To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Paramount Pictures has remastered the original four films into a gorgeous 4K collection that is as crystal clear as my memories of seeing each and every one of them in the theatre…
In 1981, I remember seeing television ads for Raiders on the television, and all I had to know was that it had Han Solo – Harrison Ford, and came from the creators of Star Wars and the guy who made Jaws (the first movie I ever saw). Thanks to Scholastic Books I was able to order the novelisation, and had read it before my family made the move from CFB Borden to CFB Kingston.
While we waited for our home to be made available on the base, we were temporarily housed at a Best Western. I had found myself leafing through the local paper to see the movie listings. I was nine, about to be ten, and already knew how much I loved movies (something my dad never got – he liked them well enough, but never saw the logic (or understood the comfort I took from them) of repeated viewings).
There, playing at the Capitol theatre, was Raiders of the Lost Ark! It was summer, and I was so ready to see this thing! So my younger sister and I conferred before penning a note to our parents asking them to take us to the theatre to see the movie, and we slipped it under the door to their adjoining room.
While we waited (an interminable length, it felt, but probably no more than a few minutes while my parents looked into what it was, where it was playing and the times) I leafed through the novel again, regaling my sister with what would happen in the movie, and finally knocked impatiently on my parents’ door.
They agreed, and off we went. I don’t remember anything else from before that, or after it, but that magic two hours sitting in the theatre swept up in a fantastic adventure became a touchstone of my childhood. Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and John Williams had cemented a permanent part for themselves in the tapestry of my life.
I collected the Topps cards (still got em), the Scholastic Books storybook (in a box) and fancied myself growing up to be an adventurer just like Indiana Jones. I read articles in Starlog, and anytime we rented a VCR or disc player, I was adamant that one of the films be Raiders or Star Wars (my parents must have been so tired of that).
Then I started hearing rumours of another Indiana Jones movie being made. I lost my little tween (which wasn’t a thing then) mind.
In 1984, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom exploded into my awareness. I had the movie poster magazine, the making of magazine, and would tell my fellow students about how the film was made before I even saw it, all while my mother tried to find a weekend when she could take us to see it. My father was constantly working, and there were some marital problems there as well, but the promise of a soon to be delivered posting to CFS Daniel’s Head in Bermuda had smoothed some things over.
My mom took my sister and I back to the Capitol theatre to catch a screening. I remember it being a sunny day, with our leap to the island country a short time away. But right then it was late May, we were moving in about a month, and I was beyond excited for both adventures.
My mother wasn’t too worried about this newly instituted PG-13 rating (to become 14A in Canada). Her eleven, about to be twelve year old was so ready for this film, and after all his first film had been Jaws in 1975. In fact I’m sure I wouldn’t shut up, and would come running into the room anytime I heard the theme music to catch the thirty second television ads promoting it.
I ate this one up. I remember sitting in the darkened theatre, and once again, going on an adventure with my hero. Was it darker and a little scarier? Sure. But I knew that. I’d read the movie mag, and I knew Spielberg, Lucas and Ford would guide me through it safely – it was a ride!
And after I saw it, I didn’t shut up about it. I had the audio cassette of the story of the movie which incorporated actual dialogue, effects, and music from the film, and I listened to it over and over again on my walkman, acting it out ad infinitium; dodging punches, flicking an imaginary whip, and longing for a hat like Indy’s.
Then when we flew down to Bermuda, to take up residence. I was no doubt humming the theme as the plane traversed the ocean.
In Bermuda, I talked to new friends about Indy, his pal Short Round, the many adventures he had gone on (not just on film but in my imagination, and a series of Choose Your Fate books I came across) and when I finally got a (plastic) cowboy hat from my school – they had a yearly festival, and it just so happened it had a western theme – I tossed that on, got a bundle of thin rope, and my black jacket, and at twelve, arguably a little old to go to a kids Halloween party, I was Indiana Jones (I was determined to get an actual hat the moment I could actually afford one).
