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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: The Adventures of Indiana Jones (Highly Recommended)

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#1 of 503 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted October 13 2003 - 04:28 PM

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The Adventures of Indiana Jones

The Complete DVD Movie Collection

Studio: Paramount

Year: 1981 - 1989

Rated: PG and PG-13

Length: Over 9 hours for three movies plus Bonus Material

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1, Anamorphic (movies) Fullscreen Bonus disc

(Movies also available fullscreen)

Audio: English DD 5.1 (Restored), French & Spanish Dolby Surround

Subtitles: English , French, Spanish

Closed Captioned for the hearing impaired
Release Date: October 21, 2003

To accept Indiana Jones is to accept the idea that:
When you need a vine to swing on to make an escape, one will be there.
When you are looking for a secret catacomb, X will mark the spot.
When you only have one bullet left in your gun, it’s a “magic bullet.”

These are the truths of Indiana Jones, a man who always gets into trouble, but who always has a way out. By design, it’s all in the tradition of the old Republic Serials. It’s candy for the mind. It’s short on truth, but long on heart and soul.

For people of Steven Spielberg’s generation, Raiders of the Lost Ark stirred nostalgia for the old Saturday serials. For those of us from a younger generation, Raiders introduced us to the concept of serial adventure, and defined the genre. Indiana Jones is now the iconic character of action-adventure films. Who can think of adventure without imagining Indiana Jones in his leather jacket and fedora, cracking a whip?

Raiders of the Lost Ark was conceived by George Lucas, with Philip Kaufman and Steven Spielberg. Scripted by Lawrence Kasdan, the film captured the imaginations of the moviegoing public, earning an impressive $242 million at the box office, and setting the stage for two sequels, a television series, comic books, and more. The film is a 115 minute roller coaster ride, never letting up for a moment. While it’s wholly unbelievable, nobody cares - because the viewer is drawn into the adventure and is willing - no, eager - to go along for the ride. The world of Indiana Jones in Raiders is often imitated, but never duplicated. That axiom holds true for the further adventures of Indiana Jones, for though there is much fun and excitement in the later incarnations, the magic is never again captured.

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Raider of the Lost Ark introduces globe-trotting archeologist - adventurer Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) as he is attempting to recover an ancient idol, an impressive artifact from deep in the jungles of South America. Approaching his goal like a cat approaches prey, lithely and in shadow, we get our first fleeting glimpses of our hero in the shadows. We see only a silhouette of the man, until he is confronted. Then, with keen senses, he averts attack, and continues on, single-mindedly, toward his goal. In a truly exciting opener, Jones achieves his goal, retrieves the idol, and then is found running for his life from a booby-trapped cave to escape with the goods, only to be foiled by his arch-rival, Belloq (Paul Freeman). If we didn’t get an idea where this film was rooted before this point, the maniacal laughter of nemesis Belloq echoes through the jungle, while Jones comically escapes the tribe of natives under Belloq’s control.

Having lost the artifact, he returns to his duties as a college professor, where some special guests await him. After a visit from government agents, he is tasked with recovering the Lost Ark of the Covenant - the actual chest that held the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses. The U.S. government wants Jones to retrieve the artifact, not for its religious value or its power, but to deprive Hitler of that which he covets. Jones realizes that the Nazis would be invincible if they got their hands on the Ark.

Jones enlists the aid of his feisty ex-flame, Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen, in a spirited performance), to retrieve the Ark. With the help of Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) they soon realize that Belloq is working for the Nazis - and he has a head start. Many adventures by land, sea and air follow in rapid-fire succession, without pause for breath, until the exciting final confrontation on a remote island between Jones and the Nazis, and with some interference from some supernatural forces.

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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, a prequel (as if it matters), manages to up the ante on the thrills and chills of Raiders, but it is somewhat of a disappointing follow-up, mostly because of the dark turn the adventure takes in this outing. Jones finds himself in the company of beautiful singer / dancer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) and a young boy, Short Round (Ke Huy Kwan). Through unusual circumstances, the trio finds themselves in a village in India, where the children have all been stolen and forced into slavery. Jones takes it upon himself to take on a deadly cult, rescue the children, and return a sacred stone to the village - dragging Willie, kicking and screaming all the way. This film is much darker in tone than Indy’s previous outing, with some very disturbing images and situations. The humor we saw in the original film is there, but it is countered by such darkness that it is difficult to enjoy. Capshaw does reasonably well as Willie, but her performance doesn’t touch that of Karen Allen’s in Raiders. The film starts with a couple of very impressive sequences, but fails to capture the imagination in the same way that Raiders did.

