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USA 1981
Directed by
Steven Spielberg
111 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Indiana Jones And The Raiders Of The Lost Ark

A stylish, big budget of re-creation of the Saturday matinée serials of yesteryear, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is an enjoyable Boy's-Own-Adventure romp thick with the stock-in-trade of such things – exotic locations, hidden treasure and deadly traps, a smooth hero, dastardly villains, spiders as big as your hand, lots of snakes and so on and on.

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) plays Dr. Henry Walton "Indiana" Jones, Jr., a professor of archaeology and hands-on hunter of ancient relics who is hired by the US government to beat the Nazis to the fabled Ark of the Covenant which contains the Ten Commandments. The Nazis are being helped by Indiana's arch-rival French archaeologist René Belloq (Paul Freeman) whilst Indiana teams up with his former lover and tough bar owner Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). You know how this is going to turn out.

Scripted by Lawrence Kasadan from a story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman the was justly lauded in its day for its combination of stunt work and special visual effects and its tongue-in-cheek spirit. Sadly, however, because the film is largely a skillfully assembled series of action set pieces that largely quote their black and white precursors it is not as stirring as those films would have been. This is so, particularly as the SFX look pretty hokey by today’s standards. 

The still-impressive photography is by veteran British cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, whilst Spielberg regular, John Williams dutifully supplies the score.

Reflecting the film's strengths and weaknesses, it won Oscars for visual effects, editing, sound effects editing, art and set direction, joys which were duly wrung dry by a prequel, Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1984), and two sequels, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989) and the (to date) final, horrible hurrah, Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008) although there is a further edition slated for 2023.




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