“California: 1981 – A blazing sun beat down on the land, raising rippled heatwaves on the horizon as intrepid jungle explorer Miyuki lay in the tall grass and watched the animals drink at the nearby waterhole. To the uninspired eye, they might have seemed nothing more than a couple of stray mongrel dogs lapping away at a puddle leftover from last night’s cooling rain, but little Miyuki knew better…. Squinting her eyes, the haze revealed that they were in fact tawny lions slaking their thirst before the hunt. But there were other foes… more savage than even these… lurking amid the savanna grass… for somewhere nearby she knew the deadly warriors of the Mkombé tribe were hot on her trail, fiercely angry at her for daring to trespass onto their tribal lands in search of Professor Samuels and his lost safari…”
Yep… that’s pretty much how the Summer of 1981 went for this lady. Warm sultry days playing about in the grassy meadows on the edge of my neighborhood and nearby park, dressed in my “safari outfit” and totting around an old leather purse full of snacks and all my “jungle stuff”. Very few things can compare to an 8 ½ year old’s imagination… especially a wee girl so full of wonder and wild imagination as I had back then. While other kids played… most days I spent “having adventures”. Sometimes along with other kids in the neighborhood, but often times all alone. Back then was a simpler time, and you could actually do that without worrying about any crazy kidnapping psycho jumping out and snatching a kid away.
Those adventures were fueled by a plethora of Saturday morning TV filled with old movies, serials, and oodles of Black & White adventure stories from decades past. Along with horror movies and my afternoon Kung-Fu films, these were the things that shaped this odd lil lady into the goofy woman she is today. Once in a great while I’d even go to a Saturday afternoon movie matinée at our local theater if either my Grandma or Dad could be convinced to take me. Oh my goodness, yes… and it was the Summer of 1981 when lil’ Miyuki first encountered Indiana Jones… 😉
Recently my mind has slipped back to those carefree days and all the fond memories I have of them, so it seemed only fitting to share them all with you Gentle Visitors by doing a “Nekolishous” review of that classic adventure film…. and… to gently pester my fellow blogging friends to share their own reminiscences as well. So without further adieu, let’s get right to it! 🙂
It was my Grandma that got to be the lucky one to take her goofy granddaughter to the movies that week. American movies weren’t my Grandma’s cup of tea, but any time she could spend with me was time she always seemed to treasure. From the poster outside with its fedora clad Harrison Ford swinging his whip, I’m certain she had the idea we were going to see one of the Westerns my Dad favored on television. Boy… was Grandma in for a surprise…. 😉
I’d seen the ads leading up to this one, or so my memory tells me now, but even lil’ Miyuki wasn’t ready for the non-stop thrill ride that ensued once the lights went down. That opening sequence… those grimy explorers… the sweltering green jungles of South America… the creepy old Incan tomb and those crazy deathtraps!! The atmosphere of it all captured the old cliffhanging serials perfectly!! Instantly I was hooked.
The character of Indiana Jones was certainly a surprise. I wasn’t sure at first if he was going to be the hero… or if he was going to be more like Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name”. I mean… he was brave and daring… but he was also more than a bit of a rogue and a tomb robber to boot. Only the presence of his rival swooping in to steal away his golden idol at the crucial moment… the evil Belloq (played by Paul Freeman) clued you in… lil’ Miyuki had seen his type before in one or two Black & White Film Noir movies. Now… he was a villain. Even Grandma caught right on to that… Once he abandoned Indy to the dubious “mercy” of the Hovito Indians and their deadly blowguns you just knew who to root for. 😉
That entire sequence… while it doesn’t really have any connection to the main story other than to introduce the character of Indy… always reminds me of those nifty opening bits in a James Bond film. Neat stunts, a thrill a minute right from the start, and given “Raiders” concept as a modern-day “cliffhanger serial” helps give it that authentic feeling that somehow you are just joining into an adventure story already in progress.
