Rakesh's movie talk
Raiders of The Lost Ark (1981)

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Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Lawrence Kasdan (based on story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman
Starring Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, John Rhys-Davies and Denholm Elliot

I had always liked the 80's TV show Magnum P.I. It stars Tom Selleck as the slobbish, underdressed (always with a pair of shorts) PI with a flaming red Ferrari. Selleck is perfect for the role, funny, charming and tough if needed be. Now, why am I talking about Mr. Selleck in this obvious commentary on Raiders Of The Lost Ark (Raiders). Well, readers (for those who don't know), Tom Selleck was the original choice to play Indiana Jones. Oops...I can hear some scream and some sounds. Obviously some have fainted. Yeah, can you believe it?

Well, blame it on Harrison Ford. Like Connery who made James Bond his own, Ford IS Indiana Jones or Indy as he is more fondly known. Take it or leave it. The image is imprisoned in our mind that if they were to continue the series with a new actor, the audience will not respond. Think of the TV series with young Indiana Jones. It didn't survive.

As most of us know, the character is the brainchild of George Lucas. When Steven Spielberg informed him that he had an invitation to do a Bond film, Lucas countered him and said that he got a better character. So, the history was made and the collaboration was born. Raiders is one of the brighter star in Spielberg's resume and is definitely the most lucrative series after Star Wars for Lucas.

Raiders is now up there with the other classics as one of the greatest American movies. How can it not be? This must be one movie with many 'movie moments'. Can you forget these scenes?

  • Indy running away from a boulder out of the cave only to be captured by native Indians.
  • Indy unties Marrion, then ties her back.
  • The pit with snakes, urgh!
  • Indy fights with a Egyptian baddy who has a mean sword. The bad guy swings the sword around, showing off his skills, and Indy simply dispatches him with a bullet. (This scene, I read elsewhere, was improvised when Ford was not well and couldn't participate in full scale sword-fighting scene)
  • Indy fighting a big mother of a guy bare-fisted, ending up with the bad guy becoming a mincemeat, courtesy of a plane propeller.
  • Indy shot over the front of a truck, hangs on, but loses his balance and falls underneath. Indy hangs underneath and uses his whip to tie it under the truck and is dragged along. He pulls himself back into the truck, climbs back in, gets rid of the driver and takes control of the truck...phew!
  • The opening of the ark that reveals some power or spirits that cleans the area of bad guys (Nazis).

I bet that we remember at least one of those scenes, even if we had seen it only when we were nine years old, as it was, I believe, in my case. I must have caught a scene here and there in later years on TV. But for recent viewing I spent time and watched it frame by frame (though the format was pan and scan, I ought to get the widescreen version).

The plot in nutshell concerns the adventure of Indiana Jones, a famous archeologist who is assigned to retrieve the covenant ark, which contains the original Ten Commandments, which in turn is sought after by the Nazis. It takes him across Nepal, Egypt and Greece, meeting various characters, animals and incidents.

It is one action and breath stealing suspense after another. In between we are allowed a breather, where we get to get closer to Marrion (Karen Allen) and Indy as they rekindle their forgotten romance. But wait, there comes another edge-of-the seat delight. Cruel, cruel Mr. Spielberg.

Before I forget, check out that scene with cloth hanger. Oh, that one really got me into stitches. And of course, can anybody forget John Williams marching score. I need not say more about this genius work in the movie, you got to watch and listen and you know what I am talking about.

1980 was probably unofficially the last year the dark realism era of 70s filmmaking. I agree with the book by Peter Biskind, Easy Riders and Raging Bulls, which claims that Raging Bull (dir. Martin Scorcese) as the film that ended it all. Yes, by now the audiences were tired of realism. They wanted fun. It was demonstrated by the success of Star Wars and its sequels. And Raiders was a big welcomed change. The audience accepted the story of a realistic, believable persona in some unbelievable fantastic situation.

A few words about Karen Allen who plays Marrion. She is great as Indy's foil, partner, ally and love interest. She excels in all those departments, especially in action where she can give Lara Croft a run for her quest for more sequels. Most important of all, to this writer, she is a BABE! Too bad I read that her career didn't really take off. Just when you need an actress like that, in come the likes of Roberts, Palthrow or Zelwegger. Gad, I see a rotten tomato coming... Better scram.