Best Decade 80s – Indiana Who?

I’m afraid to say that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was the first Indy film I saw at the cinema. The shame, the shame.

In the 80s I was working my way through my teens and I was gently easing out of my pure Sci-fi and space stuff, but obviously not cutting them out completely, so a silly film about an archaeologist seemed a bit dull. It even sounds dull.

A decade later and Spielberg would be introducing us to more ‘ologists in Jurassic Park. In that case, we all went to see the ‘real’ dinosaurs.

My first real encounter prior to Raiders was flicking through a friends copy of the the movie adaption, probably the annual from 1982. I distinctly remember flicking through it and seeing the Alfred Molina character impaled on spikes. What kind of film was this? It’s horrifying… I need to see it.

The first time I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark it was on traditional TV hired from a VHS rental shop somewhere in the north east of England. Video rental shops were quite popular in the 80’s. Most of them had hand crafted white emulsioned shelves on the wall and were probably a converted hairdresser. Or you popped to your newsagent to see their limited stock. You have to shop around to see what each of them had in as they mostly likely only had one copy of the film and you’d have to wait for it to come back in. I rented quite a few of my favourites in those early days, such pure marvels like Police Academy, Mannequin, Ferris Bueller and Ice Pirates. More of my VHS days in another future post.

That Raiders film, seemed to be a popular film and it was directed by “that guy” who directed that oh-so popular film about that Alien. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. See my other blog post. You know the one with the toys and the Phone Home.

Plus it was produced by the guy who directed the first Star Wars film… which wasn’t as good as the second one which was better than Return of the Jedi from the previous year. Oh, and Star Wars was finished so I needed to get back into some Sci-fi with my old favourite Star Trek with the middle film of another favourite movie series Star Trek III The Search for Spock. Oh, and it was starring Han Solo.

I may as well give it a go and rent it. So we did. Those were my early 80’s thoughts. Steven Speilberg directed and George Lucas and Philip Kaufman came up with the story. Laurence Kasden, the same scriptwriter for The Empire Strikes Back wrote the screenplay.

In those days we didn’t have widescreen TVs, in the UK we had to put up with a 625 line, 4:3 ratio TV set with a huge clunky VHS player under it. The US had it even worse with NTSC with 525 lines so there was about a fifth of the pictures detail missing in the US compared to the UK. I do remember getting my own VHS player for my 21st birthday as I had started to amass quick a selection of CIC videos that I would have on constant rotation.

So the VHS tapes at that time, were produced using Pan and Scan. In this method you only see a small part of the full widescreen picture and lose the grandiose look of the cinema screen which was the treat when you went to the cinema. They had a tendency to crop off the side of the original or focus on important aspects of the shot when transferring from film to tape. Hard to do if your characters are standing at either side of the shot. I remember western films where there would be this jarring scan across the frame missing out on the desert vistas of Arizona just to fit the bad guy about the shoot the good guy.

It kind of fit for the saturday morning hero but Spielberg didn’t like pan and scan in 1990 when the last of the original Indy trilogy was released. Check out Siskel and Ebert talking about Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade from 1990.

Big screen and a big bucket of popcorn was the way to be but for home we had to put up with a near square TV.

The other option was to wait several years and catch the big movie being shown over Christmas.

The first UK showing of Raiders was on Christmas Day in 1984 which was the same year Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was released. So if you hadn’t seen the second one, you could at least catch the first one on TV whilst tucking in to your After Eights, washing the pots and then finishing off the three or four Cadbury’s Selection boxes.

I would have watched it with everyone else and if I didn’t already own the VHS tape, which at that time were rather expensive, so I probably would have recorded it off the TV. It’s unfortunate that it was being shown on ITV as the action would be sometimes randomly intercut with adverts.

The BBC had Mary Poppins, Miss Marple, Keith Harris and Noel Edmonds.

Those were my general thoughts during Christmas in 1984. I was sixteen at that time, so I would be ridding myself of toys and stick to my computer games primarily Elite and new computer, my BBC Model B which would help me during my college days.

This just happened to be the year where He-Man and Transformers were the choice for Christmas. But I was too occupied programming in BASIC and teaching myself 6502 assembler.

Anyway back to Indy. Where were we?

Oh yeah. Raiders of the Lost Ark on VHS somewhere around 1983. It was great, action, adventure a wonderful John Williams score (that guy behind the Star Wars music) which I eventually owned and a sequel was due to come out next year.

