By Last Caress.
Ah, Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981). Who can forget it?
Indy, the tarantulas, swapping that bag of sand out for that golden idol, the infamous “Big Ball” chase, the natives chasing Indy to the plane, the iconic John Williams score (Tan ta-tan tah! Tan, ta-taah!), that silly tart with “I love you” scrawled on her eyelids, slimy Denholm Elliott, Marion the spunky ex-girlfriend, the slimy Nazi bad guy, Marion’s Nepalese bar going up in flames, Cairo, that little bastard spy monkey, the famously improvised bit where an under-the-weather Harrison Ford elects to shoot the sword-swinging tough guy rather than engage him, the slimy French archaeologist (there were a lot of slimy buggers in Raiders of the Lost Ark, weren’t there?), Tanis, the Staff of Ra, the map room, “Snakes… Why’d it have to be snakes?”, the Ark of the Covenant, highly improbable escape from an unlikely tomb full of reptiles, exploding airplanes, truck chases, Marion ‘hilariously’ hitting Indy in the face with a full-length mirror, then asking him where it doesn’t hurt so she can kiss him there, and the silly sod completely misses a trick and points to his bloody elbow, the secret base in the Aegean Sea, opening up the Ark, “Shut your eyes Marion, don’t look at it!”, swirling angels of death, dead nazis, shrunken heads, melting heads, exploding heads…
I never really liked Raiders of the Lost Ark, if I’m honest. Too busy, too improbable. I was a one-franchise-only kind of guy, that franchise was Star Wars (Lucas, 1977), and Han Solo was WAY cooler than this, thought I. I was nine. I’ll tell you who DID like Raiders of the Lost Ark, though: Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb. Three boys from Biloxi, Mississippi, a year older than I was at the time and enraptured by Raiders from the first frame to the last. So in love were they that it struck them to honour their favourite movie by recreating it themselves, shot for shot. The fact that they were but a trio of ten year-olds didn’t seem to faze them but then again of course, at that age, nothing ever does. With a little help from their friends they began shooting the following Summer, and continued shooting every subsequent Summer until they wrapped in 1989. They shot out of sequence as circumstances dictated and, as a result of their filming throughout their pubescent years, character ages and appearances differ wildly from scene to scene. Beards and breasts wax and wane. Voices crack, break, then unbreak. No matter. None of that’s important. What matters is the degree to which these kids replicated those scenes, scenes which – let’s not forget – were initially brought to us courtesy of the twin cinematic towers of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, no less. The ingenuity on display ranges from the cute to the frankly stunning, and they got every scene replicated bar one: the fight ‘twixt Harrison Ford as Indy and Pat Roach as an imposing bald Nazi, beneath the wings of an unchocked, spinning variant on the Horten Ho 229 jet wing. Now, that movie – Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation – is pretty hard to find since it contravenes every copyright law in the land and LucasFilm only generally permit its public screening for charity events and such, but Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made by Jeremy Coon and Tim Skousen is the next best thing, chronicling not only the reminiscences of Messrs. Strompolos, Zala, Lamb and the friends and relatives who helped make Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation happen (including horror maestro Eli Roth, a fan of the original tape who passed it to a suitably impressed Steven Spielberg), but also chronicling the lads’ attempts, decades later, to get that unreplicated scene under the Flying Wing shot via a Kickstarter project.
Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is a feel-good film, pure and simple, chock full of the requisite ups and downs one would expect from such a movie. FAR more interesting to me than the movie upon which those three young boys hung so much, it’s a real-life Son of Rambow (Jennings, 2007) shot through with the heart of Anvil! The Story of Anvil (Gervasi, 2008) and liberally sprinkled with the teenage wide-eyed wonder of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (that man Spielberg again, 1982).
Didn’t make me like Raiders of the Lost Ark any more, though. It’s magic, but not that magic.
Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is available now on Video On Demand.
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