The Bonus Disc:
All I can say is this: it’s about time! I got my first DVD player in mid-1998, and for a long time, I thought this day would never arrive. I’ve always loved the Indiana Jones movies, and I’ve craved them on DVD for the last five years.
Hell hasn’t frozen over yet – that won’t occur until we get the Star Wars original trilogy on DVD – but we finally have the Indy flicks in all their digital glory. These come in a splendid four-disc package entitled The Adventures of Indiana Jones. For full information on the individual movies, please consult my separate reviews of 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade via the links above. Please note that the picture and sound grades found at the top of this article represent an average for the three movies.
Though this article covers the boxed set as a whole - which is the only possible way to purchase any of the movies – here I want to concentrate mainly on the package’s fourth DVD. Called simply “Bonus Material”, this disc includes a wealth of Indy information.
The main attraction here is an extended documentary called Indiana Jones: Making the Trilogy. You can examine individual segments on any of the three movies or take in the show as one long program via the handy “Play All” option. If you select that choice, “Trilogy” runs a whopping two hours, six minutes, and 58 seconds. (On their own, the pieces last 50:48, 41:07, and 35:03, respectively.)
”Trilogy” uses a pretty standard format. It combines clips from the flicks, archival and behind the scenes materials, and interviews with participants. We get new remarks from executive producer/story creator George Lucas, director Steven Spielberg, screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan (Raiders), Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz (Temple), actors Harrison Ford, Alfred Molina, Paul Freeman, Karen Allen, John Rhys-Davies, Kate Capshaw, Ke Huy Quan, Roshan Seth, Sean Connery, Julian Glover, and Alison Doody, production designer Norman Reynolds, costume designers Deborah Nadoolman (Raiders) and Anthony Powell (Temple and Crusade), producer Frank Marshall, director of photography Douglas Slocombe, associate producer (Raiders)/producer (Temple) Robert Watts, associate to Spielberg (Raiders)/associate producer (Temple)/production executive (Crusade) Kathleen Kennedy, second unit director Michael Moore, editor Michael Kahn, and mechanical effects supervisor (Temple and Crusade) George Gibbs. In addition to these modern interviews, we get on-the-set comments from Raiders mechanical effects supervisor Kit West and Crusdade actors River Phoenix and Denholm Elliott.
Each segment covers its film fairly well. Of course, the Raiders component offers the most information, partially because it involves the highest amount of backstory as we learn about the film’s origins, development of the story and Spielberg’s involvement in it, getting a studio to back it, and casting. From there it examines the flick on a semi-scene-by-scene basis. Essentially it goes through each major sequence and elaborates on different components like stunts, effects, location challenges, and various experiences on the set. Both the Temple and Crusade programs work the same way, though they lack the same level of depth.
My biggest complaint about “Trilogy” stems from its length. Sure, two-hours-plus sounds long, but for three movies of this magnitude, it goes by way too quickly. As we’ll see, some featurettes embellish subjects not explored here, but even so, I still wanted more. Some odd omissions occur. We get absolutely no discussion of the famous swordsman shooting sequence in Raiders. Granted, most fans already know the legend behind that, but it nonetheless seems weird that nowhere on this DVD will you hear about it. We also get references to deleted scenes and even see some outtakes from the set for one of these, but we don’t find the actual unused segments themselves.
Despite these and a few other omissions, “Trilogy” works well. It remains consistently entertaining and informative. Ford is something of a disappointment, as he doesn’t tell us much about his work, but others make up for his blandness. Capshaw seems especially delightful as she goes through her travails on the set of Temple; her story about how she got through the bug sequence is particularly amusing.
Not surprisingly, the surplus of archival materials adds a lot to “Trilogy”. The best elements come from the many behind the scenes shots. We watch them put together a lot of moments, and we also find funny bits like one in which Spielberg chews out a snake who doesn’t act appropriately slithery. And yes, we do find a little of Tom Selleck’s screentest; he performs along with Sean Young. We also see Karen Allen’s audition with Tim Matheson. Both clips are very short, but at least they’re here. (Additional screentests for Capshaw and Quan show up in the discussion of Temple.) Ultimately, I liked “Making the Trilogy”; I just wish it were even longer, as there’s a lot left to discuss about these movies.
