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Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

Starring: Harrion Ford, Karen Allen
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rated: PG
RunTime: 115 Minutes
Release Date: June 1981
Genres: Action, Classic

*Also starring: Wolf Kahler, Paul Freeman, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott, Anthony Higgins, Alfred Molina, Ronald Lacey

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Walter Frith read the review ---
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4.  Jerry Saravia read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
4 stars out of 4

"Well, Jones, at least you haven't forgotten how to show a lady a good time!" remarks Indiana Jones's sidekick, the smart-mouthed and hard-drinking Marion Ravenwood, after the bar she owns is burned to the ground, thanks to Indy. And Steven Spielberg in 1981 knew how to show an audience a good time with an old fashion kids' adventure yarn, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Think of it as a high quality version of one of the old movie serials that kids used to get every Saturday at the theater before the double feature. (Too young to know what a movie serial was like? Check out my recent review of the 1949 serial BATMAN AND ROBIN -- not to be confused with this summer's blockbuster by the same name.)

The plot of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is utter balderdash. Indiana Jones enters into a life-or-death struggle with the Nazis to find the long lost, biblical Ark of the Covenant. Why Hitler wants it makes little sense as does the fact that the Nazis don't just kill Indy as soon as he gets in their way, but this show is not one to be approached logically. It makes as much sense as most kids' stories, and this one is so brilliantly and engrossingly executed, who cares how ridiculous it is? (My wife and I were once chased in Austria by a boulder the size of the one from the famous scene in the film. So even the seemingly ludicrous can sometimes be true.)

Harrison Ford, in a role arguably as important to his career as that of Han Solo, plays Indiana Jones as an everyman, but one who has the unbounded courage of a man possessed of a golden vision. With his rugged good looks and his signature outfit of big hat, leather jacket and bull whip, Indy is a picture perfect action hero. As vulnerable as he is charming and persistent, Indy faces one scrap after another including being trapped in a large pit full of his most feared animal -- snakes. ("Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?") Bruised and battered, he survives each bout, just barely, so he can fight again. The film must have provided gainful employment for scores and scores of stunt actors as action sequences come in increasing intensity as the show progresses.

Although not nearly his equal, Karen Allen, in the best role of her long but undistinguished career, is his partner Marion. Allen has a charming toughness that can be strong and sexy at the same time. Why her career never took off remains a mystery. In more recent times Linda Fiorentino has demonstrated some of these same macho but alluring qualities, and she too has had trouble breaking through into significant stardom.

The film's other roles are less important, and only Paul Freeman, as the too milquetoast villain Rene Belloq, gives a disappointingly bland performance.

John Williams's rousing but playful music and the imaginative script by BIG CHILL writer Lawrence Kasdan, based on a story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman, combine to make a fun romp. A roller coaster of a film, it loves to play tricks on its audience. In one scene Marion has been kidnapped and is hidden in a large basket. Indy goes looking for her only to enter a marketplace full of identical baskets.

The cinematography of stone images filmed in warm blues and browns is punctuated by bright flashes of lightning representing the wrath of God. The cataclysmic ending descends too far into the realm of an overstaged horror show but is effective nevertheless. Actually, Saturday movie serials were never this good, but we'd like to believe they were.

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK runs 1:55. It was rated PG since I think there was no PG-13 at the time. Today, a show with this much violence would be firmly in the PG-13 category. Depending on how well they handle scary scenes like snakes crawling through skeletons, kids as young as 7 may be able to handle the film. My son Jeffrey, age 8, thought the movie was "good but pretty bloody," and he wished there would have been less blood. I strongly recommend this adventure to you and give it a full ****.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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