finding strength in ones family

You're Gonna Miss MeI admit that most of us find some element of “dysfunction” in our family’s, but sometimes I wonder how many families out there are really off their rockers. Sometimes it seems like there must be more of them than I would expect. Why do I think about this right now? Well, there are all of those “celebrity” documentaries where you find out just how wacky and annoying some families are, ones that make my family seem pleasingly calm and collected… Films such as Grey Gardens and Crumb… Maybe even The Devil According to Daniel Johnston. But I think we’ve just seen the most extreme… You’re Gonna Miss Me. First off, no, I don’t have any particular interest in schizophrenia or craziness in general, so I don’t know why I end up watching these. I think that (except for the Daniel Johnston one) I didn’t really have any idea how the people involved would really be before I sat down to watch them. We ended up getting this because we heard it was good and because I knew absolutely nothing about Roky Erickson except for that there was an old band called 13th Floor Elevators and that I used to see a lot of old concert flyer’s for the band.

This movie is the story of the Elevators rise to fame in San Francisco, Roky’s decline into drug usage, his arrest for marijuana possession, his consequent incarceration for 3 years in a mental hospital for the criminally insane, his musical career after his release and his general physical and mental decline. Yes, Roky is another schizophrenic drug casualty (though I got the sense that he was maybe a bit off kilter prior to his drug usage). The main focus here is his decline, especially the last 20 years under the care of his mother who is a “crazy old bat” (for lack of a better term), one whose crazed religious insanity gives a bad name to christianity (not that it needed anyone else to do that) and whose hoarding and medical paranoia gives a bad name to those of us who hoard and are paranoid of the medical establishment. She is obsessed with assuaging the blame for his condition that she feels that she is saddled with from everyone… People are so misunderstanding about the care she has given Roky. She is treating his schizophrenia with absolutely nothing. She is treating his everything with nothing. He is unmedicated, completely ungroomed with an abscessing mouth, and he lives in an dumpy little apartment in Austin (is there some national plot to make Texas look as unappealing as possible in movies and on TV?). The apartment is a horrible mess of clutter and continually running noisy electronics, where his mother just lets him be and do his thing.

Also in this blend are his four brothers who are hopeful that something can be done to straighten Roky out. Primarily his youngest brother Sumner who now lives in Pittsburgh where he is the tuba player (tubist?) for the Pittsburgh Symphony. Sumner has decided that he can care of his brother better, so a lot of the focus is on getting Roky out of the care of his mother and into the care of Sumner who feels that he can care for him, medicate him and get him some therapy so that he can get himself back together and maybe start performing again (which he hasn’t done in 20 years). The movie is pretty interesting, there are interviews with Gibby and Billy Gibbons and lots of old footage of the Elevators playing, Roky is a charming old sweetheart and though Sumner maybe doesn’t really know what he is getting himself into, his heart is certainly in the right place. Plus he lives in possibly the strangest house I have ever seen.


Benjamin LinusAnd though I hate TV as much as the next guy, I must make a little comment about Lost. First off, yes, I admit it’s a crappy show: bad actors, lame characters, dumb scripts and such a convoluted and ridiculous storyline that it’s obvious that the writers go out of their way to throw as much ludicrous crap out as they can every week. I tried to avoid it as much as possible, but I would occasionally trot over to watch some of it when Caitlin was watching it, as the computer was in the same room and the sounds coming from the TV were so full of action that I couldn’t help but glance. Anyway, that said, I now watch it. Why? Well into that mix of bad actors, dumb annoying characters and bad writing and storyline, they threw Michael Emerson and his character of Benjamin Linus. Suddenly, this show had one of my favorite characters on TV going for it. Not only is Emerson a reasonably good actor, but to have a character appear who is both intelligent, interesting, charismatic and doesn’t have his head up his $%# like the rest of them was so relieving that the rest of it became somewhat bearable… If only to see what Ben would pull next with this gaggle of fools. And to top it off, he is a relentless bad$%# (as was perfectly well shown in this last episode’s desert scene with the two unlucky horsemen). Most of the other characters are so bad that it’s hard to sit through them: Sawyer (probably the worst character of them all), Kate, Jack… The list goes on. The only thing I don’t like about the Ben Linus character is that he has made me a watcher of this lame show. Okay, all else isn’t lost with the show… Locke and Hurley are both good characters and well-played, but one is a little too putzy and the other is a little too irritating to bring me into the show.