For a PG film which was recommended as parental guidance, there was an awful lot of gory things in it. Melting and exploding heads, people impaled on spikes, spooky ghosts, people getting shot in the head, burn victims. All great fun.

Raiders has become one of my all time favourite films. Otherwise I wouldn’t have mentioned it in these page/blog things.

It was the Summer of 1984 I had finished School and was prepping myself for 6th form. This was considered cooler than the main school, as you didn’t need to wear a uniform and you were all the oldest on the school grounds. It was a newish building compared to the main school building and it had a common room and a record player to play your soundtracks on…. Okay, I might have been the only one to play soundtracks on it.

Temple became one of my regular jaunts up the coast to the Monkseaton Cannon cinema as they had it on.

Having been produced under the Paramount Studio the opening logo was integrated into the the first scene of the first in one way or another. This continued through all of the Indy films through to the Crystal Skull.

With Temple, we start on a dance number in Club Obi-wan with a Chinese version of Cole Porter’s ‘Anything Goes’ sung by Willie Scott played by Kate Capshaw.

It’s a full on, over the top 50s style dance number.

It’s a fun unexpected opening to the film, which eventually we find ourselves in the middle of an existing adventure with Indy delivering the remains of Emperor Nurhaci, in a Manchu Dynasty jade funeral urn. Unfortunately Indy gets poisoned and a chase around the club for the antidote ends up with Indy, Willie and Short Round waiting in the car outside as the getaway driver. They end up at an airport and eventually when the pilot jumps out of the plane is left to escape in a raft down the side of a mountain, ending up in the village of Mayapore where the real adventure starts.

Indy discovers that an ancient stone has been stolen from their shrine and all the children have been taken as slaves to be used in the mines to try to find two more of the five stones so that the leader Kali Mah would be able to rule the world. As usual.

It is filled with a bunch of fun sequences that stand out. The Mine cart chase which was like a roller coaster ride and definitely a neat idea for a roller coaster which ended up being a roller coaster ride at Disneyland Paris and included in various video game versions of Temple.

It is a chunky, clunky coaster ride and great fun in the summer months. In winter it’s cold.

Food in Pankot palace was great fun, although I don’t ever want chilled monkey brains, and eyeball soup. There was also snake suprise and fresh beetles on the menu. But the chance of a local Mcdonalds or Pizza Hut wasn’t likely at that time.

There was sequence with lots of real bugs, lots of screaming from Willie Scott and Indy nearly gets squashed. Very icky particularly if you don’t like bugs and spiders.

Raiders had snakes, Temple had bugs and Last Crusade had rats.

There was one sequence that caused a ruckus with the BBFC involving Mola Ram pulling the live beating heart out of a victim who was going to be burned alive in a deep pit.

The scene above was not seen in the UK until 2011 as it would have given the film a 15 rating. In the UK a number of cuts were made to ensure the film gained the same rating as the previous film, a PG. As well as the heart ripping and the burning man, these cuts included a head being cracked against a rock and Indy drinking blood and being whipped.

In the US the rating system was changed two months after the film release and a PG-13 rating was introduced meaning that children 13 and under could not see the film without being accompanied by an adult.

When I watched the film I do remember some weird cutting decisions in that scene with the chanting and shots being a bit disjointed plus character reactions to things we didn’t see. Thanks to the internet we see the sequences in full. How that guy survived without his heart before burning up in the pit is anyone’s guess.

Another significant scene was the bridge sequence. Indy is caught in the middle of the bridge with the stones so he decides to cut the bridge. It leads to the stones falling into the river along with the bad guy. Indy returns the children to the village and all is well.

It wasn’t until after I saw the film that I found out that Temple of Doom was a prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark. So what happened to Short Round after the Temple film?

Short Round was a great sidekick to Indy essentially explaining most of Indy’s actions and plot to the dirt-phobe Willie Scott. In the films Short Round just disappears from the film series but in the excellent “The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones” there is a small note that suggests that Short Round had gone off on his own adventures and was close to finding the Peacock’s Eye which was the diamond that Indy was going to exchange for the ashes at Club Obi-Wan at the beginning of the movie.

Indy had been chasing this diamond since his teenage years and was featured in the TV movie Young Indiana Jones and the Treasure of the Peacock’s Eye. Indy was played by Sean Patrick Flannery.

The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones was released in 2008 upon the release of the Crystal Skull film and covers the life story of Indy from the time when his father gave him the journal, though his childhood, the TV movies and the big screen movies.