The next four elements arrive in the “Featurettes” domain. We start with The Stunts of Indiana Jones, a 10-minute and 56-second exploration of that topic. All of the four featurettes use the same format as “Trilogy”. Here we get interviews with Lucas, Spielberg, Ford, and stuntmen Vic Armstrong and Terry Leonard. They go through the making of some big sequences. Raiders receives the greatest emphasis via scenes like Indy on the Nazi truck. I’m not sure why these elements didn’t just show up in “Trilogy”, as they would have fit snugly there. In any case, “Stunts” provides a fairly concise look at some of the movies’ material.
We get some introductory notes from Spielberg at the top of The Sound of Indiana Jones, but the 13-minute and 20-second program mostly concentrates on the work of sound designer Ben Burtt. He delves into various special elements of the trilogy and how he created the noises used for those pieces. From Indy’s whip to guns to snakes to rats to pretty much everything else, Burtt takes us on an efficient and interesting tour of his inventions.
A similarly focused piece shows up via The Music of Indiana Jones. In this 12-minute and 22-second program, we get a few remarks from Lucas and Spielberg, but composer John Williams dominates. He discusses some of the movie’s themes and the challenges he confronted in this music-heavy trilogy. The show’s a little general, but it’s mostly informative.
For the final featurette, we get the 12-minute and 20-second The Light and Magic of Indiana Jones. This presents interviews from Lucas, Spielberg, Frank Marshall, Raiders visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund, Temple visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren, Temple and chief visual effects cameraman/Crusade visual effects supervisor Michael J. McAlister. They go over the creation of a few key sequences from each movie. We learn about segments such as the effects of the Ark at the end of Raiders, the mine car chase in Temple, and the invisible bridge in Crusade. As with “Stunts”, the various pieces of “Light” probably should have been integrated into “Trilogy”, but it’s nonetheless a good exploration of how the effects folks brought some tricky bits to life.
Inside the trailers area we find a collection of ads. For Raiders, we get three promos: the original teaser and theatrical trailer as well as a re-issue clip. For Temple, we only land the theatrical ad. Crusade gives us both the teaser and the theatrical trailer. Lastly, this section presents a “game preview” for Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb.
Fans with DVD-ROM drives will enjoy a connection to an exclusive website. Unfortunately, the site hasn’t gone active as I write this review, so I can’t comment on it.
By the way, as always, Paramount goes the extra mile for their extras. With the exception of the trailers, all the supplements present subtitles in English, French and Spanish.
Paramount had a challenge to satisfy fans with the extras of The Adventures of Indiana Jones. Of their prior releases, it most closely resembles that of another highly prized trilogy: The Godfather. That set also included three movies plus a final disc of supplements.
However, director Francis Ford Coppola granted his fans something Spielberg refuses to do: audio commentaries. All three Godfather flicks featured chats with the director, whereas none appear for any of the Indy movies.
That factor essentially keeps the extras of Indy from possibly reaching “A” territory. The fourth disc presents almost three hours of documentary material, and even though I’d love to hear more, I can’t complain much about the programs. They’re consistently entertaining and informative.
However, the package simply isn’t as exhaustive as we expect for such a high profile release. Again, I don’t blame Paramount, as I don’t think the omissions occur due to their decisions; when something fails to appear here, it seems clear that happens due to the wishes of Lucas and/or Spielberg. For example, I’ve heard rumors one of them vetoed the inclusion of deleted scenes. Whatever the cause, the moderate negatives remain.
But let’s not make this a “forest/trees” situation. My quibbles about The Adventures of Indiana Jones are minor and result simply from the enormous expectations accorded to a series of this magnitude. Overall, Adventures does much more right than wrong.
First of all, it includes one absolute classic film in Raiders, a consistently excellent movie in Crusade, and a very good flick in Temple. Even with no extras, I’d snag a set with these tales, and the DVDs present them with very strong picture and sound. The extras of Adventures may not fully live up to our high expectations, but they remain strong and informative. Overall, it’s a terrific package that belongs in the collection of all movie fans. You just can’t beat the Indy series for high-powered action and adventure, so Adventures comes with a very high recommendation.