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The Adventures of Indiana Jones
The Complete DVD Movie Collection - 1981/1984/1989 (2003) - Lucasfilm (Paramount)

review by Todd Doogan and Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits

The Adventures of Indiana Jones: The Complete DVD Movie Collection

THX-certified

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

Specs and Features

Disc One - Raiders of the Lost Ark

115 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX certified, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 50:45, in chapter 15), keep case packaging with faux leather slipcase, THX Optimizer, DVD-ROM weblink, animated film-themed menu screens with sound and music, scene access (31 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), French and Spanish (DD 2.0 Surround), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Disc Two - Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

118 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX certified, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 60:04, in chapter 18), keep case packaging, THX Optimizer, DVD-ROM weblink, animated film-themed menu screens with sound and music, scene access (31 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), French and Spanish (DD 2.0 Surround), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Disc Three - Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

127 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX certified, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at ??, in chapter ??), keep case packaging, THX Optimizer, DVD-ROM weblink, animated film-themed menu screens with sound and music, scene access (36 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), French and Spanish (DD 2.0 Surround), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Disc Four - Bonus Material

187 mins (total content), Indiana Jones: The Making of a Trilogy documentary (127 min, 4x3, composed of 3 featurettes with "play all" option - Raiders of the Lost Ark - 51 mins, The Temple of Doom - 41 mins and The Last Crusade - 35 mins), The Stunts of Indiana Jones featurette (11 mins, 4x3), The Sound of Indiana Jones featurette (13 mins, 4x3), The Music of Indiana Jones featurette (12 mins, 4x3), The Light and Magic of Indiana Jones featurette (12 mins, 4x3), Raiders of the Lost Ark teaser, theatrical and re-release trailers (16x9), The Temple of Doom theatrical trailer (16x9), The Last Crusade teaser and theatrical trailers (16x9), Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb video game preview (4x3), DVD credits, DVD-ROM weblink, keep case packaging, liner notes insert, animated film-themed menu screens with sound and music, languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned


Get ready for it. Ready? I'm going to write this slow, so you can get it all in. Indiana Jones is finally on DVD. Yes, fanboys... you most certainly did read that right. Indiana Jones, the mac and the daddy all rolled into one, is finally home where he belongs. What does that mean exactly? Well, it means that you can cross off one more "must be on DVD" title off the list, breathe a sigh of relief, fork over your cash and replay the adventures of everyone's favorite professor of archeology, expert on the occult and, how does one say... obtainer of rare antiquities, over and over again as you wait for his final adventure to unfold in theaters in a couple of years.

For fans, Indiana Jones has been one of the most requested DVD series EVER. Whenever anyone on the street, chatroom or even restaurant bathroom has cornered one of us here at The Digital Bits, we've been asked the same, obvious question: "When's Indiana Jones coming to DVD?" Soon. Never. We dunno. Those were the answers that no one ever wanted to hear. Well, finally we can answer with: now. So scrape up your pennies and get ready to fork 'em over... 'cause George and Steven can really use the cash.


Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

"It's not the years, honey... it's the mileage."

Whaaaaaaa'? Did you read that title right? Yep. That's the "new" official name of the first film in the trilogy. Maybe it's so all the films can sit right next to each other on your alphabetical DVD shelves, or maybe it's because Lucas really likes to reinvent things (see: Star Wars renamed to Star Wars: A New Hope). Either way, Raiders (as it will hereafter be called - and you'll be glad to know that's still how the film's classic opening is tagged) is the Granddaddy of all adventure films. It's not necessarily everyone's favorite of the three films in this series, but it's certainly the one that started it all and it is, in our humble opinion at least, the best.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Pulled from Lucas and director Steven Spielberg's memories of old Republic Studios serials, Raiders finds the intrepid Indiana Jones matching wits with his old nemesis, Belloq, as they both run head long toward the fabled Ark of the Covenant, the ancient chest used by the Hebrews to hold the stone tablets Moses carried down from the Mount containing the Ten Commandments. Legend says that the power of the Ark is invincible, and an army wielding its power would be unstoppable. Now, it seems that the Nazis want the Ark... and so Indy must stop them from getting it.