well it looks cursed, i’ll give it that

The Haunted PalaceFeeling that good old time AIP/Hammer feeling, I watched The Haunted Palace. Another one of that great MGM Midnite Movies series and a rather confused Lovecraft adaptation… Confused in the normal sense, where one take the bones of a Lovecraft story, cobbles on some other story bits and then throws in some completely un-Lovecraft stuff. This one though is made all the more so by titling it after a Poe poem, having the Poe piece read at the beginning and the end of the movie and placing it more in the time of Poe. That aside, it is a rather good Corman/Price film. Taking on the story of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Price plays Ward, a man who has inherited the house of a long dead ancestor up in the old seaside town of Arkham. He arrives in town in good spirits with his wife and the intention of moving in but he gets a rather unpleasant greeting. The townsfolk feel that this ancestor, Joseph Curwin, was a warlock who was up to some nefarious activities with the young ladies of the town and who then cursed the population… when they tied him to a tree and burned him to death. Though that was 110 years ago, people haven’t forgotten, maybe because they are all the same actors and their ancestors? But also maybe because a good portion of the population are strangely disfigured, including one mysterious beast looked in an attic. The folks are not pleased to see the house occupied again, especially not by an ancestor of that dreaded warlock… And one who bears such a striking resemblance to him. But they do meet a fairly friendly fellow and he helps them to find their goal. When they finally make inside the house, they are greeted by the friendly caretaker, Simon (played by Lon Chaney) which is rather strange since the outer door was locked from the outside and covered in webs…


The Haunted Palace


Of course, the naive villagers may just know more than one might give them credit for, as Ward starts acting quite strange his first night in the house, almost like he has a split personality. Yes, of course, Price has become possessed by Curwin, and Simon is in fact one of Curwin’s co-warlocks, and they are eager to continue in their long delayed work to follow through the Necronomicon to mate human women with the Elder Gods (actually with one of the worst creature effects that I’ve ever seen)… But not before Curwin gets his vengeance against the people whose ancestors wronged him so long ago.


The Haunted Palace


As with most of these, It is a great dramatic and atmospheric piece with a great period look, nice sets, lots of fog and dramatic painted backgrounds and a great score. Vincent Price does his usual fantastic job and it is a good story. One of the better of these great collaborations!


Body of EvidenceAnd in a much lesser moment, we also watched Body of Evidence. I’ve seen it enough times and it is a mediocre enough movie that it seems that it barely warrants mentioning, but when it came out, 15 years ago, it seemed notable for a couple of reasons: Madonna prancing about nude all over the place and all of the scenes shot in Portland. Of course, the city gets jumbled up as always seems to happen with urban geography. In this silly movie, Madonna plays a lady who seeks out older wealthy men with weak hearts so that she can sleep them to the big sleep, by using her body (the evidence, get it?) to excite them past the point that their old hearts can handle. Willem Defoe is her attorney who isn’t quite sure about her, but she manages to bring him over to her side. I’m not too fond of either of them as actors and the movie is really just not good. Plus it also stars a number of other actors that I am unsure of (Joe Mantegna and Jurgen Prochnow?)… But it does have, in fairly small roles, both Frank Langella & Julianne Moore, neither of whom I can quibble with. I wouldn’t recommend it, though I used to like to watch it as a double feature with Boxing Helena, though that is much more bearable movie.