Five years later, the summer of 1989 rolled around, and what a plethora of summer blockbusters were on offer that year. First and foremost among them was the return of Indiana Jones, and the reveal that this time he was bringing his dad.
I didn’t have all the access to movie making information in Bermuda as I did back in Canada, and had become sun-tinted, and a real water child since then, but I was eager and ready for another ride with Indy. I would watch clips on Entertainment Tonight and get so excited.
And finally when it was ready to be released in Bermuda, playing at the Specialty Cinema (though I’m sure the name was something else at the time), I had graduated high school, was getting ready to go to university in Nova Scotia, and had truly lost my heart for the first time to the wonderful Tracey.
We were staying at Pompano Beach Club while we waited to be sent back to Canada, and Tracey and I would walk, hold hands, trade kisses, and sit in the meeting room at the hotel, which had a solo television, a lone vcr and a well-loved copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark, building up my excitement for Last Crusade.
Ignoring the fact that my departure was imminent, we fell in love, spent as much time together as we could, and went to see Last Crusade with our friends. We held hands throughout the film, and when Dad got shot, I clenched her hand so tight and I could feel her fingers curl around mine in sympathy.
Coming out of the theatre, with her, and my friend Steve, we were full of laughs, and cheers, humming the tune (I already had the soundtrack on CD, joining my Raiders CD and Temple of Doom tape), and climbed onto our mopeds like action heroes, Tracey mounting up behind me all of us ignoring the fact that in a few short days I would be gone.
I had to leave her behind, with memories of me, and my first fedora (a black hat with white band I’d picked up on the senior school trip to Boston) to remember me by when she went back to England, and our letters to one another became less frequent as university and life consumed our present.
But no matter who came in and out of my life, who I lost, when, or how, I would have Ford, Lucas, Spielberg and Williams.
Then in 2006 there were rumours of one more adventure coming, the internet was abuzz with rumours substantiated and otherwise, until 2008, a year of upheaval and moving (once again) for me, as I found myself in Toronto (the one city I have lived in more and longer than anywhere else, and still can’t consider it my home (hello Bermuda)).
For the first time I went into an Indiana Jones film on my own, and on opening day (though I saw Last Crusade on opening day in Bermuda, which just meant that a copy had arrived to be screened, a couple of weeks after its mainland release).
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ended up being a mixed bag for me. I had no one to share it with, and while I understood why the story had taken on a sci-fi tint, a reflection of the films of the era in which it was set, the flaws of the film ended up overshadowing any joy I got out of it.
There are sequences I love, but then you think about all the computer generated visual effects, some of the casting choices (one in particular), that Tarzan swing, and of course, nuking the fridge (which apparently was George’s idea from the start), I get a little bummed thinking about it as the (then) end of the series. So I was glad to let the 4K let me approach it anew.
And wow, the picture for these films have never looked better. It practically jumps off the screen, sharp, vibrant and beautiful to watch. There’s new Dolby Atmos mixes for all four films, over seen by Skywalker Sound genius Ben Burtt, an all of it okayed by the man himself, Steven Spielberg.
This alone makes it worth the upgrade from the blu-ray collection, this is the best iteration you can own.
The downside is that there are no new celebratory extras, the fifth disc in the collection is a blu-ray compilation of all the previously released extras from the DVD and blu-ray sets. I do love the 1981 doc, The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the collection does have a couple of glaring omissions. There was a 1981 special hosted by Harrison called Great Movie Stunts: Raiders of the Lost Ark, as well as 1984’s The Making of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom television special.
I also would have loved a doc on John Williams, he’s had a long association with both Spielberg and Lucas, and this venue would have been perfect for a look at his work in general and that have the Indiana Jones films specifically. As an aside, The Map Room: Dawn is one of my all time favourite music cues.
There also could have been a poster and behind the scenes photo gallery as well, but these are minor quibbles which shouldn’t dissuade anyone from upgrading to the 4K copy to put in pride of place in their collection (and to watch over and over until the fifth film comes out in 2022!).
The Indiana Jones 4 Movie Collection is available in 4K from Paramount Pictures now. And remember, if adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones!