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Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): archaeologist adventurer Indiana Jones has to save the immeasurably symbolic and powerful Ark of the Covenant from falling into the hands of ill-intentioned Nazis. Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom (1984): marooned in India, Indiana Jones encounters villagers whose sacred stones and children have been stolen by a murderous cult – and undertakes the rescue mission. Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade (1989): Indiana Jones sets off to find the Holy Grail – and his missing, errant father. 

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The shock and awe effect of THX, the power of the music to fire our imagination with dread, suspense and excitement as Raiders of the Lost Ark begins, signal the start of cinema’s unparalleled adventure series. Restored to a level of audio-visual excellence surpassing even the original theatrical release (yes), this trilogy is a fabulous result for all concerned: from the filmmakers to the restorers to us the consumers.

Made more than 20 years ago, Raiders stands the test of time admirably, as an entertainment that delivers thrills and smiles and exotic locations and impossible odds … everything our fantasies wish for. And it has an unforgettable climax yet to be bettered for an action / adventure. 

In The Temple of Doom, the series goes darker, and gorier. Human hearts are ripped out in close up, children are whipped, and chilled monkey brains served for dinner. What a furore that would cause today. Indeed, the film – and Spielberg’s influence – helped create the PG13 rating in the US, for films that fell between PG and R. The film gives your surround sound system a thorough workout, after the restoration has repaired damage to various sections. 

The Last Cruade (which may not be the last for Indy if Lucas, Spielberg and Ford manage to finalise their plans for a definitive and final adventure before they all get too old) brings Sean Connery on board as Jones snr, adding both humour and prestige to a story that fills in some of Indy’s background. 

Extensive is a word often overused in DVD reviews, and often meaningless. Extensive implies volume; but it’s not volume that counts, it’s the quality. Or to quote Jerry Bruckheimer in another context, “the media is often an inch deep and a mile wide” meaning much coverage, little depth. Well, not here folks. The bonus materials disc is both extensive and deep.

The feature length Making the Trilogy (in movie by movie chapters) is a case in point: some 25 participants – then and now - and lots of B roll take us right onto the locations and into the shoot, as well as providing amusingly nostalgic views of the players – including, among others, the young Tom Selleck and Sean Young screen testing for the role. (Selleck’s commitment to the private eye tv series Magnum PI prevented him being seriously considered. But hey, interesting notion.) “Serial non-stop action” was the concept that drove George Lucas’ idea; and can’t we tell. By the way, Indiana was the name of his dog – and also the look-alike prototype for Chewbaka… but I won’t spoil it any further. Grab this box for yourself!

Apart from anything else, they’ve raided the archives at Lucasfilm for footage never seen before. So if you think you know it all about Indy – you don’t.

Some of you may jump straight to the (terrific) Stunts doco, but it seems to me there is more to the bonus material on this escapist series than meets the eye and ear. The detail and the generosity of the participants paints such a vidvid and complete picture of the creative processes that went into its making that the ‘document’ becomes more than mere supporting material for the films. (See the Light and Magic piece.) Not that the films aren’t the ultimate and all-important result, but for anyone interested in the mechanics, as it were, of creativity, of the coincidences that drive great works, of the minute human decisions that later affect millions – this is good stomping ground.

The restoration was driven by the knowledge that “the films themselves have to be of the highest quality, particularly when you’re dealing with filmmakers of the quality standards of Lucas and Spielberg,” as producer Frank Marshall puts it. And as us the consumers expect – and are delighted to get.

Published October 23, 2003

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CAST: Harrison Ford

DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg

SCRIPT: Story by George Lucas


PRESENTATION: feature films in widescreen; bonus disc in full frame

SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc 4- Making the Trilogy; The Light and Magic of Indiana Jones; The Sound of Indiana Jones; The Stunts of Indiana Jones; The Music of Indiana Jones; DVD-ROM option

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: October 23, 2003

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