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Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade recaptures much of the adventurer’s spirit found Raiders. An excellent casting coup landed Sean Connery in the role of Henry Jones, Indy’s father. The two race against the Nazis (again) to find the Holy Grail. He who drinks from the Cup of Christ will enjoy eternal life. The interplay between Connery and Ford is priceless, and makes this a very enjoyable outing. Reprising roles from the original Raiders are John Rhys-Davies and Denholm Elliott. The spirit, if not the magic, of the original Raiders is felt here, in this fine finish to the Indiana Jones legacy... for now...

The Discs
The Adventures of Indiana Jones is a four disc set. Each disc has its own plastic keepcase, and there is a nice faux leather slip case to hold them all. Each of the three films is on its own disc. Extra features are on a fourth disc.

The menus for each disc follow a common theme, reminiscent of a graphic novel, only animated with scenes from the films. I like the concept, but I’m not entirely pleased with the result. Still, the menu is only the means to get to what’s important - the films and the documentary features.

The Video

Raiders of the Lost Ark
This film was meticulously restored by Lowry Digital, and it looks splendid. Thousands of dust spots and scratches, and other artifacts of age were removed from the film. The DVD boasts a beautifully restored image, high in contrast and with good shadow detail. Colors are perfectly saturated. The film isn’t completely free of defects, but it is an impressive restoration. There are a few camera angles in desert sequences where a dark spot can be seen, top center in the frame. This isn’t a dust spot, but I don’t know what it is. It appears a couple of times, and will disappear with a new camera angle - suggesting trouble with the original camera negative. This is minor, but I’m surprised it wasn’t cleaned up in the restoration. There are also a few instances of minor blooming around the frame’s upper or lower edges, which last a few seconds and then disappear.

The image is nice and sharp, with some grain present from the original photographic process. It appears as if there is a hint of edge enhancement - fleetingly visible in high contrast scenes, but hardly an issue.

This restoration is better than I ever would have expected, making this film look nearly as good as The Last Crusade, made eight years later.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
This film features highly saturated colors, high contrast, and decent shadow detail. The picture is very sharp, and free of defects such as dust and scratches. I did notice some blooming in some of the daylight scenes, where the light sky meets dark mountains... most noticeable at the start of chapter nine. It looks like a bit of edge enhancement, which is not noticeable throughout - but does seem to show up from time to time.

Overall, the picture quality is excellent, with well-rendered skin tones and solid black levels. Deeply saturated reds abound in this film by design, but none are over-saturated to the point of bleeding or dot crawl. This film is full of difficult source material, and it is all rendered well.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
This, the final Indiana Jones outing, looks the best on DVD. The picture is bright, with high contrast and excellent shadow detail. Whites are white, and blacks are bold. The picture is sharp, with an occasional hint of enhancement, but not to the point of distraction. Colors are perfectly saturated. This is near perfection.

The Audio
All three films enjoy remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks, and all three sound marvelous. Great care went into these mixes, and the effort really shows.

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders has the weakest sound of the three, which is to be expected. Surrounds had to be remixed from mono to include a stereo effect, and the result is a slightly “processed” or matrixed sound. Frequency response from the rear channels sounds a bit limited, too. Still, considering the sound recording technology employed in 1981, Raiders sounds spectacular. Bass response is good, the front soundfield is expansive. Dialog is always clear, and surround effects are more than adequate.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Both of these films enjoy better surround effects than Raiders. Frequency response is excellent all around, with good use of LFE. Dialog is always clear and pans across the front soundstage with the actors. Last Crusade, being somewhat newer, sounds more spacious, with more accurate bass. The John Williams score really gets a chance to shine in both of these films, sounding better than I’ve heard since Indy played at my local theater. This is good stuff.