The edition I have is hardback with a fake stitched leather cover with an cloth elastic band to keep it closed. The pages a yellowed and printed with images throughout. The edges of the pages are uneven and there are even pages that seen to have been ripped out to hide something between 1933 and 1935.

It’s filled with sketches, hand written notes, maps, newspaper clippings, notes and research. If you are an Indy fan you need this book.

Also released in 2008 is the Complete Making of Indiana Jones also covering all four films. It’s a huge coffee table book in the same format as the previously released Making of Star Wars/Empire/Jedi also written by J. W. Rinzler.

It’s filled with amazing and unexpected photos from the archives and details the step by step process of initial production through to the releases of the movies. You should definitely attempt to get it. This one has at least doubled it’s price since it’s initial release. It’s better than reading some blog that spends it’s time mixing personal memories with facts from various sources. 😉

There is a lot of cool merchandise for Indy, or at least there was back in the day. When the Crystal Skull movie out, merch came back with a vengeance, figures, toys, hats, whips that played the tune and made a whip cracking sound. Here’s a few of the pieces we have.

In 2007 we managed to get a Sideshow Toys Indiana Jones. To us there is something special about this figure as a good friend of ours based in California sculpted the head. Its a perfect likeness.

I’ve known Trevor since ’99 when he helped out with Star Park and we got to know each other due to our love for Star Wars. I’ve seen his work flourish over that last twenty years and have a few of his pieces in our collection, this includes his first Sideshow Sarah Connor head sculpt, and Sideshow Obi-wan.

One of his more famous work is the Mythos Obi-wan sculpture.

Its a truly unique blend of Ewan Mcgregor and Alec Guinness.

Some of his more recently recognisable work are from Back to the Future, Blade Runner 2049, Karate Kid, IT, Halloween, TMNT and even Guillermo Del Toro and something a little different, the 1962 Godzilla. He keeps himself busy.

It was fun to watch the last few action figure preview videos on YouTube and spot all of the NECA figures sculpted by Trevor.

If you want to see Trevor Grove’s sculptures and the work he has done for Sideshow and current work for NECA and Tweeterhead. Check here….

https://www.deviantart.com/trevorgrove

And also follow him on Facebook under “Trevor Grove Sculpture” you can’t miss it. Keep an eye on the wax and resin preproduction photos of all of his work.

Sometimes 5 inch action figures aren’t enough, so its good to be able to get the best version we can afford.

As well as the head, the detailing in the jacket and all the props and clothing are spectacular. The thickness of the clothing itself feels scaled and not like your plastic action man style thick jackets. The whip is wired and fully articulated. I did manage to roll it together and hang on his belt but it still looks great if he’s holding it ready to whip the weapon out of a bad guys hand.

It even comes with the fertility idol and the bag of sand, plus multiple hands giving you the choice of pose and head without the hat.

When Crystal Skull was set loose on the public I also managed to pick up a couple of figures. One of the 3 3/4 inch figures, same scale as the original Star Wars, came with the Ark of the Covenant.

It’s a tiny little thing and comes with a removable lid. Handy for keeping small screws in. It originally came with Indiana Jones in his disguise. I also picked up the Monkey Man figure, but I think he’s ran off somewhere.

One other pieces the wife bought as she likes to collect fans. This was bought in Disneyland Paris in 1997. I’m not too sure what it is supposed to represent as it’s quite difficult to research stuff when you are using terms like “Indiana Jones fan”… hmmm…

It’s still cool though…. 😉

In the US, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom became the third highest grossing film of 1984 behind Ghostbusters and Beverly Hills Cop and in front of Gremlins. Both Gremlins and Ghostbusters opened at the end of 1983 so they led into 1984.

In the UK this was a different story, Ghostbusters was top at number 1 and Temple of Doom was at number 2.

In Ghostbusters they have the iconic proton packs, Star Wars they have… everything and in Indiana Jones we have the iconic hat and the whip.

I always wanted an authentic Indiana Jones hat. I love my hats. I have a few hats. Top hats, bowler, trilby, fedora, western, stockman and trapper.

The style of the Indy hat is known as “The Poet” and is produced by a British hat maker in Old Burlington Street in London known as Herbert Johnson. If you want to buy your own poet it will set you back a hand made price of £385. Click here if you want to buy one! Made from rabbit fur felt it states it has the screen accurate Raiders bow style. It started when Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford popped in the shot whilst preparing Raiders and needed a hat for the character. They made 45 hats in various sizes for Ford and the stunt guys. The rest is history.

Well is it? What’s the real story? Even the simple story of the hat origins can change.

