It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage.
Considering there have been nineteen years between the release of INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE and INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL the above quote from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK takes on a whole new resonance. To coincide with the release of INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, Paramount has dusted off their earlier treasures and offers fans INDIANA JONES: THE ADVENTURE COLLECTION ($60). Now, I personally have been a huge fan of the series since Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford first teamed up to bring the initial story of that intrepid archeologist/adventurer to the silver screen. The Indiana Jones films were and are the ultimate in action adventure escapist fare, and served as a tribute to the movie serials of Hollywood’s golden age. Even with the passage of time, I don’t think the Indiana Jones movies have lost anything in terms of entertainment value- the breakneck pacing, the action, the stunt work and the special effects are all first rate and work as well today as they did originally. Of course, having a great leading man surrounded terrific supporting players doesn’t hurt any of these films, either. I know when I sit down with RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, I am certain to walk away trilled and fully entertained.
When I went to the theater to see RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK back in 1981, I thought that was one of the coolest movies that I had ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Of course, every subsequent viewing of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK only serves to reaffirm my initial assessment of the film. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK feature a great story, tons of non-stop action, wicked special effects and a charismatic leading man. Speaking of the leading man, how could you not love a movie where Harrison Ford portrays a cowboy-esque American action hero, who is beating the Nazi bad guys at every turn? Set in 1936, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK opens up with a brilliant adventure sequence in South American jungles, where the audience is introduced archeologist Dr. Henry 'Indiana' Jones. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK then segues back to U.S., where we find the University Professor being approached by representatives of the State department, who want Dr. Jones to locate and retrieve the Ark of The Covenant before the Nazi’s 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), Indy 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 the always-wonderful Denholm Elliott, as well as, Ronald Lacey, Alfred Molina and Wolf Kahler.
Although some may not share this sentiment, I personally feel that INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM is best film of the initial three Indiana Jones movies. Sure, this prequel packs as much action as RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, but INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM proves itself to be a much darker and more dangerous film, and for that reason, this reviewer finds it superior to its cinematic predecessor. Set in 1935, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM opens with a Busby Berkley-esque rendition of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, which pretty much telegraphs the director’s intentions, for the rest of the film. An amazingly entertaining action sequence kicks off things is in Shanghai, in which Indiana Jones, his young sidekick Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) and beautiful American singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) make a desperate escape from Asian gangsters, only to find themselves surviving a plane crash, which leaves them stranded in a remote village in India. After learning that the village’s sacred Shankara Stone has been stolen, not to mention the kidnapping of the village's children, Indy and company head to a nearby palace, where they discover that a new faction of a 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 stones’ 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 do have to rank INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE beneath INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, the film is no less entertaining than its two action packed predecessors. Set in 1938, the premise finds Indy induced to go seek The Holy Grail, just after the world’s leading authority on the holy relic disappears. Unfortunately for Indy, that leading authority on The Holy Grail is his own father, Professor Henry Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery). Following the clues his father left for him, Indy quickly learns that the Nazis are also after the grail, and they may also be responsible for disappearance of the elder Henry Jones. Aided by old friends Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) and Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), Indy races to locate his missing father, and then onto the hidden resting place of The Holy Grail… that is, 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 from supporting players Elliott and Rhys-Davies. 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 really great looking 2.35:1 wide screen presentations that have been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. The transfers appear identical to what was originally release on DVD in 2003, which is fine, since the films appeared nearly perfect back then. Improvements in mastering techniques and compression have added a bit more stability to the images on all three films. I am going to be interested in seeing what these films will look like in their eventual release on Blu-ray and if the masters can hold up under higher resolution scrutiny.
As the oldest film of the film of the original trilogy, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK does demonstrate the most visible grain structure. Also as the series progresses, the introduction of newer film stocks allows INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM to look somewhat better than RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE comes across as the most visually impressive of the three. However, all three films feature a sharp looking picture and good levels of definition. Across the board, colors vibrant, but stable and feature appealing flesh tones. Blacks are deep perfect, whites are crisp, plus all three films produce wonderfully smooth contrast. Digital compression artifacts maintain a low profile for each movie.
All three films include Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtracks that maintain the integrity of the original sound designs. Not surprisingly, 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. All three sound mixes are aggressive, just as one should expect from this kind of 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 Williams’ rollicking action scores, as well as the larger sound effects. The bass channel is deep and adds 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 as well as the supplemental materials for each of the movies. All three movies contain a new Introduction By George Lucas And Steven Spielberg. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK includes Indiana Jones: An Appreciation (twelve minute with the cast & crew of the latest film), The Melting Face (nine minutes on a pivotal effect), Storyboard Sequence: The Well Of Souls (four minute comparison of planning versus finished film), Galleries (artwork and fairly self explanatory) and Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures Game Demo And Trailer (game promo).
INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM includes Creepy Crawlies (twelve minutes on snakes, bugs and rats), Travel With Indiana Jones: Locations (ten minutes on location, location, location.), Storyboards: The Mine Cart Chase (two minutes, you get the idea), Galleries (artwork more of the same) and Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures Game Demo And Trailer (game promo again). INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE includes Indy's Women: The American Film Institute Tribute (nine minutes with leading ladies Karen Allen, Kate Capshaw, and Alison Doody), Indy’s Friends And Enemies (ten minutes on sidekicks and villains), Storyboard Sequence: The Opening Sequence (three minutes ditto), Galleries (artwork; ditto, ditto) and Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures Game Demo And Trailer (game promo, ditto, ditto, ditto).
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE are three of the greatest action movies of all time. Paramount’s presentations are top of the line for standard definition (can’t wait for hi-def). Highly recommended acquisitions for anyone who doesn’t already own these films on standard definition and has no interest in the inevitable Blu-ray editions.
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