Raiders Of The Lost Ark

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Director: Steven Spielberg.
Screenplay: Lawrence Kasdan.
Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Wolf Kahler, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott, Anthony Higgins, Alfred Molina, Wolf Kahler, Vic Tablian, Don Fellows, George Harris, Pat Roach.

It’s not the years, honey. It’s the mileage“.

In 1975, George Lucas and Philip Kaufman came up with the concept of a film that would pay homage to the action serials of the 1930’s and 40’s like The Adventures of Captain Marvel or Dick Tracy – you know, the one’s were they’d always end in a cliffhanger? However, this idea was put on hold so that Lucas could concentrate on Star Wars in 1977. After the surprise success of that film, Lucas then embarked on the proposal and enlisted the help of Lawrence Kasdan on the screenplay and gave his friend Steven Spielberg the chance to direct and prove the studio bosses wrong after the star-studded, monumental failure of his World War II comedy 1941, a couple of years previously. This meeting of minds resulted in Raiders of the Lost Ark and has since became one of cinema’s most revered and iconic film’s.

Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is a renowned archeologist who is hired by the U.S. Government to find the Ark of the Covenant – a chest the Hebrews carried around containing the Ten Commandments. Indy is not the only one after the Ark, though, as he soon crosses paths with Hitler’s Nazi’s, also intent in getting their hands on the artefact.

Classic Adventure film of the very highest caliber. In fact, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t the one to beat in terms of sheer indulgence and escapist entertainment. I grew up with Indiana Jones and there are very few characters or films who have had such a direct or major influence on my love for the cinematic art-form.

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It’s difficult to find the words for Raiders that haven’t already been said. Quite simply, it’s a true action spectacle that’s unparalleled and stands as one of Steven Spielberg’s finest moments. He’s a director that’s, rightly, regarded as one of Hollywood finest filmmakers and you don’t have to look much further than this film to see why. With one hair raising set-piece after another, Spielberg keeps the action relentless and fully realises a romanticised pastiche of the aforementioned serials’ clichéd plot elements and devices. Of course, what aides immeasurably in bringing it all together, is a perfectly committed and physical performance from the leading man.

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Contrary to popular belief, Harrison Ford was the first choice for Indy. Well… he was in Spielberg’s eyes, anyway. It was Lucas who wanted to cast someone else as he wanted to create a little distance from Ford having already worked with him on American Graffiti and Star Wars and as common knowledge would have it, Lucas preferred Tom Selleck. Unfortunately for him, though, he was already committed to the television series Magnum P.I. which resulted in Ford securing, what would become, his signature role.

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I think it’s fair to say that Ford has never exactly been praised for his acting range. Sure, he’s certainly able to deliver some wonderful work; his powerful turn in The Mosquito Coast and his Oscar nominated performance in Witness are proof of this but his portrayal of Indiana Jones is absolutely spot on. He captures the requisite charm, wit and smarts to win you over. He exaggerates his facial expressions to the point of parody and completely sweeps the audience up in his heroic adventures. Even though he’s the hero of the story, Ford never let’s you think for a second that he’s infallible or indestructible. Every scrape, punch or altercation still feels like it could be Indy’s last and that’s a fabulous achievement when you pretty much get the gist of the film’s formula or structure.

Considered one of the best films ever made and, to this day, remains one of the highest grossing. It went on to win four Academy Awards out of nine nominations and these accolades alone speak for themselves. I, for one, wouldn’t argue with any of them.

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Mark Walker

Trivia: Harrison Ford’s wife at the time, Melissa Mathison would visit her husband on set and during shooting breaks she wrote a script with Steven Spielberg. Spielberg dictated to her a story idea he had; that script was eventually called “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”

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38 Responses to “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”

  1. Yeah Im glad they went with Ford instead of Selick. That would have been a very different movie if they didn’t. Very cool factoid about his wife helping write ET with Speilberg

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, yes. A true Lucas-Spielberg classic. They showed this last year at the TCM Film Fest, with stuntman Terry Leonard interviewed before the screening. Fantastic as always. Never tire watching this. Fine review, Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very nice, Mister Muckers! Veryyyyyyyyyyyy nice!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh I love this movie so much Mark. Your review really did this movie justice.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. One of my all time favourites, and I have never tired of watching it. I wrote about Raiders a couple of years back and just ended up listing my favourite bits, which made me realise just how many excellent moments the film has. The best opening sequence ever, some of the best fights, chases and stunts, one of the best villains, some really snappy dialogue, plenty of wit, a tough leading lady and the iconic performance by Ford that you highlight. I’m not sure any film can be perfect…but equally I’m not really sure how you could improve on this!
    And I loved The Mosquito Coast too for very different reasons, but I agree he’s excellent in that and Witness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a hard film to top, Stu. For all the reasons you mention. I have to say, I’m a huge fan of The Last Crusade too (which I’ll be posting in a couple of days) but Raiders is a true original and is still one of Speilberg’s finest to this day. It’s arguably his best…. With you on Ford in The Mosquito Coast and Witness too. I think those two Peter Weir films are his strongest work but Raiders is probably his most enjoyable.

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  6. Bravo! Unparalleled Spielberg. This is when he is at his best (much like Jaws). Five stars indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, sir! I know you’re a huge fan, as am I. It’s tricky when picking Spielberg’s best as arguments often take interesting turns when speaking of his films but I could certainly be swayed on choosing this. Undoubtedly a top rated film. I didn’t even have to think about the rating. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Nice review Mark and couldn’t agree more. This is one of my all-time favorites for sure and a picture I never tire of. The ending scene though gave me nightmares as a kid and still makes me feel uneasy today.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This movie along with the entire Indiana Jones series has been running as an all time favorite in my family for three generations now. My dear friend, you have refreshed my Indi-fantasies once again.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great review, Mark! Absolute classic. (The movie. But your review as well). 😉 Did you know that Eric has never seen Temple of Doom? I mean, whaaaat??

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What are your thoughts on Chris Pratt becoming Indy soon?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Well, it had to be five stars all the way didn’t it? Difficult to write about classics like this because you don’t want to simply repeat everything that’s been said, so we’ll done on a really entertaining read.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is so funny I’m just rewatching these movies because I’m on huge Harrison Ford high because of my overexposure to SW lately 🙂 Love Raiders, such a a fun movie but the melting faces probably still give people nightmares

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I think you are absolutely right when you say it is heard to beat for pure escapism. Spielberg had been trying to recapture some of the excitement of the old cinema Saturday matinees and the film succeeds in achieving this. A true action adventure yarn that can be returned to again and again. Great review!

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    • It’s definitely one of the best and as a homage to Saturday matinees, it’s top of the pile. I was huge fan of the Last Crusade as well and often find it hard to choose between them. In terms of structure and influence, though, Raiders probably shades it.

      Thanks again, Benjamin. 🙂

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