The 1930’s were an era waaaay before this wee Catgirl’s time, but luckily all those old B&W serials I watched on TV as well as oodles of old war movies gave lil’ Miyuki a pretty good grasp of the period. It didn’t take long to come up to speed and once I found out there were Nazis in this one… well… now there are some serious “bad guys”. This is probably the smartest choice “Raiders” could have made. Nazis make great villains. They are about the only single group that just about anybody can agree are unrepentantly evil. Most of the other pulp fiction that inspired “Raiders” was filled with some fairly stereotypical racist notions… the “Yellow Peril” of the likes of Dr. Fu Manchu and the other inscrutable Asians of the genre… fairly unfavorable roles for blacks as jungle savages… and just about every other possible racially offensive role for other foreigners as well. But Nazis… Heck, those guys just about beg to be hated… 😉
Lil’ Miyuki wasn’t as clued in on the prize though… the “Ark of the Covenant”. I wasn’t raised in a particularly religious household. I knew most of the basics of the Christian faith, but this one was a bit obscure for lil’ ol’ me. Luckily for me and Grandma, the movie throws in a pretty quick little explanation of that icon sufficient for the needs of the story. Heck… all I needed to hear was “big old magical gold box” that the Nazis wanted. That was enough to satisfy me! After that, away Indy went, to solve all those clues and hunt it down before the evil guys could grab it.
Now… “Raiders” is also a romance story too. Something wee Miyuki was less than interested in, but at least they didn’t saddle the story with some pretty useless girl who would mostly exist to get into trouble. Nope… Marion Ravenwood (played by Karen Allen) was a surprising breath of fresh air. She was pretty… but also feisty, foul-mouthed, not afraid to get a little dirty, and more than a match for Indy at his best. She was a whole lot less of a supporting character and more of a partner in this adventure and someone I remember being very impressed with. (Although Grandma thought she was a very unladylike heroine… 😉 )
Now the fun stuff got going! There were fist fights, car chases, plenty of whip snapping, some more deathtraps, lots more Nazi thugs, and…. cobras! By this time I was bouncing around in my seat so excited that my Grandma had to keep shushing me and telling me to calm down and behave. I know she wasn’t enjoying things as much as I… and plenty of scenes had her frowning and making her most disapproving face. Sorry Grandma…. 😉
By the time we got to that big climactic “Wrath of God’ ending with holy spirit/ghost thingees and melting Nazi faces lil’ Miyuki was already considering archaeology as a possible career choice. (I went through lots and lots of those phases as a little girl… to this day I think the most disappointed I ever was might have been to discover that “meteorology” had absolutely nothing to do with meteors…. 🙂 )
So… when the lights finally went up, I’d have to say this afternoon was certainly a day well spent. Lil’ Miyuki was in movie heaven!! Although Grandma didn’t enjoy the film as much as me, I know the big hug I gave her for taking me made her as happy as she could be. It was all I could talk about for days… much to my Mom’s horror… It stuck with me too… and for the rest of that Summer, there were elements of “Raiders” that crept into my play as I roamed around the neighborhood. Occasionally a big delivery truck rolling down the street got “identified” as a truck full of Nazi soldiers… a big old gravel hole by the park became a deadly pit trap that I had to leap over at least once a day. I made a blowgun out of an old curtain rod and shot the garage door full of “poisoned” darts made from finishing nails… (Sorry Dad… 😉 ) There was a brief fascination with the whip… until I managed to snap myself in the face with a length of clothesline. (Yes… yes… nearly taking an eye out… So you really were right, Mom… Just this once… 😉 )
So… for me at least… “Raiders” scored a big home run, 5 “Meows” out of 5. The acting.. the stunt work and special effects… all top-notch, with a great classic story that truly captured the sense of fun those old serials had. Even now, years along, grown up me can still watch it again and again. So what if the sequels never really captured that same wild sense of thrilling adventure the way the first film did. Indiana Jones will always stand tall as one of this lady’s fondest childhood heroes. One of the ads claimed “If Adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones”…. They had never been sooooo right. 😉
So those are the childhood memories of your favorite goofy Catgirl movie fan. In the next week or so, I’m hoping to get some more reminiscences from my fellow Blogging friends, Stephen of “Gweilo Ramblings” and Miss Novia Rozet of “Polychrome Interest” to add. It will be interesting to see how they remember this one… and wether or not they were influenced quite as strongly as me. (Hehehe… couldn’t be possible… lil’ Miyuki was just an absolutely crazy lil’ girl… ) Got any fond memories of your very own? Well then chime right in and comment… I’ll be happy to share them too!
And now, the “British Experience”, courtesy of our good friend and Blogging buddy, Stephen from “Gweilo Ramblings”. Take it away Stephen!!
