As a kid growing up in New Jersey there were many opportunities to play and meet other kids. But I had a childhood illness that didn't always allow me to go outside; I stayed in, read books and watched television. Everything back then was "live" TV except movies and cartoons. Some smart engineer found a way to synchronize the speed of film (@24 frames/second) with the television cameras without distortion. We saw the film as it was originally seen in the theatre. I daresay my lifelong love of movies started at an early age.
Just about the time television became a household phenomenon in America, movies were starting to feel a slight decline in audience attendance. Before we knew it every movie ever made, except the then-recent ones, were finding their way into America's living rooms. Not all movies could be seen of course, especially color movies, but no one cared. One genre was the movie serial adventure. I can easily remember two regular TV programs, Serial Theatre and Adventure Theatre, which broadcast many exciting (and now classic) serials every week just as they'd been seen years earlier in my local movie house. I imagine that two young men, Steven Speilberg and George Lucas, came under the spell of these films too and eventually their genius for
film-making led them to directing and producing their own version, The Raiders of the Lost Ark, this year celebrating its thirtieth birthday.
As early as 1973 Lucas had worked up a treatment for the film, based on the old movie serials like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. But his involvement with Jaws and Star Wars delayed any further development. Scripts outlines were worked up by Lawrence Kasdan as the 1970's came to a close. Pre-production and story-boards were an integral part of Spielberg's vision for the characters and the overall look of the movie. Various versions of who Indiana was were considered and dismissed: was he as adventurous and fearless, but a lot smarter then previous movie heroes? He could appear bookish and timid back home while all the time he went to places other archaeologists only dreamed about.
It's fun to ponder how different this modern classic might have looked if one of the other actors, who auditioned for the lead role, had been cast as Jones. Established stars like Tim Matheson, Peter Coyote, John Shea and Tom Selleck (who was actually offered the role but couldn't accept) all tried out. Several other actors were also considered. Spielberg liked Ford from his work in Star Wars, with all of the physical and emotional attributes
a strong male lead needed to pull it off. A talented supporting cast, carefully chosen to fill their parts, reminds us that without the best actors, a great script and powerful directing are for naught. Everything in the production is crafted expertly by Spielberg. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning four of them. It fostered three sequels, but in my humble opinion, none matched the original (even with Sean Connery later cast as Indiana's father).
The first ten minutes of the movie grab hold of you and never let go. Action follows action, dialogue builds suspense and anticipation for the next exciting sequences and before the audience knows it we have a tale that never gets old, no matter how often it's viewed. Unlike the movie serials it imitated Raiders doesn't make you wait a whole week for "the next exciting chapter." I like that about Raiders. It's inventive, original, a bit smart-alecky and certainly, never dull. Who out there really likes spiders and snakes? We have the strong indomitable male hero, a smart, tough (in her own right) female companion, a few villains who know their stuff too, and the best character types rounding out the cast. Each scene can stand on its own, but somehow smoothly segues to the next and the next. There are a
whole host of insider jokes and references to other Spielberg-Lucas creations throughout Raiders. You have to watch carefully for Star Wars stuff, for example, sprinkled throughout the film. Shooting locations are all over the world, from England to Tunisia to France to California.
Yes, I know you will talk
And a classic Spielberg movie always has an original, signature soundtrack by composer John Williams. Raiders of The Lost Ark is no exception. All of the carefully- crafted scenes become even more memorable as we replay the music in our minds. Like so many other facets of these collaborations the melodies we hear have been painstakingly matched with nearly every foot of film. You merely have to think about other favorites like Star Wars or Jaws or Close Encounters or Schindler's List and the music pops up immediately.
As I have alluded to in previous columns I wish that film-makers would sometimes leave their original, perfect creations alone and then create something else, something new again. But like all artists they constantly strive for perfection, re-writing great themes, painting great works, making music reach the heavens, over and over again. Their visions are repeated in multiple variations and we should appreciate their triumphs while they last – especially the immortal ones.
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Jul 28, 2011 1:41 AM
|Good column, Jon. |
And Spielberg doesn't have to re-make ANY of his movies to "get it right." His stories are perfect as they are. Sadly, Ford wants to do another Indy movie. I love the guy, but, walk away. The legend will forever live on, each time we hear that trumpet fanfare of the RAIDERS theme.
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My views on an eclectic mix of films and personalties, past and present; emotional interpretations; some laughs, some cries.
I am a former New Jersey native, living in Charlotte, N.C. for almost 30 years. I am a lifelong movie lover with lots of movie trivia knowledge and soundtracks in my CD collection. I enjoy sharing my love of films with everyone and have so many fond memories growing up in darkened movie theaters. I have been married 50 years (as of December 22, 2018) and we both share a passion for film (and each other of course).|
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