Remembering When… Raiders of the Lost Ark

Star Wars and Indiana Jones were an inextricable part of my youth.

As mentioned in my Star Wars post, prior to ’77 there was nothing that stood out amongst the pop culture landscape, there were fun and cool things, but nothing like the mountain that was the experience of Star Wars, and then, a number of seemingly long years after that, The Empire Strikes Back.

But then, I started seeing advertisements, for a film by the creator of Star Wars, and the director of Jaws.

WHAT?!?!?!?!

Can you actually imagine what that could do to a 9, going on 10, year-olds brain? Someone who loved Star Wars with all the passion and innocence that a child has? (I even referred to my bicycle, in my mind, as the Millenium Falcon – so that should help you understand how big an impact it had on me).

This was in a time before summers were inundated with a potential blockbuster every week, these things were huge to our young minds.

And all I knew about it besides the fact that it was from George and Steven (even then I was on a first name basis with them in my mind) was that it had Han Solo in it and that he had a cool hat, a leather jacket, a gun, and a whip!! How cool was that?

As mentioned in my scholastic post, I actually read the novel for it before I saw the movie, and I knew it was gonna be awesome.

But I didn’t end up seeing it, until late summer 1981, probably July or August, when we moved house from CFB Borden to CFB Kingston.

Before we go further, I should point out, that my father and I have never been able to connect on a personal level. He just doesn’t get me. I understand that now. I grew up in a time when all these pop culture things were happening, and while there were pop culture events when he was growing up, nothing had ever come along like Star Wars and its ilk. At least not for him. So he and I were seemingly always at loggerheads in everything, and it got so much worse when I hit my teens.

But anyway…

We were staying in a hotel, and my memory wants to tell me it was The Best Western on Princess St. There were two adjoining rooms, my sister and I were in one, while my parents were in the other. most of our stuff had been sent along ahead of us by the movers, so I only had a couple of my Star Wars toys, and a few books to occupy my time. I also seem to remember that my copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark was one of the books I kept on hand, as well as the storybook, and shortly after moving to Kingston, and settling into the base, I got the Marvel comic book adaption (let me tell you that those books are looking a little worn now, but I still won’t get rid of them).

I don’t know how I knew it was playing in town, perhaps I caught an ad on the local television station, or more likely saw an ad for it in the complimentary copy of the local newspaper, The Whig Standard.

I recall pointing it out to my sister, and in a stroke of genius, to my young mind, I figured instead of talking to my father and asking him if we could go…

I would write him a note, with a check yes or no option.

So my sister and I went in to deliver the note, and we both added a little verbal begging, though I think my sister was just more keen about going to a movie, she didn’t much care what it would be, she just knew there would be a movie, and possibly snacks.

So my father tentatively agreed but sent us back to our room, so he could check the yes box, and probably check showtimes and ratings, and then delivered the note back to us.

Then, upon hearing the yes, I began to tell my sister what she could expect, spiders, snakes, mummies, dead impaled bodies, and the ark of the covenant.

I don’t remember the car ride there, I don’t remember the line, or even if I had snacks. I just remember sitting in a darkened theater and watch this wonderfully amazing adventure unfold before me.

It’s kind of odd.

I watched the spiders, I watched as Indy stumbled across Forrestal, and then later Satpio, and wasn’t bothered.

I watched the descent into the Well of Souls, and was mostly ok with the snakes, and the mummies.

But for the longest time, I could not watch the fate of the bald mechanic in the airplane fight. I had read the novel, I knew what happened, and I guess my mind had made it so much more vivid and gruesome in my imagination than the simple blood splattering against the flying wing’s tail fin.

Silly me.

I was enchanted with the movie. Until then, it had always been about Star Wars (though I remember playing Galactica as a kid too), but now I had something else. Here was a hero who was smart, he was a professor, but he was also an adventurer, and even if he got his butt kicked, he kept getting back up – stubborn in his focus (some people I know would say I’m the same way), and he also showed me that scruff and stubble was cool before Sonny Crockett confirmed it.

Harrison Ford cemented his place as the most influential actor in my young life. He was just so cool. He inhabited Jones and made me want to be him, not just the action side, but the intelligence side to. Even now, I love to read about archeology, artifacts, and religious myths, wondering if there is any truth to them, and what secrets could still be hidden around the world.

The film also gave me two of my favorite music cues in movies EVER. Man I love the work of John Williams!!

The quiet winds introduction as Indy lowers himself into the map room. I can’t tell you how many times I listen to that track on my ipod, or find myself whistling it when I feel I’m exploring an area of the Royal Ontario Museum, or just discovering things in general that I have never seen before.

The other one I love is the huge percussive piece of the desert chase, with the Raiders March weaving its way through it now and again.

I know this movie so well at this point. My friend Dennis would simply say something like… “Neo…”

And I would continue on with Dr. Jones’ whole presentation, “…meaning new, and lithic… i…t…h…i…c… meaning stone.”

There was nothing I didn’t want to know or learn about the movie, how they made it, the camerawork, the set design, costumes, stunts, all of it.

Then of course, there is my fedora. I’ve gone through about 4 now at this point, a couple have been left in the care of friends. But my most recent does make its appearance every now and again.

For me Raiders is the perfect action film. It’s got everything!

And it’s been with me a long time.

Before my family got a vcr when we moved to CFS Bermuda, we occasionally rented one, that or a laser disc before it, and then we always seemed to rent Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark (which is when I finally did watch the blood splatter of the airplane fight).

I’m sure my parents got tired of it. But even to this date, I’ve never tired of it.

In fact, I remember that when we were getting ready to move back to Canada, there was a TV room in the hotel we were staying it, they had a VCR, and the only movie they had… Raiders of the Lost Ark. Lords know how many times I watched it then, I already knew all the dialogue, so who knows, and amazingly it didn’t annoy the lady whose company I was keeping. (She found it endearing).

While Jaws may be my first and favorite movie, my comfort food of the cinematic world. Raiders of the Lost Ark always seems to be the perfect dessert.

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