A retrospective movie review by Walter Frith
Why? Why write a movie review in retrospective fashion that everyone
loves and adores and is so popular that the need for further say isn't
necessary? In short, a lot of that is true but I feel the need to say
several things about Steven Spielberg's 1981 classic, 'Raiders of the
Lost Ark', that is so beloved by movie fans around the world, including
myself. 1998 marks 17 years since we first saw a 39-year old Harrison
Ford sport the dashing fedora which he never managed to lose until the
bug infested chamber scene in 1984's 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of
Doom'. Luckily he got it back in the nick of time. Not to mention the
crackling bull whip, physical endurance and sense of ruggedness
comparable to a Sean Connery James Bond and nobody could ever replace
Harrison Ford in the role of Indiana Jones. In plain fact, I wouldn't
even see an Indiana Jones movie if Ford were not Indy. Ford will be 56
this year and Roger Moore served as the oldest James Bond and made his
last film as Bond in 1985's 'A View to a Kill' when he was 57. If a
rumoured fourth Indiana Jones film is in the works, they had better do
it before Indy needs a walker to replace his bull whip. Ford is in
great shape for his age but it won't last forever.
In 1997, I wrote a retrospective movie review of Steven Spielberg's 1977
masterpiece 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' and mentioned it a
possible contender as Spielberg's masterpiece along with 'E.T.', and
'Schindler's List'. 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' was not mentioned and for
good reason. Every respected filmmaker has a reason for making a motion
picture and the ones that turn out to be the best ones are the ones with
emotion. 'Jaws' and 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' were grand showcases in
film making but not moving. Certainly, you walked out satisfied with a
tremendous bang for your buck but did you cry or want to hug anyone?
'Close Encounters', 'E.T.' and especially 'Schindler's List' packed
genuine and powerful emotion which greatly elevated Spielberg to the
level of one of the twentieth century's top five filmmakers with his
diversity to entertain audiences, move them, make them laugh, make them
jump and most importantly, make them return for more.
With movie technology advancing every year, 'Raiders of the Lost Ark',
unlike '2001: A Space Odyssey' and 'Star Wars' is beginning to look
dated. I watched it again the other night and noticed this very fact
which made me raise my eye brows now and then. I hope the YEAR 2001,
three years from now when 'Raiders' will celebrate its twentieth
anniversary, that it will prompt Paramount Pictures to release the three
Indiana Jones movies and a fourth movie if there will be one by then so
it can enjoy the success that the 'Star Wars' films had upon re-release
last year. I would like to tell them that they can spruce up 'Raiders'
in several areas like they did with the 'Star Wars' trilogy last year.
Hopefully, three years will be enough time to do it.
The opening scene in South America. Indiana Jones scares off one thug
at the sound of the thug's gun being cocked. Indy raises his head,
makes the turn and thrusts the gun free with his bull whip. Indy and
his companion, an actor named Alfred Molina (who was Leonardo DiCaprio's
defence attorney in 1996's 'Before and After' which also starred Meryl
Streep and Liam Neeson) enter a cave and they encounter spiders, poison
darts, unstable ground and a door which will seal them inside an
eventual tomb. Indy is double-crossed in the name of greed by his
partner and upon escaping the trap, Indy makes off with a gold statue
when (what the heck is that noise behind me?), a giant boulder is
visualized. I read that it took 800 pounds of the material they used to
make the rock to ensure it would roll properly. Watch the video tape in
slow motion at various edits as Indy is being chased by it and you'll
notice a pole on either side of the rock propelling it forward as Ford
is running away from it.
Later in the film, we come upon the Well of Souls, which after an
eternity of being sealed, has become a giant snake pit. Director of
photography Douglas Slocombe makes a fatal error when Indy falls into
the pit and comes face to face with a cobra. If you look carefully (it
helps to dim or turn out the lights in the room), you will see the
reflection of a sheet of glass between Indy and his hissing pal. As
Indy and his girlfriend, Marion (Karen Allen) are escaping their
impending doom, Indy manages to knock over a big pole and strike the
back wall of the pit where all that is needed now is to push a big rock
out and, presto, they're free. When Indy forces the rock out, watch
when it falls. IT BOUNCES!
Next (yes there's more), I'm sorry, but that scene has to be fixed up
where Indy and Marion escape the scene of the plane after the Nazi goon
gets chopped up in the propellor. The part I'm referring to is when the
plane explodes. It looks like a cardboard plane has just been destroyed
with cherry bombs.
They find transportation back to England in the form of a boat. The men
on board cover for Indy when a Nazi submarine crew board the boat
looking for the ark and Jones. The men cheer when the Nazis eventually
leave and they spot Ford on the outside of the submarine, certain to
follow the Nazis to wherever they are planning to take the ark and I
hope someone can help me here. Indy is on top of the submarine, right?
It submerges and we see a map interfaced with the inside of the
submarine and its crew. Where was Indy all this time? He couldn't have
made the ride all along on the outside of the sub Could he get inside
if the Nazis sealed it? How did he make that long journey with them to
that little island for the film's climax? If he did get inside, he
certainly would have been exposed for who he was in such close quarters
with the others before the sub got to its destination.
Certainly computer technology couldn't fix that problem as it is an
academic one so that will remain a permanent flaw in the picture but the
other things I mentioned can hopefully be fixed with a computer clean
The final scene on the island when the Ark is finally opened also looks
dated. When the faces of the French archeologist and the two Nazis
melt, they clearly look like mannequins and I had a problem with this
from the first time I saw the film and the technology involving the
giant light show to kill all the Nazis and those swirling ghostly images
mixed in with that scene didn't do a lot for me.
Here's another question. Has anyone ever found a VHS VIDEOTAPE version
of the Indiana Jones trilogy in the letter boxed format? Strange how a
film like that can escape from not having its full format displayed on
home videocassette for so many years.
Are you out there Steven Spielberg? If you want to respond to my review
of this film, it will be our little secret. As I'm sure you remember,
'Raiders of the Lost Ark' was nominated for eight Oscars and won four.
It included nominations for Best Picture and Best Director but not one
for the script. I truly admire and respect the 1981 classic and perhaps
given the fact that the film had the script of a b-movie, some of the
b-movie elements in the film make the flaws in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'
easier to tolerate.
Copyright © 1998 Walter Frith