My Favorite Movies #9 – Raiders of the Lost Ark

Raiders of the Lost Ark

1981

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Quick synopsis… When Dr. Indiana Jones — the tweed-suited professor who just happens to be a celebrated archaeologist and adventurer — is hired by the government to locate the legendary Ark of the Covenant, he finds himself up against the entire Nazi regime.

  • It’s a fascinating story, how George Lucas and Steven Spielberg came up with the idea for this movie.
  • I won’t go into it all here, but if you haven’t gotten into the behind the scenes history before, you should do some digging… it’s really interesting.
  • We begin in South America, 1936…
  • A mysterious man in a fedora checks out a couple of flimsy pieces of a map and one of his men pulls a gun on him.
  • He’s not caught off guard by this, pulling out his bullwhip and yanking the gun out of the man’s hand.
  • Harrison Ford steps into the light and we see Indiana Jones for the first time.
  • I’ve never understood why this guy decided to pull a gun on the leader of their archaeological expedition tomb raiding adventure.
  • Whatever the reason, it leaves only Indy and Alfred Molina to enter the temple to retrieve a priceless idol.
  • Indy is careful to watch his step, avoiding so many multiple booby traps.
  • And just when he thinks he’s outsmarted the weight sensitive dais that the idol sits on, it triggers a self destruct mechanism.
  • Indy and his sort of assistant make a quick escape and Indy gets stuck on the wrong side of a pit while the other guy betrays him and takes off with the idol.
  • Hey, at least Molina’s character waited until he had the idol to turn his back on Jones.
  • Of course, he forgets about the booby traps they passed on the way in and dies on the way out.
  • Then we get Indy outrunning the giant boulder, which everyone has seen, whether you’ve seen this movie or not.
  • Unfortunately, as soon as he gets outside, Indy meets a rival archaeologist named RenĂ© Belloq, who has made friends with the local tribe to whom the idol actually belongs.
  • Indy makes a narrow escape, meeting his pilot nearby and taking off before he can get a poison dart to the back.
  • And just to make sure we know that Indiana’s afraid of snakes, there’s a boa constrictor named Reggie in Indy’s seat.
  • That’ll be important later.
  • Back in the real world, Dr. Jones is an esteemed professor of archaeology who is the object of many of his female students’ affections.
  • After class, Indy meets with Marcus Brody, a fellow academic and museum curator.
  • Marcus has some government officials who want to meet with Indy about his one-time mentor, Abner Ravenwood.
  • They inform Indy that the Nazis have teams of archaeologists going all over the world looking for religious artifacts and they want Ravenwood to help them find the Ark of the Covenant.
  • The Nazis need the headpiece for the Staff of Ra, which would allow them to pinpoint the exact location of the Ark inside a map room.
  • They think Ravenwood has that headpiece.
  • Marcus arranges for the government to fund Indy’s trip to retrieve the Ark, believing the museum will get the Ark when all is said and done.
  • He warns Indy not to take this search lightly…
  • On Indy’s flight, he is carefully watched by a sketchy individual.
  • In Nepal, Indy connects with Marion Ravenwood.
  • She’s not too happy to see him.
  • To say that they have a sketchy romantic history would be an understatement.
  • Marion knows about the piece that Indy is looking for and informs him that her father, Abner, is dead.
  • He gives her money for the headpiece and she tells him to come back the next day.
  • Soon after he leaves, the sketchy guy from the plane arrives, flanked by a half dozen flunkies.
  • They aren’t as polite in asking for the headpiece, threatening torture and death.
  • Indiana Jones comes back just in time to save the day.
  • The bar catches fire, a gunfight breaks out, chaos erupts!
  • During the fight, the sketchy Nazi, Arnold Toht, notices the headpiece near the fire and foolishly grabs it with his bare hand, burning himself.
  • He runs out into the snow to cool his hand off.
  • As the bar burns to the ground, Indy and Marion escape with the headpiece.
  • Marion insists on coming with him until she gets her money back, which was lost in the fire.
  • Together, they fly off to Cairo and meet up with Sallah (John Rhys-Davies).
  • Sallah updates Indy on what the Nazis have been up to and that Belloq is working with them.
  • Indy hands over the headpiece to Sallah, who knows someone who may be able to help them out with translating the markings on the medallion.
  • Marion makes friends with a pet monkey who is actually a Nazi spy(?) sort of.
  • While in town, the Nazis and their hired thugs try to take down Indy.
  • Marion tries to hide in a large basket, but she’s abducted.
  • Indy comes face to face with a huge guy with a huge sword who’s super intimidating.
