The Complete Adventures of Indiana Jones (Blu Ray)
So, here we go again. Barely four years after the second DVD box set reissue, Indiana Jones gets his umpteenth releases - this time on shiny Blu Ray. And you know what these films are like. So, what don't you know?
The films have never ever looked so good. Even with the cinema releases in 1981,1984, and 1989, the original cinematic presentations have never been this precise, this sharp, and this rich. The colours and images are sharp, remastered, and strong. "Temple of Doom" for example, has never felt quite so brutal. Or, for that matter, the effects have never looked quite so brutally of their time. You can see, every few minutes, the detail of the minature planes, the post composited matte paintings, the back projections, the bizarre shading and colour schemes of multiple layers of effects. But that is part of the charm : if it was left to Lucas, for example, they'd all be CGI'd with the Thugees shooting first.
Now, in the strict chronology of the plot, you should watch "Temple Of Doom" first. The version on the UK BluRay is also the one that hasn't been seen since the theatrical cut in 1984 : complete with beating hearts ripped from the flesh of human sacrifices and (by Indy standards) some fairly graphic rough and tumble. With "Doom" first, this dark film, in which our hero starts out a thinly sketched cad by numbers who gallivants around the world graverobbing for cash. After his minor case of drinking possessed human sacrifice blood, almost setting his whiny, annoying girlfriend on fire, and liberating a cave of child slaves, it's as if Indy had a life changing road to Damascus revelation and found himself a conscience. On the other hand, "Doom" is a dark hearted semi-horror, chock full of human sacrifice ripped out hearts, bugs, child slaves, and brainwashed demonic posession. (Lucas was getting divorced, so this is his divorce movie). If this were the first film, everyone would regard "Raiders" as the same as "Empire".
"Raiders", the first made but second chronologically (making "Doom" one of the first cinematic prequels of all time), is a stone cold, 100% classic, made of nothing but endlessly quotable lines ("Bad Dates", "Now, fraulein, what shall we talk about?", "Blow it back to God"), and one of the greatest films ever made ; bold, brash, utter po-faced, ridiculous, utterly manly and a cross between the long lost adventure serials and a supernatural James Bond movie. It also looks glorious. Fresh and sharp, with detail popping off the screen.
"Last Crusade" is another technical achievement : although, like all the rest of the films, there's no commentary (which is a shame, Lucas loves a good yak, Spielberg can't stand them) : and whilst it revisits the plot of "Raiders" : Nazis chasing after a holy object of terrible power, The usual old rubbish. But then, with what the films lose in common sense, they make up for in brazen charm, unstoppable momentum, and invention. Few other films would see the pensioner James Bond and Han Solo run across a beach using birds to down a murderous prop plane.
And then there's the last "Crystal Skull", which is a severe disappointment. Without Denholm Elliott (dead), Sallah (erm...), Sean Connery (um... presumed retired), and a shoehorned in kid (Shia LeBonk), and not explaining the bad guys, and a plot that doesn't make much sense, it's like getting back with your ex, and seeing who she really is after twenty years away. Still, if you want to own the other films, you have to own this, so "Crystal Skull" is an extra bonus disc you need never play, anyway.
After that, you get to the extra material, it is both tantalising and exhaustive, and a bit boring : most of the extras are presented in Standard Definition, being straight ports of the 2004 DVD Documentary, and the 1981 featurette is obviously both unremastered, and VHS sourced, with appalling picture quality for a major studio release. Even the film footage used on that documentary has the same, blotchy, washed out, blur you get from a third-generation VHS tape. The 'new' material is primarily a 4:3 Standard Def onset compilation from the time which is again, no better than DVD quality, but a fascinating cinema-verite document of the moment. The extras disc is bulked out lots of minifeatures from the 2004 and 2008 sets, and contains about half of the material taken from the "Crystal Skull" standalone release.
Of course, this isn't the complete Indiana Jones : Ford's brief reprise of the role for TV's "Young Indiana Jones" is missing, as are most of the extras that appear on the seperate release of "Kingdom of The Crystal Skull", and the individual introductions from the 2008 releases : but as a catch all set of some of the finest action movies of the century, then this is it.