a lasting bond…

You Only Live TwiceThough I’d actually been wanting to watch Live and Let Die, we don’t own that movie, so I settled with a different Bond in You Only Live Twice. As the title says, my Bond fandom has also had two lives. Back in 1980ish, the beloved Guild Theater would play the entire Bond series every January. What this means is that by my mid teens I’d seen all of the first 11 Bond films, in a theater, at least 6 times (except for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). In that youthful naivety I preferred Roger Moore over Sean Connery, but I still considered George Lazenby to be a travesty. Poor guy. Actually, I haven’t see most of the movies since then and I realize that I should give On Her Majesty’s Secret Service another chance, as it was the first movie that I ever walked out of midway through. But enough about that. When I watch a Bond movie, I just can’t help but think over my past with them, and how my thoughts have changed about the various movies since those glorious years when I would see each film once or twice every January. Sadly, it really was what I spent the year looking forward to… More so than summer vacation and Christmas. But back to the movie

In You Only Live Twice, things start of with the the capture of an American space capsule (while in space!) which leads to some accusations from the Americans against the Russians. When a Soviet space capsule is also captured, the cold war really heats up! Then James Bond dies in bed, but it turns out to a an elaborate hoax to help in his quest to solve this mystery before the Americans launch their next crew into space.


You Only Live Twice


Even though the Americans are prepping their button fingers as they are intent that the Russians are behind this, the evidence leads to Japan so that is where Bond is. He teams up with the Japanese secret service (and its big batch of ninjas), goes undercover as a Japanese man himself and goes off against SPECTRE! While it is generally a good tale, as with most Bond films, You Only Live Twice is a mixed bag. It has some great things going for it, primarily Donald Pleasence as Blofeld (in the performance that really set the standard for SPECTRE, though his escape sequence is so odd and dumb that it’s hard to place in the context of a super villain) and his amazing volcano/base set, which must be one of the largest film sets ever built.


You Only Live Twice


But of course, it has some things going against it. The series was starting to get a bit campy with self reference and oh my gosh, the makeup attempts! When they attempt to make Connery pass for a Japanese man, they basically give him a bad haircut and eye shadow! And one thing that has always bothered me is that they go to such lengths to keep him undercover: fake death and funeral and trying to pass him of as Japanese… But no one seems to notice, as the whole time people are making attempts against his life. Who are they? We don’t know. I would suspect SPECTRE, but then you would think that Blofeld would have a better idea of Bond’s whereabouts! Blofeld is a bit of a disappointment, between his great evil villain persona and his crazy plot to start a world war, he suffers from that standard SPECTRE failing of not just killing Bond when he has the chance.


You Only Live Twice


Finally, though the disc itself is good, with a nice picture quality, the DVD titles are terrible. They are some “techie modern” look that doesn’t go with this old movie at all. It’s funny how back in the day they put to together such great opening titles for this movie… You’d think that maybe they could have used them as some kind of a base for the DVD menus, instead of the lame stuff that they did use.

somewhere in the, um, galaxy

StargateWhile I’m not a particular fan of the phrase “guilty pleasure”, as I tend to like what I like enough to have no negative feelings about it, I would say that the closest liking I have that I would consider a guilty pleasure would be this movie, Stargate. It has all of that bad stuff: annoying corniness, romance, silly macho stuff, bad science and feel good scenes. And I couldn’t really have much interest in the starring cast: Kurt Russell, Jaye Davidson and James Spader (most of their characters are rather unnotable, anyway)… But there is a framework that I find worthwhile. As an old fan of Science Fiction movies, I find Stargate’s rendition of future science to be refreshingly different then that which is seen in most movies; the technology is generally represented as something totally different then what one expects to see in one of these movies. Stargate (which here is quite unnecessarily an “extended cut”) starts off with an unneeded scene that gives away probably more than they should bother with, but then we come to the present era. An archaeologist in the time of the great Egyptian pillaging of the 1920’s comes across a mysterious and fascinating set of cover stones while digging around in the desert. He’s with his daughter who pockets a neat gold medallion with the eye of Ra on it. We then jump forward to the present when his daughter has brought together some scientists under the aegis of the Air Force, and they are locked away in an underground bunker trying to decipher the full meanings of the stones… And what was found under them.