What makes Raiders work is the fun. This is not serious filmmaking, folks. All this is, is classic B-grade entertainment, packed with fun scenes, great characters and balls-to-the-wall action. Critics in the past have cited the fact that you can't take the film seriously because there's no one to identify with. That's it's appeal. Step away from this film and you'll see that you're not supposed to take it seriously.

This is escapism at its finest, complete with a great script, Spielberg's best mainstream direction to date, a John Williams score oozing with charm and personality, and casting to die for. Raiders is, simply put, a great film. This is as close to perfect adventure filmmaking as one could hope to see.


Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

"I'm not going to have anything good to say about this place when I get back!"

Not many have much that's nice to say about this film. With only three really memorable elements in the film, it's not too shocking to learn that two of them were cut from the original film's script (Indy using a gong to shield himself from machine gun fire, and the thrilling mining car chase, were all supposed to be in the first film). The sole exclusion to this is the sacrificial scene - and that's mainly remembered for having resulted in the creation of the PG-13 rating (at Spielberg's insistence). The rest of this film is a sorry retread of what worked in the first film, along with the introduction of a thoroughly attractive, but wholly annoying, female lead.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Doom follows Indy one year before the events of the first film, on a trip to Shanghai. A deal goes bad there, resulting in Indy picking up a showgirl for the remainder of the film. That remainder takes place after a plane crash leaves Indy in Delhi, where he's pulled into a mystery involving missing children and sacred rocks, called Shankara stones, with enough power that, if they fell into the wrong hands, could let a person rule the world. Those wrong hands belong to the vile Mola Ram, and so it's up to Indy (once again) to find the stones and return them to their rightful owner.

Although it's not a total wash, Doom is the weakest of the three films in this series, and is therefore left wide open for criticism. But while Raiders is substantially better, Doom has it's charms. It's dark, but it's still fun.


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

"I'm like a bad penny... I always turn up."

As if to poke their fingers in the eyes of those who drummed against Doom, Spielberg and Lucas turned in a thrilling third installment... and fans love them for it. If Raiders is the best in the series, Crusade isn't far behind. All of the zap and zing of the first film comes back here without the heavy-handedness that occurred with the second film in the series.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indy, whose father has spent his life hunting for the Holy Grail, is pulled into the search himself when dear old dad turns up missing. Dogged at every turn by Nazis and mysterious Templar Knights, whose job it is to keep men from finding the Grail, Indy finally gets what he most desires - and the cost may be greater than he's willing to pay. Full of adventure, humor and some of the best casting of any adventure film, Crusade is a bold entry in the Jones mythos and is easily one of the most fun films of the last 20 years.

The Indy films are far from perfect, but we love them for their flaws. They're like good friends waiting to come over for beer and pizza, and they never pretend to be more than what they are. These films made a lot of money over the years, and a lot of fans as well. They're perfect for DVD.

All three of these films are of similar video quality on DVD. All three are presented in anamorphic widescreen, and they look quite good. Contrast is excellent with very deep blacks. Colors are accurate and nicely saturated, without being overblown. There's very little to no edge enhancement, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a specs of dirt or other print blemishes. In fact, we're led to understand that more than a half million such specs were digitally erased from these masters by the folks at Lowry Digital, and more than 35,000 frames worth of scratches were removed. The only real flaws in the image quality are that the shadows sometimes lack detail, and that the grain structure of these prints is sometimes a little excessive. Raiders suffers the most from these issues - not surprising given that it's the oldest of the three films. Still, we're surprised how good these films look on disc. Paramount and Lucasfilm went right back to the original camera negatives to create the new prints used for these DVD transfers, so these films will probably never look better than they do here.

You should also know that Lucasfilm and Paramount have gone in and made some minor fixes to these films, erasing elements that weren't originally intended to be seen. So, for example, when Indy falls into the Well of Souls now, you won't see the reflection of the cobra on the glass that was placed to protect actor Harrison Ford. Also, when the giant stone ball rolls after Indy in the opening of Raiders, a support beam that guided the ball on the set has been erased. We're told that some 14 minor fixes were made to these films in all.

