the studio gate

the backlot

the screening room
The Screening Room
indy trilogy 

George and Steven are going to release the first "Indiana Jones" feature film in 19 years on May 22, 2008. What better time than to re-release the original three films that started Indiana Jones?

The first three "Indiana Jones" films from the 1980s are again available on DVD.  You can either purchase the movies individually, or in a new three pack. Each film now contains new bonus material.

It seems like Indiana Jones has been with us forever. And in a sense, he's been around now for a long time. Back in the early summer of 1981, I picked up the 5th anniversary issue of Starlog magazine while on a trip to visit my grandparents in Ohio. On the cover was an "exclusive" interview with George Lucas, along with new features on that summer's big science fiction and fantasy films. Despite only having a little bit of spending money for my trip, I had to pick up the issue. It was damn good reading.

There was an interview with Harrison Ford in that same issue, who had just made a new movie with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg called "Raiders of the Lost Ark." The first thing that came to my mind was, "What a stupid title for a movie!" Being almost thirteen and knowing all there was to know in the world, I also blurted out, "Why is Harrison Ford raiding Noah's Ark?" Little did I know, or remembered, that there was the Ark of the Covenant in the Bible. No matter. How could George Lucas come up with such a story? Come on! This was the man who brought me "Star Wars." Spielberg brought me "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." What were they thinking about doing a movie called "Raiders of the Lost Ark?"

After coming home from Ohio, I found out that a great-grandfather I only met once had passed away. My parents took me to the funeral and my Aunt Denise was there. Being both fairly immature, and really not knowing my great-grandmother's second husband, my aunt suggested we go to the movies after the funeral. I told her I heard of a new movie from George Lucas and Steven Spielberg called "Raiders of the Lost Ark" that just opened up. "What a stupid title for a movie," she said. I nodded, but I said it actually looked good. We hopped into her old VW Bug and headed over to the tiny and cramped AMC Puente Hills Mall Theaters.

With my aunt, we never, ever, made it to a movie on time. Nonetheless, we made it there just as we see Dr. Jones teaching class. The theater was typical of AMC in those days, with an aisle running down the center of two rows of seating areas. Of course, the screen was small and the sound was dreadful. But for the rest of the movie, my eyes didn't leave that screen until the end credits. My oh my. Talk about a movie experience. I rooted for Indy and Marion to put it to those Nazi villains. I thought Belloq was a jerk, but a charming excellent foe to Indy. Sallah was the best friend anyone could have. Marion was spunky, feisty, cute and so entertaining to watch. The scenes of danger and mayhem kept me glued to my seat. I didn't think that a movie could be better than "Star Wars" or "The Empire Strikes Back." But here it was.

I did catch "Raiders" a few weeks later. My best buddy and I rode our bikes some 15-miles to the now-demolished Orange Cinedome. We got there in plenty of time and sat in one of the big 800+ seat domes. The print was in 70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo. This time, I caught the beginning of the film. WOW! I missed that? The Cinedome had huge surround speakers in the back of the auditorium. I ducked when the birds flew out of the ancient temple head in the beginning. I jumped from my seat when the snakes in the Well of Souls lurched at Indy. The experience was even better than before. Yes, Virginia, movie presentation can and will make a spectacular film even better! My buddy coaxed me into seeing "The Cannonball Run" next door. Heaven forbid, we snuck in! Two great movies in one day. Of course, we got back to my house pretty late, much to my parent's worry. I got busted for sneaking into a movie. The horrors of being thirteen.

Still, the memory of seeing "Raiders" on that big screen stayed with me forever. And once the movie was available on VHS tape for $39.99, I begged my dad to buy it. And I watched it again and again in its pan-and-scan glory. On the beginning of that VHS tape was a preview for "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." As simplistic and sparse as that trailer seems today, I was totally excited at the prospect of seeing a new Indiana Jones movie. That booming narrator voice and the music from "Raiders" was too much. I couldn't wait for 1984.

When "Temple of Doom" opened, my girlfriend and I stood in the parking lot of the Orange Cinedome on a very hot day, waiting to get in. The line stretched from the theater box office back into the parking lot. As much as I hated waiting there, and dreading the thought of not getting a decent seat once inside the theater, I miss those bygone days. The modern megaplex theaters don't have that charm of making lines snake out into the parking lot.

I digress.

We did get decent seats and the movie began. The opening was totally different from "Raiders." A musical number? It wasn't bad, but it threw me off. Then the action began. From the moment of the first gun shot in "Temple of Doom," there seemed to be a dark aura about the film. There was a mean streak of violence running through this film, and Indiana Jones was a big part of it. Now let me explain. Indy, in "Raiders," used violence to thwart bad guys. Good enough. But in "Doom," his violence is mean spirited. This wasn't the same flawed Indy we loved in "Raiders." This Indy was much darker. Monkey brains? That didn't faze Indy a bit. Striking Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) while under the influence? They fit into the supposed plot of this sequel, but it made me squirm. This is one uncomfortable movie to watch. And Indy falls in love with a screaming, screechy, screwy Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw)? Come on, Indy! I know even super heroes need some lovin' while globe trotting, but man! You should've let her stay in the nightclub. (No offense, Steven, but obviously there's a reason why you brought back Marion to the new Indy movie, and not Willie Scott.)

