Thursday, July 1, 2010
Fun Summer Movies: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)
Film makers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas teamed up for the very first time to create movie magic. A wonderful throwback to the Saturday afternoon cliff-hanger serials of the 30's and 40's. Harrison Ford is perfect as archaeologist/adventurer Indiana Jones, who also is a teacher. He travels the world seeking out grand artifacts. The film opens with a sensational sequence in the jungles of South America as Indiana is searching for this gold statue. He has to avoid countless booby traps and nearly gets crushed by a gigantic boulder, which is an iconic scene. Look for Alfred Molina in an early role as Indy's helper. Molina couldn't have been more than 20 years old. After that thrilling opening which features an escape by Indy from angry natives via an airplane, things settle down for a bit. He is back in the classroom, teaching about archaeology when he is recruited by the U.S government to track down the Lost Ark of the Covenant, before the Nazis find it. He takes the assignment and first has to deal with an old flame who may have information he needs about possible locations for the ark. Her name is Marion Ravenwood (played with gusto by Karen Allen), whose father and Indy had several adventures back in the day. Marion fell in love with Indy but he left and she holds resentment toward him to this day. There is a rousing fight scene in the bar she owns between Indy and the bad guys before the whole building comes down. So Marion decides to tag along with Indy to find the ark. They end up traveling to Egypt and hook up with Indy's old friend Sallah (Davies) who learns where the ark is located. Indy not only has to deal with the Nazis but also a rival French archaeologist named Belloq. The action in Egypt features the best scenes in the movie: Indy and Marion trapped in the Well of Souls with tons of snakes (which our hero is deathly afraid of); an intense slug fest between Indy and a hulk of a Nazi; and the thrilling chase by Indy on horseback after the Nazis who have procured the Ark. All this leads to a rousing finale that breathed new life into the action genre and brought a new hero into the 20th century. Ford is awesome as Indiana Jones, as he brings his considerable acting talent along with a lot of heroic derring. Karen Allen is positively engaging as Marion, a truly memorable female character that hold her own with the men amid all the action and what not. Spielberg once again shows why he is one of the best directors of all time. Also the thrilling music score by John Williams is awesome. I was twelve when I first saw Raiders and it blew me and everyone else away. A truly iconic and fun summer movie. Just a good old fashioned thrill ride. I ended up seeing it 2 more times at the theater and looked forward every few years for the next grand adventure of Indiana Jones. Followed by three sequels: The Temple Of Doom (1984), The Last Crusade (1989) and The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skulls (2008).
1981's biggest grossing film with $230 million in North America alone.
The original name of the lead character in the script was Indiana Smith. His name was changed to Jones on the first day of production.
Tom Selleck was Steven Spielberg's second choice for the role of Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford was his first, but George Lucas objected, since Ford had been in both American Graffiti (1973) and Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). Selleck was not able to take the role because he was committed to "Magnum, P.I." (1980). However, that series did not go into production until Raiders' filming had already wrapped. Selleck was in fact in Hawaii waiting for the series to start as the final scenes to be filmed (the opening sequence) were being shot in Hawaii. "Magnum" did an episode called "Legend of the Lost Art" that parodied "Raiders", complete with hat, whip, booby traps, etc.
The out-of-control airplane actually ran over Harrison Ford's knee, tearing his ligaments. Rather than submit to Tunisian health care, Ford had his knee wrapped in ice and carried on.
During filming in Tunisia, nearly everyone in the cast and crew got sick, except director Steven Spielberg. It is thought that he avoided illness by eating only the food he'd brought with him: cans and cans of Spaghetti-O's.