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There is not a doubt in my mind that RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE are three of the most rousing adventure movies ever committed to film. This collaboration between producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg is their homage to the cinematic cliffhanger serials of yore, except that this tribute proves to be bigger and far more spectacular than the little films that originally served as their inspiration. With a great leading man, top-notch stunts and the special effects power of Industrial Light and Magic behind them, there was no way that RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE could be anything but the celebrated crowd pleasers that they turned out to be. High on every wish list since the early days of the format, Lucas and Spielberg have finally given Paramount Home Entertainment their blessing to release THE ADVENTURES OF INDIANA JONES on DVD in a four disc set that includes the three feature films and an additional disc of supplemental materials. Note: Although there's no set S.R.P. or M.A.P. for THE ADVENTURES OF INDIANA JONES, the average price should be in the neighborhood of $50.00.

At the time of its release in 1981, I thought that RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was one of the coolest movies that I had ever seen. For my money, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK had everything- a great story, tons of non-stop action and wicked special effects. Of course, how could you not love a movie where the cowboy-esque American hero was beating the Nazi bad guys at every turn? For the half dozen people that may not have seen RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, the plot follows the adventures of archeologist Dr. Henry 'Indiana' Jones. Set in 1936, the film opens up with a brilliant adventure sequence in South American jungles, and then segues back to US, where Indiana is approached by representatives of the State department, who want him to locate and retrieve the Ark of The Covenant before the Naziís can get their hands on the all powerful religious artifact. With the aid of former flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) and old friend Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), Indiana comes up against his old archeological nemesis Belloq (Paul Freeman) in the race to find the whereabouts of the lost ark. The cast of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK also features Denholm Elliott, Ronald Lacey, Alfred Molina and Wolf Kahler.

As much as I love RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM is absolutely my favorite film of the three. Just as action packed as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM is a much darker and more dangerous film, and for that reason, I find it superior to its cinematic predecessor. This prequel opens with a telegraphed message of the directorís intentions, which come in the form of a Busby Berkley-esque rendition of Cole Porterís Anything Goes. And boy, in INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, just about anything goes. Starting off with an amazingly entertaining action sequence in Shanghai, Indiana Jones, his young sidekick Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) and beautiful American singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) then find themselves stranded in a remote village in India. After learning that the villageís sacred stone has been stolen and the village children kidnapped, Indy and company head to a nearby palace where they discover that a new faction of the bloody Thugee cult has risen. Using the enslaved children to search for the last two of sacred Shankara Stones, the Thugees hope to use the stonesí powerful mystical energies for their own campaign to dominate the world. The cast of INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM also includes Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth, Philip Stone Roy Chiao and Dan Aykroyd.

Although I rank INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE beneath INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, it is no less entertaining than its two adrenalin-pumping predecessors. In this third outing, Indy is induced to go seek The Holy Grail, after the worldís leading authority suddenly disappears, just as he was close to discovering the Grailís whereabouts. Unfortunately for Indy, that leading authority is his own father Professor Henry Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery). Soon after he begins following the clues his father left for him, Indy discovers the Nazis are also after the grail and they may be responsible for his fatherís disappearance. Aided by old friends Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) and Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), Indy firsts has to track down his missing father, and then race to the hidden resting place of The Holy Grail before the Nazis discover it. In addition to some incredible action sequences, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE also features a great interplay between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery as father and son, as well as plenty of delightful character driven humor. The cast of INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE also features Alison Doody, Julian Glover, River Phoenix and Michael Byrne.

Paramount Home Entertainment has made RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE all available on DVD in spectacular looking 2.35:1 wide screen presentations that have been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. "Just about perfect" is about the best way to describe how all three of these films look on DVD, and it is rather obvious that great care went into digitally rejuvenating these movies for this release. One will be hard pressed to find a blemish or other defect that was not part of the filmís original photography. Additionally, the original optical compositing and some of the special effects have been digitally clean up to make them appear more seamless on DVD than they did on the big screen.

Since RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is the oldest film of the film of the trilogy, it does demonstrate the most visible grain structure. Of course, the amount of apparent grain it isnít significant and is directly tied to the film stocks in use during the early 1980s. As the film series progresses, the newer generations of film stock used for each subsequent movie reduces noticeable grain in the darker sequences, as well as boosting the level shadow detail. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM looks somewhat better than RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and that INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE is the most visually impressive of the three. With that said, all three films do boast a wonderfully sharp and highly defined images that almost had me wondering if these movies could possibly look any better in high definition. Colors appear so incredibly vibrant that they almost verge on becoming over-saturated; however, all of the hues are rock solid, without a trace of noise or smearing. The reds, oranges and yellows are especially appealing during the various presentations, as are the flesh tones in each film. Blacks appear perfect; as do the whites, plus all three films produce wonderfully smooth contrast. Digital compression artifacts are virtually nonexistent.

All three films feature remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtracks that go a long way to bring each film to modern standards, without sacrificing the integrity of the original recordings or sound design. As expected, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE is the best sounding of the three, since it is the newest, followed INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and then RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, which still sounds amazing. The sound mixes are big and aggressive, totally befitting this action-oriented material. Surround usage is very strong in its deployment of ambient sounds and active sound effects, as well as a hefty component of musical fill. The forward sound stages tend to be wide and expansive, with good integration to the rear channels. Fidelity is excellent for reproducing John Williamsí rollicking action scores, as well as the larger sound effects. Some of the smaller effects that are directed to the rear channels arenít as convincing as they are on newer fully digital soundtracks, but they do hold their own. The bass tends to be very solid and deep, offering a great deal of rumble. French and Spanish Dolby Surround tracks are also encoded onto the DVDs, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's artfully designed interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features of the movie only DVDs, with all the supplemental being contained on the forth disc of the set. Supplemental programming starts off with Indiana Jones: The Making of a Trilogy, a solid entertaining and informative documentary, which runs a whopping two hours and seven minutes. Broken into three segments, each covering one of the individual films, this program mixes new interviews and archival footage and rare screen test for actors being considered, but not used in the major roles of the trilogy.

Next up is a series of featurettes. The Stunts of Indiana Jones runs shy of eleven minutes and looks at a number of the signature stunts of the movie series. Clocking in at thirteen minutes is The Sound of Indiana Jones, which focuses on sound design and sound effects creation. The Music of Indiana Jones is a twelve-minute examination of John Williamsí scores for the series. The Light and Magic of Indiana Jones offers a twelve-minute look at the incredible visual effects with special emphasis on key set pieces for the trilogy. Trailers for each film, plus a game preview close out the supplements.

Action movies really do not come much better than RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE. Paramount really delivers the goods with incredible looking and sounding DVDs that do full justice to these highly entertaining films. With the addition of the extensive supplemental programming, THE ADVENTURES OF INDIANA JONES is a must own DVD set. Absolutely recommended.



The Adventures of Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark/The Temple of Doom/The Last Crusade) - Widescreen (2003)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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