Raiders of the Lost Ark
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott, Alfred Molina
Running Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: June 12, 1981
4K Ultra HD Release Date: June 8, 2021 (Amazon.com)
In 1936, archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before Adolf Hitler’s Nazis can obtain its awesome powers. (from IMDb)
To celebrate 40 years of Indiana Jones, Paramount Pictures recently released a 4-movie, remastered 4K collection of the Indiana Jones movies. It’s officially no longer “The Complete Adventures,” because – as I type this – a fifth and reportedly final movie is being filmed right now, with Harrison Ford reprising his role for one last time. Up until this point, I’ve only ever reviewed one of the movies for this site, so I feel like the best way to review this set is to take a look back at each one individually, starting with the original film, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Now considered a modern classic, Raiders of the Lost Ark released in 1981 and introduced the world to the new action hero archaeologist, Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford brought the charming and daring hero to life on the big screen, coming off the success of two popular Star Wars films where he starred as Han Solo. Moviegoers couldn’t get enough of Jones, and Steven Spielberg and George Lucas’ creation would end up spawning three (now four) sequels. But Raiders of the Lost Ark is a unique animal all its own.
Raiders of the Lost Ark really affected cinema in a huge way; if you’ve seen movies like the Brendan Fraser-led Mummy movies, Tomb Raider (the movies and the games), Jewel of Nile, the Uncharted games (and forthcoming movie), and many other similar treasure-seeking adventures on both the big and small screens, then you’ve seen the influence that Spielberg, Lucas and Ford have brought to storytelling. Ford brings a lot of character and life to Indy and makes him a kind of everyday man who has the backbone and courage to get the job done and thwart evil at the same time. He kind of fights for the little guy while quenching his thirst for knowledge and facts. All throughout the series, he struggles with his belief in the supernatural. He’s a firm believer in what he can see, hear and touch, so when he’s tasked to go after The Ark of the Covenant–before the Nazi’s get it–he’s hesitant to believe it even exists. I loved Indy as a hero when I was a kid – even if Raiders of the Lost Ark was way too rough for my little eyes to take in at the time. But it’s his journey in 1989’s The Last Crusade that has solidified Indiana Jones as one of my all-time favorite characters and that movie as one of my top 3 favorite movies of all time. (But more on that movie when we get to it…)
The Biblical aspects of Raiders of the Lost Ark are just one of the many things to like about it. The plot becomes a race between good and evil as the Nazis try to find the Ark first so they can use its power to conquer the world (in theory, of course). While Jones is flawed and hardly the perfect role model, his intentions are more pure, and by the end, good wins out over evil, and his belief system is changed forever. Paul Freeman plays a rival archaeologist named Rene Belloq who is more in it for the power and money than the archaeology. He ends up becoming a tool of the Nazi’s to help acquire the Ark. Freeman is a great foil for Ford’s Jones, and one of the movie’s best scenes is when the two simply sit and face-off verbally in a pub about midway through the film. Karen Allen, although not my favorite flame of Indy’s, is a great match for him here as well. And I think that’s what makes this film work so well — the characters all stand out and complement each other so well.
While Spielberg seems to hit all the right notes in Raiders (unlike Crystal Skull, where it seems nearly every choice is a head-scratcher), don’t let its PG-rating deceive you. The movie has some pretty gritty and rough moments. One could argue that some of its most grotesque images are hardly realistic looking, but they’re no less gruesome. When Indy and Satipo stumble upon a partially-decomposed skeleton of a rival archaeologist in the movie’s earlier moments, it’s gross, which is only amplified by a creepy head-turn that it does. And after an unsettling encounter with large spiders (I’m not a fan), we soon see a freshly impaled face on large spikes with blood and the victim’s eyes frozen open in shock. Later in the movie, a man is beheaded off screen by an airplane propeller blade and we see blood splatter on areas around other characters. Many of the fights involve blood spraying during hand-to-hand combat or from some gunshot wounds. When Indy is shot in the arm at one point, blood sprays a vehicle windshield. There’s also an inexplicably frightening scene when Allen’s Marion finds herself in a tomb filled with corpses that seem to reach for her and paw at her as she screams. The sight than cuts to a skull with its mouth wide open and a very large snake slowly slithering out of it. It’s like a scene ripped right out of a horror movie and plopped into a sequence where it doesn’t really fit. (And boy, did that scene scare the pants off me as a kid!) Finally, the last moments of the movie see a crowd of Nazi’s get zapped by lightening and fried, and then a couple characters’ faces quickly melt off like a burning wax candle. Their heads then explode–as if the face-melting wasn’t gross enough. Older viewers may laugh at the early 80’s effects, but there’s still a part of me that sees it with the eyes I originally saw the movie with and rather look away.
Overall, Raiders of the Lost Ark is an absolute classic. While the third film in the series will always be my favorite, Raiders is a pretty close second. And its first sequel, Temple of Doom just can’t even begin to hold a candle to its predecessor.
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 6/16/21)
4K UHD Special Features Review
Raiders of the Lost Ark is now available in brilliant 4K UHD. You can get it on its own digitally now, or in a special 5-disc, 4-movie 4K set. According to Paramount Pictures, “all four films are available together in 4K Ultra HD with Dolby Vision® and HDR-10 for ultra-vivid picture quality and state-of-the-art Dolby Atmos® audio*. Each film has been meticulously remastered from 4K scans of the original negatives with extensive visual effects work done to ensure the most pristine and highest quality image. All picture work was approved by director Steven Spielberg. In addition, all four films were remixed at Skywalker Sound under the supervision of legendary sound designer Ben Burtt to create the Dolby Atmos® soundtracks. All original sound elements were used to achieve the fully immersive Dolby Atmos® mixes while staying true to each film’s original creative intent.”
Guys, let me tell you – the movie looks gorgeous. Raiders of the Lost Ark has never looked this good. The clarity is mond-blowing, the color is vibrant, and the sound is noticeably enhanced. I don’t have a Dolby Atmos setup, but all through watching these 4 movies again, I clearly noticed enhanced audio — things moving across the room from speaker to speaker, and even background sounds I never noticed before. This set is wonderful for any Indiana Jones fan!
The 4K set also includes a standard Blu-ray disc with seven hours of previously released bonus content as detailed below:
- On Set with Raiders of the Lost Ark
- From Jungle to Desert
- From Adventure to Legend
- Making the Films
- The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981 documentary)
- The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark
- The Making of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
- The Making of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
- The Making of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (HD)
- Behind the Scenes
- The Stunts of Indiana Jones
- The Sound of Indiana Jones
- The Music of Indiana Jones
- The Light and Magic of Indiana Jones
- Raiders: The Melting Face!
- Indiana Jones and the Creepy Crawlies (with optional pop-ups)
- Travel with Indiana Jones: Locations (with optional pop-ups)
- Indy’s Women: The American Film Institute Tribute
- Indy’s Friends and Enemies
- Iconic Props (Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) (HD)
- The Effects of Indy (Kingdom of theCrystal Skull) (HD)
- Adventures in Post Production (Kingdom of theCrystal Skull) (HD)
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 6/16/21)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: We see many natives’ bare butts in thong-like bottoms; Marion takes her off her outfit to put on a dress for Belloq and we see her bare back as she removes her bra in a mirror (that Belloq is watching her in). The dress goes low in the back and the front with a tiny bit of cleavage; We see Marion in a night gown. She kisses areas Indy says doesn’t hurt, then passionately kisses his mouth and he falls asleep; Marion wakes the next morning with just a blanket on her (we see her bare shoulders); A ship captain lies to Belloq’s crew, telling them that Marion has “value” and “will fetch a good price.”
Vulgarity/Language: 1 “S” word (with “Holy”), 2 “g*dd*mn,” 1 “J-sus,” 1 “S.O.B,” 3 “h*ll,” 1 “d*mn,” 1 “Good G-d,” 1 “b*stard,” 2 “Oh my G-d,” 1 “S” word in German
Alcohol/Drugs: We see Marion and a man doing shots till he falls over in his chair; We see Indy drinking liquor while sitting at a table; Indy joins Belloq with his bottle who is also drinking; Marion and Belloq drink. They get silly drunk.
Blood/Gore: Spikes jump out of a wall with a partially decomposed body on it, missing parts of its face; We briefly see the previously seen decomposed face on spikes and then Indy suddenly comes face-to-face with a man who’s face has been impaled with spikes with some blood on it; We see a man fall over with bloody darts sticking out of his back; A man catches on fire and is shot in the head with blood pouring down his face; Marion shoots a guy and blood pours out of his mouth as he falls over; Indy shoots a man hanging off the side of a truck and we see blood on his clothes; A big man punches Indy, splitting his lip with some blood; The large man’s nose and face is bloody, and he has some blood on his bare shoulder. The blade of a plan beheads him off screen but we see blood spray onto the cockpit window and plane fin; We see some blood on Indy’s face as he fights bad guys in a truck; Indy is shot in the arm with blood spraying. We see his blood is then on the windshield of the truck; A man punches Indy in his injured arm and we see blood on the man’s fist; As Indy lies on a bed with Marion tending to his wounds, we see bloody scrapes on his bare chest and a bloody bandage on his arm where he was shot; We see some scrapes on Indy’s hands and an abrasion on his forehead; Lightening burns through the Nazi soldiers, killing them. The faces of Belloq, Toht and another soldier melt off as they scream (like candle wax. Pretty gruesome). Belloq’s head then explodes.