“Me and Mr Jones. I’d really love to say I was first in the queue in 1981 when “Raiders of the Lost Ark” came to the cinema over here in the UK. Sadly, the truth is, it would be a few years before I watched it. In 1981 I was 10 years old, and living in the deep West Sussex countryside. There were two cinemas, a visit to either would have involved outside assistance. Closest was a single screen in Cranleigh (no longer there), which was only possible if my father drove me there (Mum didn’t drive then). He wasn’t much of a movie-lover, but I do remember seeing “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Superman 2” with him there in this sort of timeframe. Horsham also had a single screen, and could be gotten too by train, but little Stephen wasn’t quite able to make his way there on his own yet. That was the place I saw my first ever film (a re-issue of “Bambi”, and yes, I cried when the Mum got killed), and a few years later I would see the third Indiana Jones film there. So the earliest I would be able to see it was going to be Christmas 1984 when it was going to be the film premiere of the evening on ITV.
Some context for younger/non-British readers I guess is needed. Back in 1981 we had 4 Channels. The BBC has two, there was the Commercial ITV, and the very fledgling Channel 4. And none of them broadcast much past 11pm. Once you factored in news broadcasts, soap operas and various sporting events, you can see even watching a movie on TV was a rare thing indeed. So a big movie on TV? That was honestly a real event. Other than a Western or something like “Dr Zhivago” or “Laurence of Arabia” during a sunday afternoon? It was the province of the holiday season. And the big movies would take about 3 years to reach the Television set. In glorious 4:3 Pan and Scan, in Mono. But still, the Christmas movie was a big battle between BBC1 and ITV each year. And the whole family would settle down and watch it together. Except… I am fairly sure I didn’t watch it that year.
I reckon I might have seen it on VHS a year or so later, not at home (another thing our household was late to was the Home Video Market), but probably at a friends house. Thing is, there are things I remember about it vividly. The theme tune for one. I can honestly say it is my favorite theme tune of any movie. The Star Wars or Superman themes might be more famous, and the Jaws one more evocative, but when I poped on my DVD to refresh my memory the other day, I even left the menu playing for a couple of hours just so I could hear those opening few bars repeated over and over. I also remember Indy’s hatred of snakes. I probably hadn’t even seen a snake in the flesh at this point, but it was a fear I could share. That creepy Nazi guy who gets his hand burnt by the heated amulet and whose face melts down at the end? I always remember him! And to be fair, I had no idea of the saturday morning serial that the film was homaging.
One thing that struck me upon rewatching it was how utterly ropey it was in the details. In 1936, the American Government wouldn’t have given a rats ass about what Hitler was up to. The Germans would not have been able to have been in Egypt at all. The maps that are shown in the film are utterly wrong. The planes used couldn’t have made the trips they are meant to. Most of those snakes were not native to Africa. I was an annoying little pedant back in the 1980’s too, so I don’t know if I would have played some spot-the-error game with my mates.
I had forgotten that Denholm Elliot was in it. He was in a ton of American films back then. Now, just about every American film and TV show has some kind of British Actor in it. Back then? He seemed to be the only person from these shores who turned up with any regularity. And then we have Karen Allen as Marion. What a feisty little minx she was, utterly typical of the actresses of that time. Funny thing is.. this was a huge smash, and is contantly in the top 10 lists, but her career never really took off. I know she turned up in the belated 4th installment. But we don’t talk about that right?
The way the film just goes from set piece to set piece, with little character development? It’s very un-Speilberg. You can feel the script of George Lucas just leaping onto the screen. But then all the set pieces are just great. And it’s all real stunts. No CGI here. Sure there’s a little bit of time lapse photography and Mattes and so on. But this is a movie that might be nonsense and fantastical, but it really feels rather real. It genuinely looks hot where it is meant to. And cold and snowy where it is meant to. It looks like people are suffering (cue the anaecdote about a sick Harrison Ford asking to change THAT scene..). It is oddly visceral.
And Indy himself? He’s a bit of a d**k isn’t he? Everyone around him seems to die. He is an utter arse to Marion on several occasions both in the film and in the unexplored backstory. Notice also how he is given that whip as an accessory? Usually that would be a sign that he doesn’t like killing people. But no, he shoots way more people. And worse. I like Ford, but let’s be honest. He’s not a great actor. And he doesn’t really have a huge physical presence. But just like Han Solo, his charisma just makes up for it all.
All these things wrong with the film. But it really is brilliant. Sequences are utterly iconic. It rattles along at a breathtaking pace. You don’t care that the Indy actually achieves nothing in the entire film (Thankyou “Big Bang Theory”). I can’t really think of a movie that is just so much start-to-finish fun.”
Ooooohhh!! And to get your spirit of adventure fully in gear, here’s the original “Raiders” trailer…. Enjoy!!