The current season of the RBC Film Club has a diverse and interesting collection of films spanning over the next eight weeks. I’m known to favour a diet of bleak and some would say morose films so tonight film is something of a change for me, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) is a movie I would describe as “fun”, a good old fashioned adventure movie that allows you can to sit back and enjoy without racking your brains looking for some deep hidden meaning.
It was a film that was initially rejected by every major studio in Hollywood. Shot in 73 days on a budget of $18 million dollars it became the top-grossing film of 1981 (a year in which the average price of a cinema ticket was £1.60) and remains one of the highest-grossing films ever made. Nominated for eight Academy Awards in 1982, including Best Picture, it achieved four (Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects) as well as winning a fifth Special Achievement Academy Award in Sound Effects Editing.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) originated as homage to the Saturday matinee serials of the 1930’s and 1940’s. It brought together producer George Lucas, who created the concept of the swashbuckling archaeologist and director Steven Spielberg who had always wanted to make a “James Bond like film” and saw Lucas’s idea as his perfect opportunity. With the help of writer Lawrence Kasdan, who had worked with Lucas on The Empire Strikes Back (1980), they created a script that delivers more than a basic adventure story. Their hero Indiana Jones is a complicated, less than perfect man who walks the line between being a thief of priceless artifacts and a protector of them. In fact the villains are not much different from our “hero” except possible in their motivation, greed as opposed to historic preservation.
Tonight’s film was the first in the Indiana Jones franchise and just like the subsequent films, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull starred Harrison Ford, in a role that he is probably most famous for, a professor of archeology who spends most of his time scouring the globe for treasures and artifacts just like the Lost Ark of the Covenant which is a gold chest in which Moses was supposed to have kept the stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. Unfortunately a certain Mr. Adolf Hitler is also after it, he believes that any army carrying the ark is indestructible.
The film also featured Karen Allan as Marion Ravenwood Indiana’s spirited and tough former lover. British actor Paul Freeman (The Long Good Friday 1980) is Jones archrival the French archaeologist Dr Rene Belloq. Other well known British actors included Alfred Molina in his debut film as Katipo one of the guides taking Indy through the South American jungle, the Welsh actor John Rhys Davis as Sallah, "the best digger in Cairo", the great character actor Ronald Lacy as the evil Gestapo’s interrogator and Denholm Elliot, one of Spielberg’s favorite British actors, as Indiana’s colleague and Museum Curator.
This breathlessly paced non-stop action film combines excitement, special effects and a cracking good story; its best attribute is no doubt the films humor, never taking itself seriously. The New York Times described it as "one of the most deliriously funny, ingenious and stylish American adventure movies ever made” A great start to our new season followed by an interesting discussion. It was really nice to see some children there to share the fun.