Sound-wise, these movies are excellent. All three films feature fully re-mixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. The forward soundstage is smooth and wide, with crisp, centered dialogue. Panning is excellent, and the surrounds are quite active both in the creation of atmosphere and for directional cues during action scenes. There's also plenty of low frequency to keep your subwoofer busy. The best thing about these mixes is that they have all the energy of a modern 5.1 mix, without losing the "flavor" of the original audio presentations we remember experiencing in theaters. As if that weren't enough, John Williams' signature scoring work is beautiful presented here. His music has simply never sounded better on DVD.

It's also worth mentioning that all four discs have animated menus that feature scenes from the films, enhanced with a sort of Photoshop filter to make them look like moving watercolor paintings. We wouldn't say the result is a complete success, but the menus do help get you in the mood to watch the movies... as if you weren't already in the mood.


Bonus Material

All of the extras in this box set are found on the fourth disc. Unfortunately, Steven Spielberg nixed the idea of including such things as deleted scenes on this set, and despite requests from producer and pal George Lucas, he also elected not to record audio commentary. So what does that leave extras-wise? Well... you get a documentary, four featurettes, trailers for all three films and a DVD-ROM weblink. That's disappointing at first. But once you start watching the documentary, we think you'll find your disappointment will soon be forgotten.

Bonus Material

Indiana Jones: The Making of a Trilogy runs over two hours in length, and was assembled by DVD producer Laurent Bouzereau. It's a fantastic look at the production of these films, taking you from the genesis of the story to the final days on the set of Crusade. It's been culled together from hundreds of hours of never-before-seen film and video material found in the Lucasfilm archives, as well as brand new interviews with literally everyone you'd want to hear from that was associated with these films, including Ford, Lucas and Spielberg. There are some great stories told here. We don't want to spoil too much, but you'll learn, for example, how the sub in the original film was rented from the production of Das Boot. You'll see Steven and George screwing around on the set with Ford, letting their inner film geek hang out for all to see. You'll witness snake, bug and rat wrangling. You'll see original screen test footage of actors who were considered for the part of Indy. You'll even get a look at production artwork and a bit of deleted material. There's just a lot of fun on set footage that you've never seen before, married with great stories and recollections from the cast and crew.

The documentary is presented chronologically, and is broken into three sections - one for each film. You can elect to view these separately, or all together. The sum is similar in quality, if not in style, to the documentary on the Episode I DVD. It's well worth at least one, and probably multiple, viewings. And it's so comprehensive, that you'll find you don't miss audio commentary at all.

In addition to this main documentary, there are also four separate featurettes. While The Making of a Trilogy looks at the on-set goings-on, these separate pieces highlight other, specific aspects of the production and post-production, including the stunt work, the sound design, the music and the special effects. The best of these is The Music of Indiana Jones, which will give you a taste of how John Williams approached the score for these films, and a look at his long-time collaboration with Spielberg and Lucas. You'll learn how he labored over the Indy theme, you'll see him directing his orchestra on the scoring stage and much more. This is all good stuff. Each of these separate featurettes are worth your time as well.

The trailers on this DVD are, thankfully, all presented in anamorphic widescreen, with the sole exception of the videogame preview. These are vintage trailers for all three films, a couple of which haven't been seen in years. Rounding out the extras are a few pages of DVD credits, and a DVD-ROM weblink that will allow you to access an exclusive page at the official Indiana Jones website. Word is, this will be the first place you'll learn about what's happening with Indiana Jones 4, which is currently being written Frank Darabont (director of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile).

If this isn't the fully-loaded, ultimate edition of these films on DVD that we might have dreamed of, it is at least a damn solid box set of a trio of much-loved and very long overdue films. These movies look and sound about as good as you could expect given their age, and that's surprisingly good indeed. And if the extras aren't exactly bountiful, the documentary is thorough enough to leave you wanting for very little. We would have loved some deleted scenes, but that's about the only obvious omission extras wise. The bottom line is that you Indy fans out there are going to feel like you've gotten your hands on the Holy Grail with this 4-disc set. It's an absolute thrill to be able to go back and revisit these movies after so many years. So grab your trusty whip, dust off your fedora, and get ready for a a helluva good time on DVD.


Film Ratings (Raiders/Temple/Crusade): A/B-/A-

Video (Raiders/Temple/Crusade): B+/A-/A-

Audio (for all): A-

Extras: B



Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com


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