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Paramount Studios presents
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Indiana Jones: I'm going after that truck.
Sallah: How?
Indiana Jones: I don't know, I'm making this up as I go.

- Harrison Ford, John Rhys-Davies

Review By: Brian Calhoun  
Published: November 16, 2003

Stars: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen
Other Stars: Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacy, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott, Alfred Molina
Director: Steven Spielberg

MPAA Rating: PG for violence, language, some sexual situations
Run Time: 01h:55m:09s
Release Date: October 21, 2003
UPC: 097360612547
Genre: adventure

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

I was eight years old when Raiders of the Lost Ark first hit the big screen. I can vividly remember visiting my local theater innumerable times to witness this epic action adventure again and again. Twenty-two years have now passed, and while my excitement over the film has waned, my appreciation remains high. While it is impossible for me to state how I might regard Raiders had I seen it for the first time in my adulthood, I always seem to feel a giddy, child-like sense of nostalgia when I watch this undeniable classic.

Conceived by Star Wars creator George Lucas and directed by acclaimed director Steven Spielberg, Raiders is a glorious ode to the pulpy Saturday matinee serials of yesteryear. Harrison Ford stars as Indiana Jones, the role I believe he was born to play. Through his sardonic wit and energy, Ford brings a charismatic charm to the gun-toting, bullwhip-cracking archaeologist that no other actor could touch. I am sure that by now the plot is familiar to most everyone, which finds Jones seeking the lost Ark of the Covenant, believed to hold the sacred Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses. Hitler and the Nazis are also searching for the ark, since "An army which carries the ark before it is invincible." Jones' quest leads him from South America, to Nepal, to Egypt, and finds him stumbling into grave danger.

Though this is an excellent story, it is little more than an excuse to drive the film from one action extravaganza to the next. On his journey, Indiana Jones braves deadly booby traps, giant spiders, poison darts, sword-wielding Arabs, Nazis, snakes, the wrath of God, and his feisty ex-girlfriend Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen). He is shot at, stabbed at, beaten to a bloody pulp, and thrown out of moving vehicles. The whole ordeal is as exhausting for moviegoers as it is for Jones. All of this mayhem is like a live-action cartoon for grownups, proving relentlessly violent yet just absurd enough so as not to be deemed offensive. It would all be incredibly laughable in most films, but Steven Spielberg has magically crafted a picture that works best when it is at its extreme. "More is more" was Spielberg's theory, and he gleefully set out to prove it.

Seeing Raiders again for the umpteenth time, I was reminded of the timeless allure of the film. I still continue to admire how well the action suits the story, and vice versa. Raiders of the Lost Ark is not a particularly deep film, nor is it a particularly profound film. Yet, it possesses all of the necessary qualities to provide enriching motion picture entertainment. There are times when I want to be mentally stimulated by my entertainment, and there are times when I want to shut off my mind, relax, and let my entertainment dictate my mental state. Raiders of the Lost Ark triumphs in the latter. It has always proven to me to be a dependable two hours of cinema escapism.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: While my expectations were certainly high, I never imagined Raiders of the Lost Ark would look this good on home video. The picture does show signs of its age, appearing mildly soft and dingy in several places, but otherwise there are few major distractions. The 2.35:1 anamorphic image is completely free from film flecks or blemishes, and I noticed no signs of video noise, even within fine details. Also impressive is the lack of edge enhancement; while certainly evident, its presence is minor. Color saturation is highly commendable, appearing bold and vibrant throughout, though fleshtones do look a tad orange at times. This twenty-two-year-old classic looks like a brand new film, thanks to a fantastic restoration job.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The original Dolby Stereo soundtrack has been admirably remastered for the 5.1 format. The overall fidelity is a bit thin and does not exhibit as much vitality as that of a more recent soundtrack. Nevertheless, John Williams' music score sounds better than ever and soars through the vast soundstage. I was incredibly pleased with the natural tonal quality of the dialogue, which sounds as if it were recorded just yesterday. Surround use is reserved, yet aggressive when necessary. Re-mixed from a monaural surround channel, however, the stereo surrounds often sound somewhat processed and unnatural. Quite the punch has been added with the new LFE channel, and while it exhibits a slight boomy quality on occasion, its presence is consistently strong and deep. This is a careful remastering effort that tastefully improves upon the original soundtrack.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 31 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:50m:44s

Extras Review: While the majority of extras for the Indiana Jones Trilogy boxed set are contained on the fourth bonus disc, each individual disc offers a weblink to the Indiana Jones DVD web site.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

By far the best of the bunch, Raiders of the Lost Ark has aged extremely well over the past twenty-two years and still provides exhilarating entertainment. The anamorphic image transfer and remastered 5.1 audio track are absolutely beautiful and help to justify the excruciatingly long wait for this anticipated release.


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