According to the American Film Institute he’s the greatest action-adventure hero of all time, so it only stands to reason that in advance of the theatrical release of the fourth installment of the franchise later this week, fans can relive the unforgettable exploits of Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones, with the collected special edition DVDs of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, boasting all-new, exclusive bonus features that dig deeper into the making of these cinematic milestones than ever before.
The films themselves, of course, don’t need much introduction, having collectively earned a half dozen Academy Awards, as well as nearly $1.2 billion worldwide. Released in the summer of 1981, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is a 1930s-set archeological adventure tale rooted in the shared affection of its makers for the old, black-and-white Republic serials of the era of its setting, and stretching into the 1940s and ’50s. Directed by Steven Spielberg, from an idea developed with executive producer George Lucas and a script penned by Lawrence Kasdan, the original film finds the rakish title character, an archeology professor with a taste for hands-on exploration and artifact rescue, battling distasteful Nazis and reconnecting with feisty ex-flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) while chasing down the biblical Ark of the Covenant.
Powered by sinister mysteries, a search for the legendary Ankara Stone and an exploration of the Thuggee cult, 1984’s Temple of Doom (above), actually a prequel in the chronology of the series, is much debated by fans of the trilogy — held at a certain distance by some for its bleakness, embraced by others for exactly those reasons, as well as Kate Capshaw’s deliciously irascible performance as spoiled crooner Willie Scott. 1989’s The Last Crusade, meanwhile, brings back the Nazis as foes, finding its roots in a quest for the Holy Grail, and adding Sean Connery to the fold as Indiana’s father (even though he’s less than a dozen years older than Ford). It also explains the roots of Indiana’s famous fedora and his fear of snakes, as well as his (which is to say Ford’s) small chin scar.
Housed in a sturdy, inch-thick, white cardboard slipcover with a paper insert backing, Indiana Jones: The Adventure Collection relegates each film to its own plastic slimline case, though again, each is also available individually. (Previously available only in a trilogy box set, the three Indiana Jones films were all originally restored and remastered in 2003.) Created with
fans of all ages in mind, the all-new bonus features here provide never-before-seen
explorations of the making of these classic movies and showcase the
characters, action and extraordinary visual effects that have made the
films indelible cinematic treasures. All three films are presented in
widescreen enhanced for 16:9 TVs with Dolby digital English 5.1
surround sound, French 2.0 surround and Spanish 2.0 surround audio tracks, and optional English,
French and Spanish subtitles. While there’s a bit of general digitization in some of the action scenes, the picture is otherwise fairly sharp and clean, with consistent blacks and color saturation; the sound, too, is solid and deep, with each whip crack and feat of derring-do getting its own punctuated flavor.
New introductions to each film by Spielberg and Lucas headline the supplemental extras; the first one, running seven-plus minutes, is perhaps most interesting, because Spielberg talks about having gone over budget and over schedule on Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and 1941, and therefore wanting desperately to prove his fiscal responsibility with a slick, “simple” picture. After an initial rap session in 1977 with Lucas gave way to January 1978 story meetings, Spielberg says he felt that they “had the template for the series, but not the carrier pigeon.” That would prove to be Ford, who was of course cast — against Lucas’ initial mild protestations — only after Tom Selleck was cast, but couldn’t get out of his Magnum, P.I. small screen duty.
The Last Crusade introduction is also interesting for the behind-the-scenes laughs it details with Connery, and how the story was conceived. Spielberg notes that the two big character-moment tent-poles, for him, were Indiana’s “Yes sir!” greeting to his father in the scene which introduces him and the end-game moment where his father finally addresses him as Indiana, snapping his focus away from trying to retrieve the Holy Grail, and to the fact that he has reconnected with his dad. These moments left “a lot of abyss to be closed,” says Spielberg, but were integral to why he wanted to tackle the film.
While the introductions are specific to each movie, the bulk of the bonus material on each disc isn’t necessarily related solely to that film, which sometimes makes for some jumping around or out-of-order viewing, if one’s trying to watch things sequentially. An exception comes in the form of three storyboard sequences — one from each movie — which highlight,
respectively, the Well of Souls scene, the mine cart chase and, lastly, the
opening, train-top chase sequence from The Last Crusade.
The cast and crew of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
also pay tribute to the original trilogy in a 12-minute segment, which makes for some
interesting anecdotes, particularly from the franchise’s new additions.
Screenwriter David Koepp talks about seeing the original movie in
Milwaukee as a teenager, after arriving to see something else that was
sold out; John Hurt, meanwhile, admits that he was dragged to see it
against his will. Finally, Lucas says that everything flowed from the truck chase of Raiders of the Lost Ark — that that sequence was the genesis of the entire enterprise.
Other supplemental features include a recreation of the (at-the-time) amazing physical effect of the Nazi villain’s melting face in Raiders of the Lost Ark, with Spielberg and Lucas commenting on the evolution of visual effects and CGI. A couple location featurettes span the globe to spotlight where the films take place and where they were shot, while “Creepy Crawlies” reminisces about the series’ living, unbilled costars — snakes, bugs and rats. In the 10-minute featurette “Friends and Enemies,” introduced by Marshall, he, Spielberg, Lucas and Indiana Jones‘ writers look back at the series through the prism of its iconic supporting characters. Another nine-minute segment, from a 2003 American Film Institute tribute, gathers the franchise’s leading women (Allen, Capshaw and Alison Doody) for a discussion with Jean Firstenberg.
Finally, spread throughout, there are also a healthy number of galleries depicting
production photographs, portraiture, illustrations, posters, props and
other marketing material, as well as effects work on the movie and, on each disc, a game demo and trailer for Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures, one of Lucas’ many ancillary spin-offs. To purchase the DVD set via Amazon, click here. For even more information about Indiana Jones and his adventures, meanwhile, click here. A- (Movies, collectively) B+ (Discs)