James Spader is a linguistic scientist who is down on his luck due to the excessive radicalness of his theories (he believes that the Egyptians did not build the pyramids) who is drafted to join the team as they seem to have stalled. Of course, his idiosyncratic brilliance leads him to uncover the missing piece of the puzzle, and as one has probably guessed, this enables them to activate the Stargate. Which is a gate to a planet orbiting a far away star. There they find out why someone had this gate created and we are treated to an interesting twist on world history.




Spader goes along with the team (led by Russell as a soldier with a deathwish), to see what’s on the other side of the gate. This is the hardest part of the movie, as the science of the Air Force is so implausible (I’m sorry, you can’t follow a beacon as it rapidly travels millions of light years or receive data transmissions across those distances, especially in real-time), and then if you forgive its implausibility, they easily could have solved the puzzle, knowing what they seem to know, without seeking more help. But once you get past that scene, the movie gets pretty fun. The whole historical revisionist angle to it is a lot of fun, and blended with the odd, rather timeless seeming, advanced technology that they encounter, makes it fairly easy to get to the suspension of disbelief that is so nice for these movies to inspire.




So yes, six and a half dozen, it is an intriguing Science Fiction film, with some clever and original technology, a interesting historical angle, nice specials effects and a fun story concept… But sometimes the combination of corniness, melodrama and dry seriousness is a bit distracting. The interactions that they have with this other world’s inhabitants can be pretty silly, including a hokey routine with a 5th Avenue bar and lots of miming.



sometimes, history needs a new sheen

300I did finally got around to watching 300. It is a visually enticing movie of the Battle of Thermopylae, but not a historical drama, it instead is a movie adaptation of a graphic novel based on the battle. As such it is heavily cgi’d and sepia-toned for much of the film, following a similar production philosophy to the previous years Sin City, which was also an adaptation of a Frank Miller graphic novel, neither of which have I read. As a film, 300 is certainly the lesser of the two, though I was more intrigued by its previews. There is less to the characters and less to the story and, while it did look good, it was rather dull. The majority of the running time is fight scenes, but rather than being scenes of fighting they are more like slow-motion poses… Lots and lots of slow motion poses, with some well placed CGI’d blood and some very nice costume design. It also has less interesting characters and though it is based on some rather exciting historical events, the plot is flat and the modernization of the characters is a bit unnerving. Also, there is way too much narration that is maybe that’s a carry over from the graphic novel, but it seemed unnecessary here, and served to lessen ones chances of getting involved in the film. It ends up coming across as a rather cheap production that has been covered up with all sorts of digital lighting and image effects. Don’t get me wrong, they certainly put in some excitement and dramatic scenes and it is generally a good looking movie with very nice visual effects, including some rather gruesome. Though as with all things of this sort, I imagine that the computer effects would gain even more luster on the big screen.


The story of King Leonidas of Sparta taking his body guard out to halt the threatening advance of the limitlessly huge army of the Persians led by a very unusual rendition of King Xerxes. As there is an advantageous land bottleneck between Sparta and the Persians, the King and his 300 men march out to hold this narrow pass against wave after wave of Persian troops. As the Persians attempt to break through, they send group after group down the narrow path. Each different group has a unique look and strategy and large numbers and all of these battles are slow motion. The slow-motion battle scenes that seem to take up most of the movie can be exciting, coated with cgi blood sprays and severed limbs and all those sorts of goodies, but the other fight bits stand out mainly for their dramatic choreography.


While it is a good looking movie, with some nice exciting action scenes and some good visuals, there is little meat to the film. In addition to the fighting, there are also some few minutes of political conflict back in the city, but they seem a bit secondary. I imagine that as a comic book adaptation it may be both literal and entertaining, but as a movie, it’s a nice looking sheen and some slow motion action scenes set on a rather unnotable production. One that also includes a few bad rock video moments. On the plus side, the lead fellow (Gerald Butler, whose previous movie Beowulf and Grendel I would recommend) does a fine job, and there is some pretty cool costuming, especially the outfits of the Immortals.


