The Adventures of Indiana Jones: The Complete DVD Movie Collection Review
Since the introduction of DVD to the world there have been two trilogies awaiting release on the top of everyone’s wish list. One of those is still in a Galaxy Far Far Away (possibly September 2004), whilst the other is finally here. In 2003 Indiana Jones made its debut on DVD with all three films painstakingly being restored with over half a million scraps of dirt removed from the print of Raiders alone. Each film has also been given a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack making the films look and sound better than they ever have before.
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark begins with our intrepid hero on the hunt for lost artefacts in the jungles of South America where he ultimately ends up losing the artefact to his rival, French archaeologist Belloq (Freeman).
Upon returning to the US Indy’s friend and colleague Marcus Brody (Elliot) informs him that US Army Intelligence wish to speak to him. Here Indy learns that the Nazis are searching for the Ark of the Covenant which according to the Bible holds the original tablets of the Ten Commandments as handed down to Moses. Fortunately for Indy the Nazis are missing an important piece of the puzzle that will reveal the whereabouts of the Ark and by request of the US government Indy sets off on an adventure to locate the Ark before the Nazis do.
Indy’s travels take him to Nepal and beyond where he meets up with ex-girlfriend Marion Ravenwood (Allen) and his old friend, Sallah (John Rhys Davies). With the Nazis constantly on their trail the companions set off on a series of adventures that involves various fights and chases, a terrifying descent into the snake infested resting place of the Ark and Indy clinging on to a German submarine as it heads to a deserted Mediterranean Island.
Raiders of the Lost Ark introduced us to a cinematic legend and you can’t help but get swept up by its wonderful story telling and sense of adventure from the opening scenes of Indy being chased by a boulder to the Ark unleashing its full power making this a thrilling start to the series.
With the success of Raiders in the bag and an inbuilt clause from Lucas that Spielberg would have to take on a three film commitment Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom followed in 1984. Lucas had originally claimed to have three stories in his head for the Indiana Jones franchise but in fact he did not, leading both he and Spielberg to come up with a new story that wouldn’t cover ground previously explored in Raiders. Lucas wanted a sequel that was darker like the Indy equivalent of The Empire Strikes Back, this was mainly because he was going through a divorce and didn’t feel like writing a particularly cheery story.
They decided to base their story on India’s Kali Worshippers (they were a mixture of Hindi and Muslim people who worshipped the God Kali and were chiefly known for the strangulation of their victims and human sacrifices).
To keep Indy in the style of the Bond franchise they cast a new woman to play Indy’s love interest. That was nightclub singer Willie Scott, played by Spielberg’s future wife Kate Capshaw. The part of Indy’s sidekick Short Round was played by Ke Huy Quan and rounding off the casting was Amish Puri who brought his foreboding stature and excellent acting abilities to the role of leader of the Kali Worshippers Mola Ram.
When we rejoin Indy for a second adventure we find him in the Obi Wan Nightclub located in Shanghai. He is there to deliver Muhatchi, an ancient archaeological idol to Lao Che (Roy Chiao) but things never quite go to plan for Indy as he discovers that he has been poisoned during the transaction. A massive brawl ensues before Indy and the unfortunate nightclub singer who was dragged into the bargaining, Willie Scott, escape the club with a little help from Short Round, a young Chinese boy who is travelling with Indy whilst also doubling as his personal chauffeur. The trio eventually board a plane but just when they think they are safe the pilots bail on them leaving the plane to crash land. Jumping out and clinging on for their lives in an inflatable dinghy the trio eventually wash up on the shores of an Indian village where the people, suffering from famine and poverty, believe that evil spirits have taken their children away after a sacred Shankara stone was stolen.
Despite his misgivings about where this adventure might lead Indy is persuaded by the leaders of the village to retrieve the stone which they believe will see the children return to the village. The trio head out to the magnificent Pankot Palace where they ultimately uncover the activities of the Kali worshippers. Here Indy saves the day once more by managing to rescue Willie from becoming a human sacrifice, freeing the children from slavery and escaping the caves via a thrilling mine cart chase before a tense showdown with the leader of the Kali worshippers Mola Ram on a rope bridge.
In the face of an excellent box office return, Temple of Doom was heavily criticised for being racist and also saw Spielberg labelled as irresponsible for making such a graphic horror picture for younger audiences. However, despite these reservations Temple of Doom is still a thrilling adventure with the mine cart chase being a particular highlight.
The concept for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the third and final film of the originally conceived trilogy was born out of the fact Spielberg had not been totally satisfied by Temple of Doom. What mattered most to him was to get a story with the adventurous warmth of Raiders that was decidedly lacking in the sequel. He saw the last chapter as a chance to explore Indy’s relationship with his father and the story of the Holy Grail, which was what Lucas originally wanted to do.
The casting of Indy’s father was an easy task for Spielberg as he’d always wanted to do a James Bond picture, so the only person who Spielberg would consider for the role was the original James Bond, Sean Connery. This was an inspired move as the pairing of Ford and Connery provided a lively banter that is one of the highlights of the film.
The opening sequence required an actor to play a younger version of Indy and this went to the now sadly departed River Phoenix. The main villain of the film was once again a man sympathetic to the Nazi’s cause and after convincing Spielberg he could do an American accent this role went to British actor Julian Glover. This time around Indy’s love interest was played by a relatively unknown Irish actress Alison Doody, who also had to learn a different accent for the part (this time it was an Austrian accent).
