All right. I will attempt to get back on track as I jumped out of sequence last time. So, to re-cap, this next film was prior to “Ghostbusters” but after “Return of the Jedi.” My viewing of this was not on the big screen (looking back now, there are a shitload of movies that I love that I have never seen on the big screen–sad in a way but thank you inventor of the VCR).
As I said in Growing up movies…we did not get a VCR at our house until 1986. My aunt and uncle however, got a VCR in early 1985. It was a top feeder/no slide and it had a cable remote attached to it. It wouldn’t surprise me if my aunt still has that in her garage somewhere (she doesn’t like to let go). I remember breaking that baby in with a film that was released in 1981. It was what I would call a “spectacle movie” i.e. a lot-o-special effects.
The director of these films was always so great at creating mood. From the opening titles, to the music, to the lighting, and editing:
A mountain that matches the logo almost perfectly. A group of men trudge through the jungle slowly as they reach the bank of a river and the back silhouette of a man wearing a fedora steps into frame. He pulls a map from the pocket of his jacket and reads it. A shady fellow behind him pulls a gun and cocks the hammer.
Closeup of the fedora man’s ear as he hears his impending doom.
SWOOSH CRACK! goes the fedora man’s whip as the betrayer with the gun has it slapped from his hands. Pull in on a dusty–HAN SOLO? Wearing a fedora.
Here started the relationship of Ford and Spielberg that would generate a number of amazing blockbusters together under a new franchise that America was ready for. “Indiana Jones and….”
This particular film was “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” I really remember it being a set piece film. Of course at the time, I would just say, “…and remember when they were in the plane and the snake crawled on him,” or “remember when he put the staff in the ground and the sun lit the crystal up and showed him where to dig,” or “remember when Marion was taken in a basket and he went around the corner and there were 50 baskets!” I think you get the point.
Looking back now, I think set pieces. The jungle, the campus, the lodge in the snow where he found Marion, Cairo, the sub, the “face melt” island, and then back to the warehouse where all of our secrets are hidden. It feels like a film that had a lot of great atmosphere that needed a little bit of action added to them, mix with a really heroic score from a movie music genius, stir in a french arch enemy and some Nazis, and blow some shit up and we will have a blockbusting cinematic masterpiece that will spawn a new franchise!
You gotta love it.
Of all the set pieces, I think the chase on horseback, climbing onto the truck, hijacking it, getting the truck taken away and having to re-hijack, was by far the one that has stayed with me in my mind over the years. The action itself is awesome, but Spielberg can’t just let action be action for action’s sake–the subtle bits of humor that he can add to a scene make them classic cinema gold. Indy can get on the truck, cool. Now he has to deal with the platoon of Nazi’s behind him in cars and on motorcycles. The little grin that Indy wears when he nudges the motorcycle over is hilarious to me and still makes me grin as I write this. When he is hijacked by a very tenacious Nazi and is thrown through the front window himself, the sound editing of Indy pulling on the hood ornament and holding it for dear life is hilarious and suspenseful–eat your heart out Hitch and Blake Edwards.
A number of other images pop in there too:
The Snake Pit where the Ark is buried.
The exploding plane that Indy and Marion try to escape in.
The shoot out at Marion’s Lodge.
The melting Nazis…
But I continue to go back to the truck sequence in my mind after all of those years as my favorite sequence in an amazing action movie.
I remember having a marathon with a friend who had never seen these films a few years back. It wasn’t their cup of tea unfortunately, but they did enjoy the truck hijacking. I made sure to ask…
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