Monday, October 27, 2014

Case Study No. 1634: Rockbridge High School Librarian

John Carpenter's Christine (1983) - Part 4
Part 4 of John Carpenter's Christine.

Christine (also known as John Carpenter's Christine) is a 1983 horror film about a supernaturally malevolent automobile and its effects on the teenager who owns it, adapted from a novel written by Stephen King. The film was directed by John Carpenter, and set in 1978.
Tags: John Carpenter's Christine By Stephen King 1983 Part Four
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[scene opens inside the Rockbridge High School Library, where three boys are whispering to each other while ogling a young female student sitting at the other end of the room (intensely studying her book)]
BEMIS: I'll bet you a dollar she says no.
CHUCK: What, just cause she shot you down?
BEMIS: She says no to everybody.
[cut to a closeup of the girl as she starts to chew on the end of her pencil, then back to the boys]
CHUCK: Look what she's doing to that pencil!
BEMIS: I wish I was an eraser!
[he turns to Dennis]
BEMIS: Go on, Studley. Ask her out.
DENNIS: Mind your own business, Bemis, and just read the book.
CHUCK: Yeah, come on, Guilder. Hey, and just don't tip the table over ...
[he lifts one end of the table (simulating an erection) and then drops it]
[cut to the front desk, where the older female librarian looks up disapprovingly in the direction of the offending noise, then back to the boys]
DENNIS: Okay ...
[he gets up and walks in the direction of the girl ... but instead walks past her and takes a book from one of the shelves on the back wall]
[cut back to the girl, as he finally sits down at her desk (but she doesn't look up from her book)]
DENNIS: Hey, what're you readin'?
[she finally looks up]
LEIGH: History.
DENNIS: Oh ... It's pretty boring, huh?
[she laughs]
LEIGH: Yeah.
DENNIS: [pause] Listen, do you like music?
LEIGH: Uh-huh.
DENNIS: What about dancing?
DENNIS: You think maybe you might, uh, you might wanna go dancing with me? Like ... uh, I dunno, maybe this Friday night after the game?
LEIGH: I'm sorry, I can't.
[she looks back down at her book, as he looks over at his friends (who are silently making faces at him)]
DENNIS: Why not?
LEIGH: I have a date.
[cut back to the librarian, who loudly yells from across the room]
LIBRARIAN: Mister Guilder? Are you lost?
[cut back to Dennis and Leigh, as he sheepishly replies]
DENNIS: No ma'am.
LIBRARIAN: Why don't you return to your own seat and get back to work?
DENNIS: [pause] Yeah.
[he gets up and returns to his original seat, then throws a dollar in front of Bemis]




Carpenter, John (Director). Christine. United States: Columbia Pictures Corp., 1983.

Starring: Jan Burrell (School Librarian); John Stockwell (Dennis Guilder); Alexandra Paul (Leigh Cabot)

Based on the Novel: King, Stephen. Christine. New York: Viking, 1983.

The time is 1978; the place is Rockbridge, California. The high school library is large but austere. The stern librarian has passed middle age, with her dark hair pulled up and glasses hanging on her bosom. Her blouse is sky blue, that Victorian style (complete with brooch) that was fashionable at the time. She is disturbed when Dennis and his friends get loud, although she doesn't shush them. "Mr. Guilder, are you lost?" "No, ma'am." "Why don't you return to your own seat and get back to work." Classify this film under "Library as Meeting Place," although Guilder's pick-up line ("Hey, whadya reading'?") fails to enchant the lovely Leigh. There are no other library references in this early King classic of teenage angst and a killer car, and there are no librarians or library scenes at all in King's novel.



We're back where the film and Carpenter seem most at home, amongst the seniors of the school (just as the director spent so much time with Laurie, Lynda and Annie at the end of their school day in Halloween). Dennis, Bemis and Jenkins are causing mischief in the library which is, notably, lit in full daylight. The message is clear: if Arnie is to lock himself away in Darnell's to become one of the undead, then Dennis must as his polar opposite come to define a normal, healthy existence. To emphasise the point, in a scene not in the novel, Dennis is goaded by his schoolmates into asking Leigh Cabot out for a date, whom everyone still believes, having only recently moved from Massachusetts, is single. As it happens in King's novel, Dennis becomes aware of a blossoming friendship between Leigh and his best friend on the afternoon before the Buddy Repperton scuffle (September 26), and the actual Arnie-Leigh affair is unveiled later at an incident-free football match in Hidden Hills. Phillips on the other hand, amalgamates the Hidden Hills and Ridge Rock Bears matches to coincide Dennis' accident with the celebratory arrival of the now street-legal Fury.

Here is the opening of the scene as it appears in the Phillips screenplay, dated February 16, 1983 (pp36-7):


DISHES CLANK in the adjacent kitchen. MRS. ROY, 50, patrols the aisles, looking for goof-offs. Most students have mastered the appearance of study. They carry on their conversations quietly, behind propped up books.

Beautiful Leigh Cabot reads a textbook, scribbles in a notebook, nibbles on her pencil from time to time. She is unaware that she is being observed. There is a vacant seat across from her.

Roseanne, the Head Cheerleader, sits directly in the line of sight between Leigh and a table of horny high school seniors: Dennis, Chuck Jenkins, Harry Bemis, and two other jocks. She thinks the boys are ogling her, unaware that Leigh is their target. All talk is whispered.

Certainly, Dennis' foolhardy attempt to woo this purest of girls sits well here by comparison, particularly in the context of the film's developing themes of suspicion and hostility between the sexes. At first the three boys (Arnie is notable only by his absence) spy Leigh obsessively from across the room, with Chuck fantasising that he's the pencil in her mouth, and a dejected Bemis dissuading all by explaining how 'she says no to everybody.' A sleazy joke grabs the attention of the stern librarian; and then Dennis makes his move. First selecting a book from the shelves at the end of the room (on the web, one recurrent piece of trivia seems to be that the book is King's source novel, a theory I have been unable to confirm), then ignoring the lovesick Roseanne on his return pass, he at last tentatively takes a seat at Leigh's table for his introduction. He's instantly made a connection with her, as both flirt with the proposal of a night out dancing, and it underscores immediately the difference between Arnie's nostalgic existence in the past of the 1950s (a past which Leigh will confess later in the film to Arnie, she cannot identify with), and the more contemporary world to which Dennis belongs. She issues a flat rejection, and Dennis, more intrigued than the rest of her suitors, wants a reason why. 'I have a date,' she says, and John Stockwell's expression is a picture. Now rumbled by the librarian, Dennis is ordered back to his own seat, where he drops a crumpled dollar bill in front of Bemis—payment for the loss of a bet.

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