Violence: A man pulls a gun on Indy and he whips it out of his hand; Some large spiders crawl on Satipo and Indy and they pull them off carefully; Spikes jump out of a wall with a partially decomposed body on it, missing parts of its face; Indy shoves Satipo against the wall; A dart shoots out of the wall and hits a wooden stake; As Indy runs, spikes shoot out of the wall. Indy jumps over a chasm and grabs the side and almost falls. He then grabs vines to pull himself up; We briefly see the previously seen decomposed face on spikes and then Indy suddenly comes face-to-face with a man who’s face has been impaled with spikes with some blood on it; A giant boulder rolls down from the ceiling, chasing Indy. He jumps out of the cave to safety and is met by natives with spears and arrows. A man falls over with bloody darts sticking out of his back; Natives chase Indy and shoot arrows at him; Marion punches Indy in the face; Some Nazi guys grab Marion and threaten her with a hot poker. Indy whips it out of his hand and it causes a fire. A gun fight ensues with a lot of destruction. A man catches on fire and is shot in the head with blood pouring down his face. A man holds indy’s face down on the bar and they light it on fire. Indy whacks the guy with a liquor bottle to get out of the way. We see Indy being choked briefly. Marion hits a man with a burning log; Toht grabs a medallion that is hot from sitting in a fire and screams in pain; Indy fights a guy and he’s about to shoot him, but Marion shoots the guy and blood pours out of his mouth as he falls over; Men with swords attack Marion and Indy in a market. Indy punches them and kicks them. One accidentally stabs another through the stomach. Marion hits a man with a pan off screen in a room and drags him on the floor into the room (off screen). Indy is confronted by a man with a huge sword and just shoots him, killing him (played for laughs). A group of men carry off Marion in a basket. Indy runs after her and finds a sea of men carrying baskets and he roughly pulls many down out of their hands. A man with a machine gun shoots at him. Indy shoots a man hanging off the side of a truck and we see blood on his clothes. A truck crashes and blows up; Indy threatens Belloq with a gun and many men in the room draw their guns. Sallah’s kids then come running in to lead Indy out safely; We see a monkey lying dead from eating poisoned food; Indy finds Marion bound and gagged and re-gags her to keep them safe; We see the design of the headpiece burned into the Toht’s palm; Indy comes face to face with a cobra; Indy douses the snakes with gas and sets them on fire; Marion and Belloq get silly drunk. She picks up a dinner knife to threaten him and tries to leave (they both laugh though). Toht grabs her hand and twists it till she drops the knife. She runs back to Rene for protection. Toht then menacingly pulls out a tool that looks like a weapon but it turns out to just be a hanger for his coat; The Nazi’s throw Marion down into the temple pit and she dangles on a statue till she falls and Indy catches her; Indy and Marion use torches to make the snakes back off. She accidentally burns Indy when she thinks his whip is a snake; Indy climbs a statue and drives it through a wall; Marion accidentally pulls a skeleton off the wall and then runs into a series of mummified bodies as she screams. We briefly see a big snake crawling though the mouth of one of them. (All of this scene is disturbing); Indy fights a guy with a wrench. He knocks him out. A big guy then removes his shirt to fight Indy. Indy kicks him and he punches Indy, splitting his lip with some blood. Indy bites his arm. They keep fighting. Marion clobbers pilot with brake blocks; Guns of plane blow up a truck. Gas spills out onto the runway; The large man’s nose and face is bloody, and he has some blood on his bare shoulder. The blade of a plan beheads him off screen but we see blood spray onto the cockpit window and plane fin; The plane explodes; Bad guys shoot at Indy while he’s riding on a horse. He jumps into a truck cab and throws a guy out. He punches the driver out of the car. With the truck, Indy rams a car off the road. He rams a bike off the road into a puddle. A car goes off a cliff as the guys inside scream. More Nazi’s climb on the side of the truck and he swerves to get them off. Indy is shot in the arm with blood spraying. We see his blood is then on the windshield of the truck; Nazi jumps into the truck cab from the roof and punches Indy’s injured arm. He falls out the windshield and clings to the front. Indy goes under the truck and climbs back up the back of it; Indy sashes the guy’s face repeatedly into the dashboard. He then punches him and he goes out windshield and is run over; Marion accidentally hits Indy in the face with the mirror; We see the Ark in a Nazi crate. A rat reacts as the Swastika burns off of it; Indy punches out a guard to steal his clothes. He then kicks and hits another man; Indy threatens to blow up the Ark with a bazooka; Indy and Marion are tied to a stake while the Nazi’s open the Ark with a ritual. Spirits come out of the Ark. One looks at Belloq and its face turns to a skull. Lightening burns through the Nazi soldiers, killing them. The faces of Belloq, Toht and another soldier melt off as they scream (like candle wax. Pretty gruesome). Belloq’s head then explodes.