In the film the Nazis are attempting to find the legendary historical artefact of Arthurian legend, the Holy Grail. In their quest for the Grail they kidnap Indy’s father Professor Henry Jones, but fortunately he manages to mail his son the Grail Diary before being kidnapped. This diary contains maps, diagrams and firsthand accounts of the Grails whereabouts which Indy must keep hidden from the Nazis while on his quest to save his father. On his journey Indy is joined by friend and colleague Marcus Brody (Elliott) who is given a much larger role for the third in the trilogy while they are also joined by Dr Elsa Schneider (Doody) who was working with Indy’s father before he vanished.
The Last Crusade marked a triumphant return to the wonderful sense of adventure that Raiders had and overall was a highly entertaining adventure that finished not with a chase scene or some spectacular special effects driven piece like you might get today, but with a chance for Indy and his father to have a meeting of hearts and minds.
Sadly here in the UK Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom suffered 1:06mins of cuts for its theatrical release and that cut version is what you find on this DVD release. This release is otherwise identical in terms of content to the Region 1 and 4 alternatives which feature the uncut version of Temple of Doom.
The menus on all four discs are superbly animated with themes from the movies, for example the menus on Temple of Doom start off with a mine cart ride and then seamlessly branches into clips and music from the films.
Each film is presented with a THX certified 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and the quality throughout is excellent. As mentioned previously the print for Raiders alone had half million scraps of dirt removed from it and this level of restoration is apparent across all three films. Each looks more vibrant and detailed than they have ever done so before so full marks to Paramount for giving these films the transfers they deserve.
Remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 the audio on all three has been used very well across the soundstage from the front channels to the rears while the dialogue is crisp throughout. As a result each of the films now have there various stand out 5.1 moments from Indy being chased by a boulder in Raiders, the mine cart chase in Temple of Doom and the boat, motorbike and airplane chases in The Last Crusade.
The fourth disc of this set features a range of bonus material that, with the exception of the Theatrical Trailers which are presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with no subtitles, are presented in Full Screen with the same range of subtitles available on the main features (including English).
Indiana Jones: Making the Trilogy (127-minutes) - This documentary covers all three films and can either be watched as a whole or in individual segments dedicated to each part of the trilogy. It contains lots of archival footage from the time as well as retrospective interviews with Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Karen Allen, Kate Capshaw, Alison Doody, Paul Freeman, John Rhys Davies, Julian Glover and even the elusive Sean Connery. There is some really interesting footage in this documentary, including the test footage from Raiders with Tom Selleck and Sean Young. Originally Selleck was the first choice to play Indiana Jones but he was unable to do so as he was already contracted to the TV show Magnum PI. The documentary contains numerous other wonderful gems like this for you to find out about, but I won’t spoil them here. All in all this is an excellent documentary that tells you all you need to know about the world of Indiana Jones.
The Stunts of Indiana Jones (11-minutes) - Here you get to see footage from the stunt work of all three films in the series. In this featurette you get to hear from Vic Armstrong, one of the most respected people working in the world of stunts telling you how they did everything you see in the films. It shows you lots of behind the scenes footage of the stunts being created and features interviews with those involved in creating the stunts you see on screen.
The Sound of Indiana Jones (13-minutes) - This featurette explores the importance of sound effects used throughout the trilogy. Ben Burtt, the man responsible for the audio on the films tells you how they created the different sound effects for each of the three films in the series. After watching this you’ll appreciate just how much effort went into creating the wonderful audio environments you hear in the finished films.
The Music of Indiana Jones (12-minutes) - Composer John Williams talks about his cores to the Indiana Jones films and explains some of the mechanics behind musical composition. This featurette gives you an insight into how music can enhance and also accompany the images you are seeing on the screen, and also how a classic theme can either make or break a film.
The Light and Magic of Indiana Jones (12-minutes) - Here we get to see the work of Industrial Light & Magic in action. This featurette covers everything from the optical effects of the first two films up to the early CGI work on The Last Crusade. On Raiders we are given a detailed look at the end scene with the Ark, featuring storyboards, production stills and animatics that show you the various types of effects work that went into creating the aftermath of the opening of the Ark. For Temple of Doom we get to see the work that went into creating the mine cart chase, and finally on The Last Crusade we are treated to a look at the CGI effects.
Trailers - There are six trailers for you to look at including theatrical trailers for all three films. Also included in this section is a teaser and re-release trailer for Raiders of the Lost Ark, a teaser trailer for The Last Crusade and a game preview trailer for The Emperor’s Tomb.
Weblink - This gives you access to the Indiana Jones website. Once there you will have access to exclusive special features as well as information on the forthcoming Indiana Jones IV. You can also access this link from the three film discs.
In summing up this set you have three wonderful films that you will want to watch again and again thanks to excellent storytelling, decent acting from all involved and a classic series of scores from John Williams. Last but not least especially large thanks goes to Paramount for the wonderful restoration jobs on both the picture and sound leaving them in pristine condition for everyone to enjoy on the DVD format while the superb fourth disc of bonus materials tells you all you need to know about the world of Indiana Jones.