Shiny Shelf

The Adventures of Indiana Jones: The Complete DVD Movie Collection

By Mark Clapham on 25 October 2003

Here we have three of the movies most-wanted on DVD since the format began, and a fourth disc of bonus features, all in a rather lovely slipcase. What more could anyone want?

You know the films already. ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ is one of the most stupidly exciting, enjoyable films ever made, a superbly crafted piece of pulp storytelling. Producer George Lucas’ desire to remake Saturday morning serials and Steven Spielberg’s common touch for a human story combined to create something that’s stylish and iconic, while also being warm and oddly believable.

Harrison Ford is probably never better than in his first outing as Indiana Jones, and every aspect of the production just gels, from Lawrence Kasdan’s script to the casting and lighting. The pallette of ‘Raiders’ has never been well served by VHS, which has difficulty dealing with the lush colour schemes and contrasts of the exotic landscapes Indy’s adventures take him to. This DVD transfer is therefore a great chance to see the film in a way you might not have before. Certainly, television showings in the afternoon, complete with cropped picture and brutal edits, don’t do it any justice.

‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ tries hard to be different, and is at least partially assembled from scenes left over from the ‘Raiders’ script. The end result desperately lacks cohesion, reeling from slapstick to adventure to horror and back again. All the individual set-pieces are great, but the whole is less than the sum of these excellent parts. Unfortunately, the finest scene in the film is the opening musical sequence, and the second finest scene in the film is the nightclub scene after that. While it’s a great way of starting the film, it means that anything after Indy, annoying nightclub singer Willie Scott and slightly less annoying kid sidekick Short Round leave Shanghai is never going to be as satisfying as that beginning. The film as a whole suffers from a desire to have seen more of the Shanghai hijinks rather than Indy’s sometimes bleak, often absurd Indian excursion.

‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ is often criticised for following too closely the template of ‘Raiders’, which is a little unfair. After the previous movie, it’s understandable that Lucas and Spielberg would return to safer ground, and as retreads from this team go ‘Crusade’ puts a lot more spin on the original than ‘Return of the Jedi’ or ‘The Lost World’ ever bothered to. Sean Connery’s presence keeps the series’ feet on the ground – while Indy may have grown into a stupidly iconic character (the opening ‘young Indy’ sequence in particular is a ludicrously concise, comic book origin story that boils the character down to a few basic elements which are treated with bug-eyed reverence), the presence of Henry Jones Senior to remind Indiana that he is, after all, still ‘Junior’, adds a charm and vulnerability to a character who threatened to become a superhero. Only an actor of Connery’s pedigree could convincingly cut a height-of-his-powers Indiana Jones down-to-size, and the banter between the two is extremely entertaining. As ever, the set-pieces and supporting cast are excellent, and the whole film combines the best qualities of its creators’ work.

Both Lucas and Spielberg are heavily present in the fourth disc, which contains a staggeringly large chunk of extra features. The two men are heavily interviewed, as are most of the principals, talking us through each film in a three-part documentary that runs to just over two hours in total. Aside from the interviews there’s also a wealth of behind the scenes footage from the filming, with actors and production team caught messing about between takes. There’s some interesting other snippets through each of the docs, including screen tests for ‘Raiders’ and a page of screenplay from the original opening to ‘Last Crusade’. While there’s an occasional chlorine-scent of sanitised history about these documentatries – a number of complications in the creative process are glossed over along the way – then there’s also a charming lack of hype about them. While these were clearly fun films to make, and everyone concerned is proud of their work, there’s none of the scary fanatical devotion that marred the recent ‘Matrix Reloaded’ and ‘Two Towers’ discs.

A full set of trailers and some technical featurettes round out the package. All the menus are beautifully put together, and the packaging itself is quite lovely, with a simple and elegant cover design. These discs have been a long time coming, and it’s a pleasure to announce that they’re worth the wait.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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