Extra Features
Indiana Jones: Making the Trilogy

Three features, totaling over 2 hours, document the making of the three Indiana Jones films. New interviews with cast and crew, interspersed with footage from the shooting of the films, tell the stories of scripting, casting, shooting and editing these landmark films. Interviews include: Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan, Norman Reynolds, Frank Marshall, Douglas Slocombe, Paul Freeman, Karen Allen, John Rhys-Davies, Michael Kahn, Kate Capshaw, Ke Huy Kwan, Alison Doody, Julian Glover, Sean Connery, 1988 interviews with River Phoenix, and Denholm Elliott, and more. It’s a treat to see all these people reminiscing on these films, as well as seeing them at work on the set.

We see parts of screen tests with Tom Sellick and Tim Mathison (both were in the running for the role of Indiana Jones) and Sean Young (who auditioned for Marion Ravenwood). We find that that role of Sallah was originally planned for Danny DeVito, but his scheduling conflicts led to the casting of John Rhys-Davies.

We find out that Indiana was George Lucas’ dog’s name. Willie (Willie Scott) was Steven Spielberg’s dog’s name. And Short Round was the dog of Willard Huyck, writer of Temple of Doom.

Shooting of Temple of Doom was hampered due to a back injury sustained by Harrison Ford, taking him off the project for six weeks. A stunt double filmed most of the “conveyor” scene in his place, with Ford providing close-ups upon his return.

There is a lot of information here, and I like the fresh perspective of the cast and crew, looking back on their work - rather than period interviews. Your take on this may certainly vary, but I found the new documentary to be very enjoyable and informative - and complete enough for my needs. I find that too many “extras” bloat the price, and I don’t have time enough to watch extras for hours on end. Paramount has found a good balance, here.

The Stunts of Indiana Jones
An overview of the stunts of Indiana Jones, with input from Lucas, Spielberg, Ford, and Vic Armstrong - stunt double for Ford. Stuntman Terry Leonard talks about being dragged behind the truck in Raiders. Key stunts from all the films are discussed.

The Sound of Indiana Jones (13:20)
Ben Burtt, sound designer, talks about the sound effects of Indiana Jones. Whips. Guns. Rocks. Punches. Snakes. You get the picture...

The Music of Indiana Jones (12:23)
You can’t have a discussion about Indiana Jones without John Williams. His score is one of the most memorable movie scores ever. Williams discusses the process of writing the music. With archival footage, and input from Steven Spielberg.

The Light and Magic of Indiana Jones (12:20)
Richard Edlund (visual effects supervisor), George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Dennis Muren, and others discuss the visual and mechanical effects seen in the films. Shots discussed include: Opening the Ark, the Mine Cart sequence, various matte paintings and model shots, the plane through the tunnel, disintegrating drinker, etc...

Various trailers for each film, and a game preview for “The Emperor’s Tomb” round out the extras.

Over three hours of bonus features are included on this bonus disc provide a lot of fresh perspective on the making of these films, with current interviews from almost all the stars, and from much of the crew involved in the films.

Final Thoughts

Color me ecstatic. Home theater enthusiasts have been waiting for these films on DVD for years, and Paramount has delivered. The movies look and sound terrific, getting the royal treatment for this release. And the fourth disc of the set, with over three hours of bonus features, contains a wealth of information and trivia behind the scenes of these landmark adventure films.

Highly Recommended!

#2 of 503 OFFLINE   Rob Cooper

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Posted October 13 2003 - 04:37 PM

Thanks for the review! I was thinking I might be able to resist the urge to pick this set up. I have the films on LD. But now I can't wait to relive the trilogy on dvd. The 2 hour documentary sounds great.

#3 of 503 OFFLINE   Ric Bagoly

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Posted October 13 2003 - 05:32 PM

Sounds good...Posted Image
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#4 of 503 OFFLINE   Niko Nykanen

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Posted October 13 2003 - 05:36 PM

The documentaries are pretty good. The best part of this set is the picture and sound quality.. They´re just amazing. Love this set!
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#5 of 503 OFFLINE   Tom J. Davis

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Posted October 13 2003 - 05:38 PM

Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Just got my new projector setup and running!! Can't wait!!

#6 of 503 OFFLINE   Kenneth Cummings

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Posted October 13 2003 - 06:04 PM

Going to pre-order it from Best Buy.com this week. Heck, by Tuesday of next week, I will be seeing the man who named after my state...and a dog to boot. Posted Image
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#7 of 503 OFFLINE   BruceKimmel


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Posted October 13 2003 - 06:31 PM

Re the dust spot - if it's not in any but one angle then it's probably dirt on the camera lens. The opening of How the West Was Won has dirt on the camera lens, too, and people used to say it was a defect in the transfer. I'll check out the DVD when I pick it up and let you know my thoughts.