Some of "Temple of Doom" is redeemable. The mine car chase is still tons of fun to watch. And Short Round offers Indy some good banter. But as a whole, the movie was a big disappointment.

So when "Last Crusade" rolled around in the summer of 1989, I was excited and scared to see what Lucas and Spielberg would unleash upon fedora wearing wannabes. "Temple of Doom" was no "Raiders," and in fairness, that was difficult to top anyway.

There was a brand-new movie theater in my humble section of Anaheim Hills, CA that was opening. Cinemapolis was the first theater in Anaheim Hills. And it's big attraction? "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" in 70mm! I was among the first 10 people in line that Memorial Day weekend. I recall there was a guy wearing a leather Indy jacket and fedora, despite it being about 90-degrees out. No matter. We made it into the new theater. There was a mannequin dressed as Indy just outside the main theater. The new theater was nice and they were showing a new "Indiana Jones" movie. Perfect combo.

The experience was sublime. The preview for "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" made it seem like it was going to be great (it would turn out to be one of the worst "Star Trek" movies ever made) and the audience that afternoon was pumped. "Last Crusade" more than made up for the flaws in "Temple of Doom." Certainly, the action was lightened up with the prologue of Young Indy (River Phoenix). The bad guys weren't all that bad. Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) was no Marion or Willie Scott (thankfully). She was simply there and pretty stiff to boot. I don't know why they made the late-great Denholm Elliott (Marcus Brody) a bumbling fool, or gave Sallah little to work with. But the film is still quite fun. What made it for me, and a lot of people I'm sure, is the father-son relationship between Indy (Ford) and Henry (Sean Connery). What an inspired pairing. I know that there was a very small age difference in the two actors, making it impossible for Connery to be Ford's dad, but you never notice it. These two breathe life into the thin villains and occasional shortcomings of the film overall. Though not as great as "Raiders," "Crusade" is still enjoyable after all these years.

I think one of the great aspects of Ford as Indiana Jones is that he's a confident hero with flaws. Even though "Temple of Doom" nearly ruined the franchise (at least for me), Ford's command of his Indiana Jones persona rings true through the series of the 1980s films. He's a hero that you root for and laugh at when things go the wrong way.

The direction, the visual effects, the editing, the cinematography by Douglas Slocombe, the often snappy dialogue and fantastic score by John Williams make the "Indiana Jones" movies so much fun. Yes, they're often flawed (though I think "Raiders" is as near-perfect as any movie can get). The "Young Indiana Jones" TV series is very well made, but doesn't capture the goofy and fun spirit of most of the original three films have.

The original films from 1981-1989 were true popcorn movies of their era. A lot has changed, as the cliché goes, since then. The Puente Hills Mall and Orange Cinedome theaters went under the wrecking ball. I won't miss the Puente Hills, but the Cinedome, as long time readers of this site will know, has a place in my heart. VHS has given way to DVD and now Blu-ray discs (and here's hoping that Lucasfilm/Paramount will release the Indy films on Blu-ray disc with uncompressed audio to finally give us the fullness of the original magnetic stereo soundtracks). Anybody with an Internet connection or cell phone can spread the news about seeing a sneak preview of the new "Indiana Jones" movie to the world in a heartbeat.

We're on the verge of seeing another adventure in the "Indiana Jones" series here in 2008. As the previews have pointed out, Indy's a little older than he used to be. As a kid, I always thought Harrison Ford was older (he was) and more mature than most actors of his day (he was). It's hard to believe that Ford was only in his late-30s when he made "Raiders." I'm turning 40 this year! I guess we've all aged with Indy, even us "kids."

So go ahead. Get the newest collection of "Indiana Jones" DVDs, even if you already have the movies on VHS, LaserDisc, and DVD. You know you want to see the new material about Indy. It's enough to keep you occupied until May 22, 2008.      
Bill Kallay

Special thanks to Click Communications

Photos: © Lucasfilm/Paramount. All rights reserved.

Quick Glimpse


More Indy to get you ready for "Indy IV!"

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, John Rhys Davies, Sean Connery


New documentaries

PG ("Raiders") and PG-13 ("Doom" and "Crusade")


Picture: Very Good
Sound: Very Good

How many more times will you watch Indy's adventures?

Aspect Ratio (2.39:1)

Dolby Digital 5.1

May 13, 2008