“Dum de dum dum…dum de dum. Dum de dum dum…dum de dum dum dum.” Can you hear those brass instruments?
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK’s musical theme, written by John Williams, is known around the world. The second anyone hears those opening notes, our bodies are on high alert, for we know there will be a butt-load of action, fighting, and sarcastic humor. Throw in Indiana’s recognizable brown fedora, and you are swept away to pure escapism. I remember the first time I saw this movie. It was 1981, and I was pregnant with my second child, Ilisa. I think she was secretly watching and taking notes for her own future escapades.
I was so enraptured with Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. He was how I measured most men I met after seeing this movie. I added a new category to my checklist when I began dating after my divorce. Indiana was not a “hunky” guy. He was your “normal,” run-of-the-mill sort who was flawed, smart, decisive, and had a cool sense of humor. Oh, and did I mention the man could handle a whip like nobody else and had intense, beautiful hazel eyes (just like me). Indy had no clothing sense except for his bomber jacket and fedora. Not everyone can carry that look off especially wearing such baggy pants and shirt. No matter anyway, because his shirt, miraculously, always was ripped just enough to showcase his chest. Sigh! (I digress) It was easy to see why every woman in his class was mooning after him as well, even in his tweed suit and bow tie.
The plot of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is complex. Professor Jones, an archeologist from a prestigious university, was hired to find the Lost Ark from the time of Moses. The covenant that held the broken pieces from the Ten Commandments tabernacle was kept inside. It was hidden away for centuries until now. Two factions are after this major discovery that can yield tremendous power. If this antiquity got into the wrong hands, it would mean doom and dominance over the entire universe. Indy travels across the world to ensure our survival. The film took place in the late 1930s when the Nazi regime and Hitler’s henchmen were beginning to peak. They would do anything to get their evil hands on this possible weapon of mass destruction. It is a close race to each exotic location, from Nepal to Cairo, with Indiana barely getting away to fight another day.
Steven Spielberg is a genius at creating action films. In RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, he outdid himself sending his audience from one breathless, hair-raising battle to the next, never allowing the pace to slow down. His sheer brilliance shines as he keeps our pounding hearts on the edge of a Code Blue. Spielberg’s camera angles and location shots at sunset and dawn can make the poorest, sandiest, third-world countries look like a place where everyone would be buying vacation condos. But let’s not forget the cobwebs, the straw, the dust, the humongous spiders, skeletons that pop out, and arrows that will pierce your heart. The most famous scene is Indy trying to outrun a HUGE boulder through one of the many caverns and caves. Only Steven could think of that, and only Harrison Ford could pull it off without losing his hat in that crazy, harrowing chase. One of my worst nightmares must be the pit of snakes. Hundreds of them, all sizes and extremely poisonous. Indiana will be tested over and over in this franchise because he uttered the infamous line, “I hate snakes.”
Every “hero” has to have a heroine, and Indy finds his in the sarcastic, “accident-prone” ex-girlfriend, Marion played by Karen Allen. She is a handful, for sure. On the one hand, she can drink any man under the table, and on the opposite side, she plays the damsel in distress over and over, wearing her feminine, backless dresses. At first, we are not sure how Indy feels about his ex, but as the film races through one dangerous scenario after another, it is obvious that the two of them care deeply for one another. For me, I don’t always see them as a couple, but I do love her spirit, her enthusiasm, and her shrieking voice as she calls out to be saved. I am not sure she is a “perfect” match for Indiana Jones, mainly because I don’t believe Marion’s character was as “fully flushed” out as his. (Personally, I always thought he was holding out for me.) But they play off each other well, which is the glue for any acting partnership.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK will always be a classic, rousing adventure film. It is spectacular as it propels audiences from one adventure to the next. The slick, humorous moments add energy to the non-stop action every step of the way. It is said, “you never forget your first.” RAIDERS was the first in the Indiana Jones series. It set the tone for what was to come. Over forty years have passed, and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is still in a class all its own.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is available to stream on Paramount+.