meet one revolutionary, met them all

Duck, You SuckerThough I’ve always been hesitant about it due to it’s name, I watched Duck, You Sucker! A title, which while silly, is still better then the far too banal title that it was also released under, A Fistful of Dynamite. This is Leone’s movie immediately following Once Upon a Time in the West, which makes it a run of 5 straight classic westerns for him. Taking place in Mexico during the time of the Mexican Revolution the story starts off with the entertaining robbery of some rude richies riding about in the fanciest stagecoach I’ve ever seen. They are robbed by a family, literally, of bandits. After the robbery, the bandits set of towards some mysterious explosions in the distance and their futures take a dramatic change in direction. See, this bandit family is led by Juan, who has a dream of robbing the bank in Mesa Verde. When they get to those explosions, they encounter John, an IRA explosives guy on the run, who claims to be prospecting for silver. John has no interest in even acknowledging them, but Juan see the explosions, thinks of the bank and gets an idea. They team up, sort of, and it is the story of their travels as they go from somewhat reluctant and hostile partners together in pursuit of robbing a bank, to being close friends tightly in the midst of Revolution!

Rod Steiger is quite good as Juan, as he fills his role with great muster and enthusiasm (including a rather entertaining accent) which makes it convincing, despite the ethnicity issues. John is played with his usual fine charisma by James Coburn, though his Irish accent can’t help but lead to some frequent grimacing and eyebrow raising. Their relationship is the core of the film, with only a handful of other characters with any substance, and its a good one. There is some nice dialogue (though I could do without hearing anyone utter the title) and it is an impressive production. Though Duck, You Sucker! does have a lot of the serious feel of the his previous westerns, it is also a somewhat more comedic matter, not as bad as the level to which the Italian western was descending, but it is certainly a more melodramatic film than the earlier ones.

Even with its elevated emotive content, and at times it does get a bit artsy, with flashbacks galore (done in a soothing 1970’s French film style of foggy-lensed, slow motion emotion), it is still a serious film, with some serious subject matter. The revolution is shown clearly, with the mixed agendas of the revolutionaries, and the fascistic ways and stylings of the government. There are firing squads, evil military commanders and back-stabbing traitors all shown in a very serious manner. And, I must add, it has another one of those great Morricone soundtracks.

three, for the money

Yes, today marks three years of this blog. It has been quite enjoyable, not only the act of the blog itself, but spending more time than I normally would have thinking abut the 450 movie watchings that I have had in that time. Looking back at the early months, I would have liked to have put a bit more into them, as some of those movies have faded from my memory. But this has also led to three other blogs, none of which I put much time into, but still. And not just to be contrary to Paul, I think blogs are a good thing. Unlike bands, people should keep starting blogs, even if they don’t put enough time into them.

Also this week had the passing of good old Chuck Heston. While I realize that he was a conservative good old boy, I always appreciated the politically oriented science fiction roles that he took on in his 40’s: Planet of the Apes, The Omega man and Soylent Green. All were great and (relatively) meaningful films and, with the addition of the non-Heston films Logan’s Run and Rollerball, they certainly made the most socially meaningful years for Science Fiction films, if not for genre films altogether… And they were also just plain good entertainment! Though aside from those I’d kept pretty unaware of his later career years, aside from of course, his running the, ugh, NRA. But I felt bad for him when he appeared in Bowling for Colombine. I thought it showed something for him to go on a Michael Moore movie, knowing full well the reception that he may get and the slant that he would receive. So I thought it was quite unfair, irrelevant and uncalled for the manner in which Michael Moore treated him. Though everyone knows of Moore’s rather arrogant petulance, I still thought it was annoying and to me the whole scene cast Moore in a worse light than Heston. Especially that silly stunt with the photograph in Heston’s driveway.