#8 of 503 OFFLINE   Yumbo



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Posted October 13 2003 - 09:32 PM

I just watched Raiders and I was blown away by the picture and sound. THX means something on this one, with the new logo too. to nitpick, sound is slightly flat, and bass may seem boomy, but I recall that it sounds similar on the LD. can't complain! certainly way better than my P&S VHS!

#9 of 503 OFFLINE   StevenFC


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Posted October 13 2003 - 09:43 PM

Another timely and well written review from HTF. I hope I can find a copy of it next week. I imagine it'll go fast. I do wish that it was a more of a "deluxe" edition with more extras. Especially commentaries. Hopefully, we'll see a big deluxe set after the new movie plays in the theatres. But since this is one of those movies that was on the "when will it be on DVD?" list, I'd buy them if even if they didn't have any extras. *Whispering* But don't tell the movie studios that.
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#10 of 503 OFFLINE   Chris Atkins

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Posted October 14 2003 - 12:45 AM

Is there any other sequel in the history of cinema--other than Temple of Doom--that is actually criticized for being DARKER than the original? Maybe that is a bit of hyperbole, but I find it odd that people complain about TOD being too dark, when hard-core fans usually want films as dark as possible, especially middle acts of trilogies. Just an observation...

#11 of 503 OFFLINE   Steven Simon

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Posted October 14 2003 - 01:12 AM

Could you point out where you saw edge enhancement? I have watched all 3 now, and couldn't find any.....
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#12 of 503 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted October 14 2003 - 02:30 AM

Nice Review Scott. Posted Image

Can't wait for next week at this time! Seeing these again projected with great quality has me juiced. These films are just FUN! An ingredient lacking in most films made today.

#13 of 503 OFFLINE   Zen Butler

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Posted October 14 2003 - 02:34 AM

Thank you for the review. This is the no-brainer of the year right along side The Adventures of Robin Hood.
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#14 of 503 OFFLINE   Reagan


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Posted October 14 2003 - 03:40 AM

Anyone else surprised that Raiders was originally a mono movie? Especially given the fact that it was made by Speilberg and Lucas. -Reagan
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#15 of 503 OFFLINE   CraigL



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Posted October 14 2003 - 03:49 AM

[quote] Anyone else surprised that Raiders was originally a mono movie? Especially given the fact that it was made by Speilberg and Lucas. [quote]

It wasn't a mono movie. It had mono surrounds.

#16 of 503 OFFLINE   Adam_Reiter


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Posted October 14 2003 - 04:03 AM

A guaranteed buy for me! Thanx Scott! Posted Image

#17 of 503 OFFLINE   Aryn Leroux

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Posted October 14 2003 - 04:29 AM

Thanks for the review. In most of the reviews i have read so far they all knock temple of doom for being too dark. I say gimmie a break! i know tons of people that think TOD is the best of the trilogy for that very reason. There also abit crazy since Raiders is easily the best. But TOD is a solid outing and takes to much undeserved criticism. If you wanna complain about kate capshaw i can see that but too dark nah i don't think so that was all part of the charm mmmmm snake surprise and monkey brains. gotta love it! Posted Image

#18 of 503 OFFLINE   Chris Atkins

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Posted October 14 2003 - 04:59 AM

[quote] i have read so far they all knock temple of doom for being too dark. I say gimmie a break! i know tons of people that think TOD is the best of the trilogy for that very reason. [quote]

Although I do not put TOD at the best in the trilogy, I do adore it precisely because it IS so dark. Moments like the one where Indy comes across the statute near the palace...where the guides get really nervous and flee...and Indy tells Short Round not to come up there...those moments make TOD for me.

#19 of 503 OFFLINE   Will K

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Posted October 14 2003 - 05:10 AM

Weren't there supposed to be some deleted scenes? Or are they in the documentary?
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#20 of 503 OFFLINE   CraigL



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Posted October 14 2003 - 05:22 AM

[quote] Weren't there supposed to be some deleted scenes? Or are they in the documentary? [quote]

No deleted scenes. No bloopers.

Lucas said yes. Spielberg said no.

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