epic battles have even been fought over it. They can be lovely or horrendous, loving or cruel, healing or deadly. Vaginas can lead us deep inside a woman’s being, still, how much will you come away knowing?  When comparing the sexual organs of both genders, the vagina is  the cradle of seductive, tantalizing questions. The cock and it’s dangling balls are easy to read and interpret. There they are, out in the open for the whole world to see. When we’re ready to rock, that fellow stands at the ready. When we orgasm, we blast a ghostly jet of liquid baby. But the vagina…things are never quite so clear. Perhaps some wetness when a lady is sexually aroused, but orgasms are so often only known to the woman herself, and taken on their word by her partner. Well, what if that vagina started talking to you? You know, started cracking wise,  quipping away during your first date, and perhaps belting out the oldies as you sat down to brunch? What might her vagina say?

This is the premise of Tom DeSimone’s 1977 bizarre comedy musical “Chatterbox” a film which wastes no time setting up the premise. In fact, the very first line of dialog is the young, gorgeous, beautician Penelope’s vagina blurting out put downs to the gentleman she just had unfulfilling sex with.  Of course, the fragile male ego is quickly bruised as Penelope tries to stifle the rude, aggressive voice emanating from her most intimate of female body cavities. See, Penelope would never complain or put down her sexual partner for not helping her to reach climax, but her vagina seemingly has no filter and no concern for feeling’s being hurt. He suitor rushes out of Penelope’s apartment in a hurry and she is left with a vagina that can’t stop running it’s mouth. The following day at Penelope’s hairstylist job she inadvertently seduces a lesbian client due to her vagina’s flirtatious tongue and the two end up going at it and are only halted when her boss, Rip Taylor (of all people) walks in and fires her on the spot.

chatterbox look

Obviously, her new, chatty little vagina is quickly ruining her low key existence. When she goes to her therapist, Dr. Pearl, and shows him first hand the otherworldly abilities of her nether regions, rather than offer her aid, he sees a golden opportunity to cash in on Penelope’s peculiar talent and quickly put her one stage, nude for the whole world to see  and enjoy this new medical wonder he has discovered! For a price, of course.  Before you know it, Penelope’s singing vagina, now named Virginia, has become an overnight sensation! the world cannot stop clamoring for my lip service from her moist, pink,  lady bits! Her disapproving mother walks in on a nude modeling session, no doubt for the latest issue of Vogue, and raises holy Hell! That is, until she witnesses first hand the amount of money Penelope’s singing vagina brings in. My, how money changes things…

In fact, half way though the movie Penelope’s vagina, Virginia, seems to become a separate entity all together, no longer a part of Penelope herself. Through it all, Penelope looks uncomfortable, harried and totally unhappy with the superstar lifestyle her vagina has afforded her. Hell, from the beginning she simply wanted her pussy to shut the fuck up, not become a world wide phenomenon! The poor woman is even forced onto a dating show where it seems she might find some solace in a studly young buck she goes home with, but to no avail, this guy just wants to fuck her while wearing a suit of medieval armor and then kicks her to the curb.

Penelope’s situation comes to a head when she is on the set of her first starring role in a major motion picture based on her singing baby factory after Dr. Pearl snatches her a five picture deal with a film studio.  As men dressed as roosters and peacocks dance ballet and sing along with Penelope’s vagina as it wails out her big hit “Wang Dang Doodle” , Penelope finally suffers a nervous breakdown and runs out of the studio, across the lot and off to an uncertain future, much to the chagrin off all those profiting from her unique talents.

chatterbox title

Chatterbox is pretty goddamn funny and has charm to spare. This charm is heavily supplies by Candice Rialson  in the role of Penelope,  our doe eyed, innocent protagonist who is taken for all she’s worth once her talking, singing, spotlight stealing vagina is accepted into pop culture as the next big thing. Candice is a scene stealer, not only is her delivery spot on, her reaction to everything happening to her comes off as adorably honest, if not completely air-headed.  She a young woman with a big heart that is totally over shadowed by the presence of her talkative genitals. Despite her trash talking cooter, it’s Candice as Penelope whom you can;t keep your eyes off of.  She also has copious nude sequences and of the most beautiful pair of breasts I’ve ever witnessed in cinema.  Now that’s worth the price of admission alone, but thankfully, they also belong to a damn fine comedic actress in an above average gonzo comedy.

Now, the intent and underlying message of Chatterbox is something I couldn’t quite pinpoint.  Is this a women’s lib or feminist flick? Or is it  misogynistic? Sure, Penelope’s vagina is gifted, but it brings unwanted attention, in fact, it looks like Penelope is being tormented most of the time and would rather be anywhere than standing on stage with her legs spread for the whole world to see and hear.  People lose sight of Penelope herself and end up only caring about Virginia, as that’s really what’s bringing them success  and notoriety.  Now, Penelope’s vagina blurts out what we can only assume are her most secret thoughts and desires, the ones she would never say otherwise. Often, these outbursts are to the detriment of her personal life when Virginia complains about a lover’s performance or hits on the sexy lesbian woman whose hair Penelope is trimming. But is this some empowerment or invasion of privacy? Did Penelope want this or just her vagina? It’s a strange film in the respect that it bring up some interesting questions and offers no readily available easy answers. Shit, I;m probably thinking too much into a movie about a singing vagina made by  a man who directed nothing but gay porn up until this point. Then again, Tom DeSimone did go on to make two of my favorite Trash Cinema flicks 1981’s “Hell Night” and 1986’s “Reform School Girls”, both of which are far above average in the respective genres. I like the think the gentleman knows a something about what he’s doing.

One thing is certain, DeSimone crafted one far out, whacky and hilarious Trash Cinema comedy with his “Chatterbox.”   the film manages to balance it’s comedic sensibilities  with it’s risque, often sexy subject matter fantastically well. On what appears do be a modest budget, “Chatterbox” delivers the goods, and then some, with a clever concept, story, a wonderful leading leading lady, unabashed creativity and never losing sight of it’s humanity. Seriously, for a talking vagina flick, could you ever hope for more?

this one comes highly recommended. I give it Four and a Half out of Five Dumpster Nuggets.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 

 




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