  • And Indy just shoots him… problem solved.
  • On the day of filming that scene, Harrison Ford was actually sick and didn’t feel up to shooting the whole choreographed fight and suggested just pulling his gun instead.
  • Brilliant move.
  • Indy sees Marion’s basket loaded onto a truck, but as he tries to stop it from getting away, it explodes.
  • A heartbroken Indy is then escorted by a couple other Nazis to meet with Belloq.
  • I’m not sure of the point of this encounter, other than to show how much power Belloq actually has on his side.
  • Sallah’s kids arrive and get Indy away from there, and they’re followed by the monkey’s true master, who we’ll call Eyepatch.
  • Eyepatch sneaks in and pours some liquid on a bowl of dates while Sallah talks to Indy about the headpiece that the Nazis have in their possession.
  • The old man who translates the markings tells them how high the staff needs to be, which includes more information on the other side.
  • The Nazis’ headpiece had markings only on one side… meaning they recreated what they could based on Arnold’s burnt hand.
  • Celebrating the fact that the Nazis are digging in the wrong place, Sallah notices the monkey is dead and saves Indy from eating a poisoned date.
  • The next morning, Indy and Sallah sneak over to the Map Room, where Indy determines the true location of the Well of the Souls, where the Ark is said to be.
  • While trying to inconspicuously to get away from the Nazi camp, Indy stumbles into a tent and finds Marion being held hostage.
  • She’s alive!
  • But he doesn’t release her, knowing that if he let her go now, they would comb the desert looking for them.
  • Can’t risk being caught now when he’s so close to finding the Ark.
  • Indy and Sallah’s men dig throughout the night, finally hitting the roof of the Well of Souls.
  • When they open it up, they find a long drop to a floor covered in thousands upon thousands of snakes.
  • Meanwhile, Belloq plays good cop with Marion before Arnold can coe in to play bad cop.
  • Not sure why Belloq gets Marion to change into a really nice white dress… but it’s in the script, so I guess it makes sense.
  • Before Arnold can show up to be the bad guy, Marion has a bit of a drinking contest with Belloq and nearly escapes…
  • Then Arnold arrives.
  • Indy and Sallah retrieve the Ark of the Covenant.
  • But Belloq sees the early morning unauthorized activity happening over the true Well of Souls.
  • Sallah and the Ark are pulled out, but Belloq and the Nazis arrive to take possession of it, throwing Marion into the snake pit with Indy, then closing them in.
  • Indy discovers how the snakes are getting in.
  • If snakes can get in, they can get out.
  • After some pretty intense nightmare fuel, they manage to escape.
  • They come out near the Nazi airbase and stop the plane that could be transporting the Ark back to Berlin.
  • Then they discover it’s being moved by truck and a chase ensues.
  • Indy manages to hijack the truck and Sallah arranges for him and Marion to have safe passage to England on a cargo ship.
  • At sea, the ship is stopped by a Nazi submarine, which captures the Ark and Marion.
  • Indy manages to sneak onto the sub undetected…
  • But not inside the sub…
  • So does he just ride on top of the sub to a secret Nazi island base and the sub never dives at all?
  • Sure…
  • On the island, Indy is ready to blow up the Ark with a rocket launcher if the Nazis don’t turn over Marion.
  • But Belloq somehow convinces him to turn himself in and join them in the ritual he’s about to perform, which will allow him to open the Ark and find out what’s inside.
  • Marion and Indy are tied to a stake at the back of an amphitheater looking area and Indy warns Marion to keep her eyes closed, no matter what happens.
  • Apparently, God isn’t too pleased with the Nazis tampering with His people’s Ark… nor, one can assume, His people in general.
  • An angel of death emerges and violently wipes out everyone but Indy and Marion.
  • Back in the States, the government officials inform Indy and Marcus that they have “top men” looking after the Ark…
  • Which is then seen boxed up and left to be forgotten in an impossibly large warehouse.
  • I love this movie, but also laugh at the concept that everything would turn out the same if Indiana Jones were not involved at all.
  • The Nazis would have gotten to Marion on their own and killed her for the headpiece, getting the staff correct the first time.
  • They would have uncovered he Ark and taken it to perform Belloq’s ritual uninterrupted, leaving them all to die anyway.
  • And the Ark would have found a new hidden resting place on some unnamed island in the Mediterranean.

The hero of next week’s movie has a much more active role to play in how the plot turns out. What’s funny is, I was just talking about the title character in yesterday’s blog post.

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