The Set of 400: #3 – My Favorite Nazi Monkey

Today! Because we have top men looking into it –

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Directed by Steven Spielberg (x13)

Starring Harrison Ford (x9), Karen Allen (x5), Paul Freeman (x2), Denholm Elliott (x3), John Rhys-Davies (x5), Ronald Lacey (x2), Alfred Molina (x5), Wolf Kahler, William Hootkins (x3), Fred Sorenson, Pat Roach (x2), Anthony Higgins, Vic Tablian, Eddie Tagoe

Many, many films from my childhood fought their way onto this list – some decent and still relatively high in my estimation, some Howard the Duck – but none wind up above the utterly perfect first Indiana Jones adventure. I haven’t the slightest idea the first time I watched this movie, and can’t even realistically guess how many times I’ve seen it, but despite the decades wearing on and all the changes in film and my personal preferences, the greatness of this movie has never abated. Even my reasons for liking it haven’t changed all that much. Figure, The Muppet Movie still finds a high rank due mostly to my enduring love of the brand – as a kid, I think it was a lot more the silliness and the songs. Jaws I don’t think I saw uncut until well down the road, so it’s kind of a different movie for me as an adult. But Raiders is the same slam-bang, non-stop action thrill ride its always been, and it totally still holds up.

As I think I mentioned back in Temple of Doom, for a period of time growing up I thought this was the second film in the series, as the concept of a prequel was beyond me and the establishing dates to open these films set them up in this order. I guess the logic was…they didn’t want us to wonder why Indy and Marion weren’t still together? Why they didn’t mention the Ark of the Covenant while battling possessed children and eating monkey brains? It seems like a concept overthought, really, because Temple doesn’t give us any added insight to Indy that informs something in Raiders, like most prequels do. I guess it was so we might like Willie better. Couldn’t Kingdom of the Crystal Skull have both Karen Allen and Kate Capshaw return? That might’ve been more interesting than the bizarre mess they hurled at us instead. Geriatric love triangles! At least they could’ve returned Short Round.

I would totally watch this re-teaming in Indiana Jones and the Valley of the Drunken Mummy or whatever

I’ve also gone on record in this space strongly advocating against a fifth Indiana Jones movie, as that is wholly unnecessary and not something anyone wants. I get that Disney needs to keep making money, and they are running out of Avengers to kill and cartoons to live-action remake, but an 80-year-old Harrison Ford doesn’t have to slap on the fedora anymore. And they absolutely shouldn’t reboot it, if the Solo movie is any guide, so maybe it’s best to let this one go. Our collective childhood has been raked over the coals of commerce enough at this point, no? I don’t knock Raiders for the existence of Crystal Skull, but shit, it sure doesn’t help.

But weirdly, Star Wars has taken some blows in my estimation because of all the other Star Wars movies since. Maybe if we had a dozen Indiana Jones films now it would be suffering too, but as with Ghostbusters just a handful of stabs at sequels/remakes/TV spinoffs haven’t soured me. And the original Star Wars trilogy entirely made this list, so it’s not like I can’t stand it or anything, but I’m a little surprised in reflecting now how much further up I have Raiders over Episode IV. These were the primary pillars of my kid culture, and yet Star Wars landed back in #25, behind even E.T. for Chrissakes – a movie I didn’t really watch until I was at least 10 or 11. Those prequels really did me wrong, folks, I can’t lie. I’m probably never making the list for it, but I am confident Episode II will forever be in my five least favorite movies of all time.

Seriously, this bullshit – ugh

We are digressing hard here! Sorry. I love Raiders of the Lost Ark so much that I got in on the Kickstarter to fund a documentary about the kids who made a shot-for-shot remake of the movie during the ’80s, ultimately titled Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, and it really is. I’ve mentioned my brand of backyard camcorder filmmaking from back in the day – my Antigone: The Musical/Beast of the Sun/Russian Bikini Hookers days – so I totally connected with this story of a few scrappy film fans trying to guerrilla their way through remaking a Hollywood blockbuster in their basement over a period of years. The remake itself is a bit like watching child theater, but it’s impressive as all hell, and the documentary is solid. Check it out – I think it’s still on Netflix, as of this writing.

It really is pretty wonderful

There is very little I can write about the movie itself that hasn’t been said, such a beloved classic is Raiders, so I’m jumping right to film MVP, as there are plenty of options. Would you go with Jock’s snake Reggie? Because Jock was wearing a Yankees hat, I partly thought as a kid the reality of the movie was broken, assuming he named his pet after the-straw-that-stirs-the-drink Reggie Jackson. Do you prefer Alfred Molina’s treacherous, cowardly sidekick who gets that rough comeuppance in the opening sequence? Would you pick the huge, bald German who kicks the living shit out of our favorite archaeologist before face-smashing that propeller? All good options! But there is only one obvious MVP:

Everyone’s favorite moment of the film

And yes, social justice warriors, the much maligned director of New York neurosis comedy has at long last been vanquished! Hurray for us! Spielberg passes Woody Allen with this, his 13th and final film on the list – even if you only count Twilight Zone as one-quarter a Spielberg project, that still gives him the slight edge over Woody’s 12 movies that made the cut. Whew! I thought eternal guilt and shame were at hand for ol’ Joe! The epic rundown of Spielberg’s list pictures is as follows: #331 Twilight Zone: The Movie, #294 1941, #226 Munich, #123 Jurassic Park, #109 Hook, #98 A.I., #71 Last Crusade, #69 Close Encounters, #66 Temple of Doom, #61 Lincoln, #22 E.T., #7 Jaws, and Raiders. Wow! Sure, technically, 28-ish movies were eligible to make the list, so that’s less than half (sorry, Adventures of Tintin fans!), but it’s still an astoundingly prodigious career, including eight movies that landed in the top 100! I don’t think any of his ineligible (more recent) movies would get added to the list in years to come (even though I do like The Post and Ready Player One somewhat), but that’s not to say he’s dried up as a filmmaker either. Just avoid Indy 5 and I’m still a proponent of the man’s genius!

One of the four or five best directors to ever live

This is also Harrison Ford’s final list appearance, after joining the Nines today, becoming only the eighth member of that prestigious club. I thought he might end up a touch higher in the rank, considering he was nabbing an automatic six spots between Han and Indy, but I guess I couldn’t find space for all the Air Force Ones and Regarding Henrys and American Graffitis out there. Just #201 The Fugitive, #175 Patriot Games, and #230 Blade Runner! Solid run, Harrison Ford!

He was pretty good in his quick role as Bob Falfa

Coming tomorrow! Well, who you gonna believe? Me or your own eyes?

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