CHRISTINE Driver a Nervous Nellie at the Wheel in N.Y.
By Martin Burden
A car races down the highway, smashes into other cars, careens into passersby, akids on the wet pavement. An average day on the Long Island Expressway? Maybe but also a 1958 Plymouth Fury named CHRISTINE, evil from its headlights to its tailpipe, in the film of the same name.
And if you buy that idea, you'll understand why Keith Gordon, co-star of the film (surely CHRISTINE should get top billing, too) thinks it'll do well.
Gordon-a New Yorker who wouldn't think of owning a car here, with all this dangerous traffic-figures CHRISTINE is "tongue in cheek, almost a comedy. Not a ha-ha comedy but with a macabre sense of humor about itself. It's not a traditional horror film with a lot of blood. It's actually a pretty mild film by comparison to some shockingly scary film."
Especially when you know it's from a book by Stephen King, who wrote FIRESTARTER, THE DEAD ZONE, CUJO, CARRIE, THE SHINING and other shockers-turned-movies.
Gordon plays a teenage nebbish who has trouble opening his school locker, can't talk to girls. Suddenly he sees this old hulk of a car, and he becomes a combination Mr. Goodwrench and demon Don Juan. And scores in both departments.
To get the collectors' item cars for CHRISTINE ads were put in newspapers around the country. The film staff collected 14 vintage '58 Furies; 11 are shown being burned up, smashed to bits and sledge-hammered into fragments. And always, before the camera's astonished eye, seemingly returning to showroom condition.
By running the film backward? Gordon smiled. "I won't deny that," he said. "But I've been asked not to comment on it."
Ironically, CHRISTINE opened last week on the same day as SCARFACE, starring Al Pacino. Gordon, now 22, played opposite Pacino on Broadway in "Richard III" in '79.
"Al Pacino," said Gordon, "is a lot of what I'd like to be as an actor. He takes chances. He rehearses like crazy, even after the opening night, because he isn't just doing it for the critics, he's trying to make it better for everybody. And, he's very unstarlike; he hung out with the cast."
Three of the Furies used in CHRISTINE remain intact. One will be raffled off; the others will be kept.
"Wouldn't it be great," Gordon said, "if the auto companies could come up with a car that repairs itself? Of course, the auto mechanics might not like it."
He laughed. "That could be the sequel-a bunch of auto mechanics all trying to run CHRISTINE down!"