Keeping Up With Indiana Jones

With a new 'Indy' upon us, one remembers the begining (for him, anyway)
August 13, 2008
I want to apologize to those who saw the first attempt I took with this article. I figuered out what I was doing wrong and fixed it. RD version: If you write on MS Word and paste over to this site, your punctuation marks will become hyrogliphics!

For Christmas in 1985 we went over the river and through the wood to Grandmother's house (actually we went over the turnpike and through the Allegany Tunnel). It went down in history as "The Year the Tree Threw Up". With all our nearest and dearest relatives there, there were presents, presents every where. By Christmas Eve, the wrapped and bowed material cornucopia before the tree in my grandparents' ranch house began to take a certain shape and someone was heard to say, "It looks like the tree threw up!"

That year we all got home-sewn oversized Pound Puppies, I got the other three lions I needed to form Voltron, and our family got it's first ever VCR. It was a no-name brand VHS front loader back in the days of VHS vs. Beta. My uncle Bill gave us our first movie, "Swiss Family Robinson". Mind you this was back when 'previously recorded videos' weren't priced for sale, averaging $80-$100 per tape. So like nearly every one back then, we recorded a lot of TV. For some reason, as though to welcome us to the club, our bishop's family decided we needed a taste of cable TV. We received two tapes form them, one was Disney/Nick at Nite and the other was Disney/HBO. The latter tape was the one that introduced us to Indiana Jones.

The movie was "Raiders of the Lost Ark". At seven, I had heard of Indiana Jones and had seen the imagery of Harrison Ford in the fedora. But I had never seen the movie before. It was the coolest thing I had seen in my life to that point. From Alfred Molina making his film debut getting impaled to the guy that looked like Gung-Ho from "G.I. Joe" getting chopped up by the propeller to all the snakes to the melting heads and the wrath of God himself, I loved this move. Off and on for a year we (read: I) watched this movie a lot. It would be almost three years before I saw the sequel, "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom",

By then I was ten. My mom got the tape from the library. She was a little nervous about letting us (my 7year old brother and I mostly) watch it. Apparently when it had come out four years earlier there was a big bru-ha-ha in the media regarding the films violent content and depiction of children being held as slaves coupled with the fact that the film was rated PG by the MPAA. Bearing this in mind my 14 year old brother was charged with staying up and "previewing" it for us. The next morning, after she left the house for the day my older brother called me and younger brother into the living room where we were sternly lectured about how we were to close and cover our eyes when he told us to at certain points in the movie. If we didn't he would turn it off! So we obeyed (sort of). As the movie began I could tell this was going to be a lot better then "Raiders". And it was! With an opening song and dance with a much flashier title graphic than "Raiders", "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" exceeded my ten-year-old expectations. Then came the "scary" parts, the first being the dinner scene.

"Close and cover your eyes!" my brother ordered. My little brother complied. Mine were covered but not closed... as I peered through the cracks of my fingers I saw it... the snake was carved and the baby snakes came out.

I let out an audible "Ew!"
"Where you watching?!"
"No, I swear!"
"How did you know it was gross?"
"The sound effects, when the guy was carving up the snake."
"How did you know they were carving up a snake?"
"I guessed!"
"I'm not, I swear! Please don't turn it off!"

We went through the same exercise during the lava scenes. After the movie was over my brother declared that we would probably never watch the movie ever again. I was sad for that but did not protest. A few months later however we were watching TV when lo and behold I saw a promo for "Temple" on ABC. YES!
"Iwannatapeit!" I announced at dinner. My desire was met with no objection whatsoever. I figured it was due to the movie's being edited for over the air broadcast. As per the usual arrangement, I was allowed to watch the first half hour of the movie before bed and would watch the rest after homework was done the next day. I actually watched some of it the next morning before school. Overall I did not think they paired out too much of the films "gross" factor. One time I watched the infamous dinner scene over Crispex cereal thinking "I don't see what the big deal is!" Like "Raiders" I watched this movie over and over again.

Sometime after that we rented a movie called "Tucker: The Man and His Dream". On the tape before the movie started was a trailer. There was the familiar "Raiders March" music and shots of Spielberg, Lucas, Harrison Ford and some guy named Connery (My exposure to 007 was limited to Roger Moore). The title card at the end of the trailer said it all... "NOW IN PRODUCTION FOR SUMMER 1989".

They're making another one! I was ecstatic! "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade", however was rated PG-13. In our house we had an on again, off again moratorium on PG-13 movies. Anyway my older brother and sister talked my mom into seeing it anyway and they came back from it seeing its praises while my younger brother and I were stuck with his copy of the movie's adaptation story book. I never bothered to read it; I just glanced at the screen shots wanting to see the movie itself.
The next school year I started Middle School. I made friends with a kid from another part of our school district who had come from another elementary school. He had cable, including HBO. So when spring rolled around and HBO started running the last summer's blockbusters he was more than happy to supply me with a recording of "Last Crusade". I could not stop watching this movie. I thought it was better then the other two combined. But why was this movie PG-13? There was virtually no swearing and the violence seemed kind of cartoonish to me. But I suppose Walter Donavan's extremely rapid death and decomposition scene does justify the rating. Oh yeah, and the guys getting decapitated at the mouth of a cave too.

So there I was. I had my ramshackle version of the Indiana Jones trilogy. I had several debates with people with regards to which movie was best. One year at Boy Scout Camp, a guy I worked with, told me about the movie theater near Wright State University in Dayton where he attended that hosted an all night Indy Marathon. "It was sold out," he told me, "but had I gotten in I would've skipped 'Temple of Doom' and gotten something to eat, because I never liked that movie." He went on to explain that "Temple" was too stylized. According to him religion was the key to success to "Raiders" and "Crusade". The first and last movies had western religion as their central plot points with fire and brimstone climaxes. The middle movie was all about eastern religion. Made sense to me as I realized I had grown to share his opinion. "Raiders" and "Crusade" not only feature western religion but treat it with respect, showing the dramatic consequences of trying to harness God's power for one's own agenda. "Temple" on the other hand seems over stylized and explored religion not totally familiar to western audiences.

The year after I graduated high school I was still living at home when a movie theater in neighboring Elyria, OH started showing old movies at midnight on the weekends. The first one they showed was "Raiders of the Lost Ark". I talked my family into seeing this with me. So off we went; me, my little sister, little brother and our parents. Toward the end of the movie I looked over at my parents. As Belloq's head was exploding and Toht and Dietrich's faces were melting it occurred to me that for as long as we had this movie in our house and had watched it times to numerous to count, my parents had never seen it for themselves. My suspicion was confirmed after the movie ended. I got the third degree from my mother who suspected me of tricking her and my dad into going to an R rated movie. I showed them the poster and assured them that the movie was in fact PG. But my mother was disturbed nonetheless.

Since then these three movies have been re-released on home video three times. My only complaint is that "Raiders" has been re-dubbed "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark" on the DVD boxes. But I guess that's minor compared to what George Lucas has done with some of his other movies. (Yes, I'm one of those people!)

As of today (28 May 2008), "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" has been unleashed upon the world for nearly a week. I've had to tell 10 people at work not to reveal major plot points so I can see the movie for myself. I will probably see it this weekend. I don't believe I will be disappointed since everything I've heard indicates that it will be very good, unlike a certain sci-fi prequel trilogy.
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