Finally for today… Though the new year is well past us I felt the urge to look over the last year and compile, my Top Fourteen Movie Viewings of 2007:

    An Unreasonable Man
    The Apostle
    Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
    Citizen Kane
    Coup de Torchon
    Gangster No. 1
    The Host
    Hot Fuzz
    Kingdom of Heaven
    Peeping Tom

turkey in the straw

CarverLooking to find something I hadn’t heard of that would be both fun and easy to watch, I picked out Carver, an independent horror film brought to us by Franklin Guerrero Jr., who also made the earlier horror/camping movie, The 8th Plague. As you might have guessed, this features a bunch of young folks going on a camping trip, and it supposedly “based on a true story”. But before we get into that, we get a taste of things to come! The movie starts right off with some hokey country music and a bruised and battered girl in her skivvies girl being held hostage in a filthy room by some fat guy with a funny goggled helmet and a saw… Of course, she doesn’t make it through the scene and we learn that this movie is going to be pretty gritty with a lot of gruesome bloodiness being inflicted on folks.

But back to our heroes. They meet up at a creepy hillbilly restaurant (or a maybe just a restaurant with a creepy hillbilly in it…) and things don’t look good from here. By which, I mean the movie. The beginning is filled with a seemingly endless “creepy” industrial score in the background that does nothing to establish any kind of atmosphere, it’s just overly dramatic and annoying and then the soundtrack songs are terrible pop, like grunge-lite mixed with singer-songwriter pap. It’s actually fairly annoying at first, though it does stop bothering me after a while, for the most part. And the characters we’re following are all quite unsympathetic. Well, a couple of them might be okay, but the rest are jerks.

Right off, I’m not expecting much, another one of those quick-edit, overly gory cheapos that really seem to be all too common these days. Slasher films in the opposite vein of classics like ‘Chain Saw, which were about atmosphere and being scary (and hence, stays around and scary for thirty years), instead of just piling on ridiculous mountains of gross scenes that only standout in how unscary they are and how much fake blood they use.


But after sitting through the first half hour or so, I actually took a liking to this one. Two brothers, Bobby Shaw and Billy Hall have their little restaurant and some side hobbies, you know, not too many strangers come around these parts. And though we find out early on that the local sheriff is thinking their hobbies may be going too far, the campers sort of befriend Billy Hall before heading off to their nearby camping site. Upon arrival, our hapless heroes encounter another camper who seems to have lost her camping partner, and they all set off together to move some stuff out of a shed as a favor for the limping Billy Hall. While getting his stuff together, they stumble on a little collection of film reels that look to be slasher films… Of course, they decided to watch them and while they do seem to be slasher films, they also have an all-too-gritty feel about them.


They don’t really take the hint that there may be something bad in them their hills, ever when one of them swears that he finds a building that was the backdrop in one of the movies, and even though the other campers friend never seems to get back to camp. The movie is pretty standard in all the way that you would expect these films to be, but I found it more entertaining than most, the gore was quite good and there certainly are some hard to watch scenes, including eye-gouging, nails to the knees, sledgehammers to the… Well, sledgehammer to everything. But the “pliers vs testicles” scene, well… Need I say more? The gore gets fairly explicit, but remains well done.


All in all, though it took me a little while to come to terms with some atmospheric weaknesses, I would say that this is certainly a watchable, gory funfest, in fact, I think it’s quite worth re-watching.

spread it around the world

Manufactured LandscapesIt’s been a quiet week for movies. There just don’t seem to have been many good chances to watch anything. Last night though, we watched a nice documentary called Manufactured Landscapes. Billed as “following around a photographer who focuses on landscapes showing the human effects on nature” or something like that, it wasn’t at all what I would have expected from such an idea. Yes, the photographer (Edward Burtynsky) is being followed around by a film crew as he takes his pictures, but for the most part they are pictures of man-made landscapes. Seemingly, he started in this direction by shooting landscapes that have been changed by man: strip mines, granite quarries and such, and we are shown some of that, but the work documented in this film is more of purely human spaces. Somehow he managed to get great government co-operation, as most of this is filmed in China and Asia, where we are taken to factories, recycling pits, shipyards, the construction site of the Three Gorges dam (and the deconstruction that had to occur for its construction) and the famous ship dismantling beaches of Bangladesh. Though he makes a comment about not having a direct message, instead using the photographs to make people come to their own conclusions, you can’t help but receive a message of human waste and over-consumption as we slowly pan through a vast building as hundreds of workers hand assemble all of these “made in china” goods, the mountains of old tires, computer parts and metal debris that are being “recycled”, we see the shipyards where tankers are built, and the surreal beaches where they are hand disassembled at the ends of their lives.

