Friday, 27 April 2012

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Year:  1981
Director:   Steven Spielberg
Screenplay:  Lawrence Kasdan, from a story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman
Starring:  Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott
Running Time:  115 minutes
Genre:  Adventure, action,

This film is one of the most successful and best-loved movies in modern cinema, and introduced one of it's most popular icons.  The film is set in 1936.  After a dangerous mission to Peru to retrieve a golden idol from a booby-trap laden tomb ends in failure at the hands of his arch-rival Rene Bellocq (Freeman), archeologist and adventurer Doctor Indiana Jones (Ford) returns to his day job of teaching archeology in an American college.  Jones is contacted by Army Intelligence who have received reports that the Nazis are conducting a large scale archological dig in Egypt, and that a noted American archeologist and one-time friend of Jones is involved.  Immediately Jones and his friend and mentor Marcus Brody (Elliott) realise that the Nazis are searching for the fabled lost Ark of the Covenant, the chest in which Moses stored the stone tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments.  The Ark is reputed to contain devestating supernatural power and an army which marches with it would be completely unstoppable.  Jones sets off on a  perilous, globe-trotting quest to find the Ark before the Nazis.  He is aided by his ex-girlfriend, Marion Ravenwood (Allen), who posesses an old medallion, which can be used to locate a clue which can reveal the Ark's whereabouts.  The Nazis are being aided by Bellocq, the only archeologist who is Jones' match.

The film was originally conceived by film-maker George Lucas as a tribute to the adventure serials of the 1930s and 1940s.  It rolls along with action, exotic locations, high adventure and wit to create a fantastically entertaining film, that still holds up brilliantly after 30 years.  It was the first film to feature the roguish, charismatic adventurer Indiana Jones.  Lucas was originally reluctant to cast Harrison Ford due to the fact that he had already appeared in a number of Lucas's films and he did not want Ford to become his "Bobby DeNiro" (a reference to Martin Scorsese who made a number of films with Robert DeNiro).  In the end Tom Selleck was cast as Indiana Jones but was unable to get out of his commitment to the TV series Magnum P.I. (1980 - 1988).  In the end the producers and Spielberg were impressed by Ford's performance in The Empire Strikes Back (1980)  and persuaded Lucas to cast him with three weeks left until the start of filming.  Ford gives a brilliant performance delivering humour and charisma as well as the action.  The film is full of memorable moments, from the giant boulder chasing Jones in the opening of the film, to the closing images which references Citizen Kane (1941).  Karen Allen also impresses as the sharp-tongued Marion and her verbal sparring with Jones provides many humourous moments.  The film is surprisingly violent and gruesome in many ways for a family film, it has quite a high body count and there are numorous rotting corpses and skeletons, as well as the memorable climax which provided nightmares for many an 80s kid.  This is an unashamed piece of escapist entertainment which carries it's viewers along on a rollercoaster ride of thrills, spills, shocks and laughs.

Harrison Ford returned to the chracter of Indiana Jones in three sequels to date:  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).  There was also a television prequel called The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992 - 1996).

Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark


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