burtynsky shipbreaking

Including some glimpses into the lives of those who engage in these occupations (and some interviews) it gives you a fairly thorough picture of the backside of Western Consumerism. As I have always thought, say when looking at the F&#$ You Santa Claus that someone once gave me, “What do these workers in China think of this garbage that they have to assemble and what do they think that the people who create a demand for it must be like?”. In some respects, it can’t help but be viewed as a somewhat critical light on China and the consumption of energy and materials they use, within a seemingly complete lack of environmental regulations. But what it really brings to the fore is the relentless consumption of material crap that the West uses, the long, destructive and wasteful path that those items take to our cupboards, and then out our backdoors to “recycling” and refuse dumps and the terrible toll it takes on the world. But the photography (both film and still) is beautiful, engaging and thought inspiring and whatever conclusions they may bring you to are quite relevant.

always overdressing for the wrong occasion

Raiders of the Lost ArkA true classic in any sense of the word, I finally successfully cracked open my The Adventures of Indiana Jones boxed set and watched Raiders of the Lost Ark. A brilliant piece of fun it is, and a classic… Both as a modern film and as a blatant take-off of old adventure serials. As a non-stop action/adventure/comedy it includes everything… Nazi’s, u-boats, hidden u-boat bases, back-stabbing, the Ark of the Covenant, exotic locations, blow-guns, old Egyptian corpses and new German ones, romance, close calls, scenes of incredible unlikeliness, a whip and, of course, Harrison Ford in the role that cemented him as a movie star! The first Spielberg/Lucas collaboration and the first of what is soon to become a four movie series… Raiders was a great excitement for us teenagers when it was released and as such, it still holds a good deal of sentimental value.

Though the production values are a big cheesy, being 27 years old, they are still fine, as the whole movie is pretty cheesy. But that’s part of its charm, as are Indy’s one-liners and witticism, delivered with a devil-may-care aplomb, that are somewhat reminiscent of James Bond, and equally charming. Plus there is a cast of characters that is quite memorable.

For any who haven’t seen this. We start off in the jungles of the 1930’s, with our hero, a college archeology professor (who happens to be a rather mercenary archeologist-adventurer) pursuing a golden bust that is locked away in a booby-trapped cave. After the half-dozen or so close-calls that it takes for him to get the bust and get out, he is one-upped by Belloq, a French Archeologist who has befriended the natives.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

But back at home, things become more interesting… The US Government enlists his help in what turns out to be a race against the Nazi’s, a race to find the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant (for those with biblical knowledge equally sparse as mine, it’s the fancy box that Moses put the ten commandments in). Indiana, of course, thinks that this is the archeology find to best all finds (boy, if only he could have foreseen the third movie…) and he goes in pursuit. As paths tend to cross in these sort of things, he is again up against the Frenchman, Belloq! That fellow has been enlisted by the Nazi’s, including one of the vilest Nazi’s yet to grace the screen, the scene-stealing Major Toht, (Ronald Lacey as one of those men who could easily be described as an evil toad). Of course, the one thing that Indy needs to succeed in this goal is in the hands of Marion, a jilted lover of a decade past who runs a bar in Nepal. Basically, they team up and head off to Egypt in search of the Well of Souls (the resting place of the Ark) with the Nazi’s either one step ahead or nipping at their heels!

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Of course, what they find seems to be more than was expected and the movie ends with both dramatic special effects flair and a funny twist. And it is all worth the fun ride, as Indy is an old style hero who barely just manages to succeed at everything, in a rather dramatic fashion. He is friends with all the right people and goes with all the right hunches. His famous fedora, whip, pistol and leather jacket are not only iconic of this role, but also now iconic of the old fashioned adventurer.

Raiders of the Lost Ark


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