Recently one of the screen used hats sold for $520,000. It was used “extensively” by Harrison Ford during the making of Raiders. I wonder which of the 30/45 that actually was….. Hmmm….. Do you think they know there were a few made?

It seems the Herbert Johnson story is the truth… as to who stepped into the shop. Maybe more research is needed.

Herbert Johnson themselves did some mythbusting.

https://herbertjohnson.co.uk/blogs/journal/mythbusting-the-indiana-jones-hero-poet

So, the hat is a little confusing. So, what about the whip?

The bullwhips were the property of Glenn Randall Jnr. credited as Glenn Randall as stunt coordinator on both Raiders and Temple.

Glenn was also stunt coordinator on Return of the Jedi and donned the Boba Fett costume when he disappeared into the mouth of the Sarlacc.

Traditionally the whips were made of Kangaroo hide but in Raiders the whip was made from Kip hide or young calf. There were some import restrictions from December 1974 when a ban on the importation of Kangaroo hide was implemented at the time of making Raiders. On Temple and Crusade they switched back to Kangaroo hide.

There were 30 whips made by David Morgan a whip maker from Washington in the US.

Our own production bullwhip, used in the Indiana Jones movies, is a moderately heavy whip with the weight carried out well into the thong. The butt foundation is about 8 inches long. The whip is well balanced, and has a 12 plait kangaroo overlay. The length is measured from the butt to the end of the braid, not including the fall.

450 Series Bullwhips by David Morgan

For Temple and Crusade the whips were Kangeroo hide and dyed a darker colour than the original Raiders kip whip.

The 450 series ranges from 6 feet to 12 feet in length and during the making of the films they ranged in length depending on the use. It is said that the one that Indy wore on his belt was the 8 foot version.

If you want to buy yourself a whip and you have a large bank balance click here

https://www.davidmorgan.com/shop/product/409/bullwhip-10-ft-natural-tan/

I’m sure it’s cheaper than buying a screen used version though. One of the screen used whips sold for $140,000 in 2014.

Also check out the excellent IndyGear.com website if you want to get yourself fully suited up and delve deeper into the world of the Indy costumes.

Let’s talk about the iconic movie posters of Drew Struzan

One of my favourite film poster artists is Drew Struzan. In these days of photoshopped photos, Drew paints perfect representations of the heroic characters and villains from some of our favourite movies.

Early in his career Drew Struzan painted album covers for among others The Bee Gees, Alice Cooper, Roy Orbison and The Beach Boys.

Struzan first worked with Lucas and Speilberg with an infamous Star Wars Re-release poster known as the style D “circus” poster. It started a a base poster produced with Charlie White but they discovered they couldn’t fit the credits of the artists. They didn’t want it to go to waste so they expanded on the original and added Obi-Wan and made it look like it had been torn and stuck on a wooden wall like a circus poster. It was a classic.

Richard Amsel produced the poster art for Raiders of the Lost Ark and Struzan came on board after his work on Back to the Future, The Thing, Blade Runner and Cannonball Run. So Temple of Doom was the first of his classic Indy posters.

In the 1990s, Struzan worked on the Harry Potter and the Philosopher/Sorcerers Stone. By the end of the 90’s he had created the new posters for the Special Edition releases of the Star Wars Trilogy and then went on to create the posters for Episode I, II and III.

He announced his first retirement in 2008, then came out of retirement to do more projects including Star Wars The Force Awakens.

As a post note and the recent passing of Sean Connery let’s not forget the influence Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade had in the film series which was released in 1989.

Crusade introduced us to Indy’s father played by the late great Sean Connery and featured the quest to find the Holy Grail and also Indy’s father himself who had been kidnapped by the Nazis. So we return to the traditional Raiders bad guys.

It starts by introducing us to a young Indy played by River Pheonix in a thrilling sequence that explains a lot of Indy’s iconic future. We find out about the whip, the scar on his chip and getting the hat.

This also set up the idea that Indy had many adventures during his early years and the “Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” or “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones” depending on how they were packaged, was born and was released in 1992. It ultimately lead to three seasons and 4 movies up through to 1996 before being cancelled due to high costs and low ratings.

In the UK TV schedules made it difficult to see this programme at that time and I managed to get a bunch of the VHS cassettes from our local Woolworths in 2000.

In a couple of occasions we also saw older versions of Indy with a saxophone playing Harrison Ford making an appearance as a 50 year old Indy and George Hall playing a one eyed 93 year old version.

Back to Crusade the stand out performance was from Sean Connery playing Indy’s dad. It poked fun at some of the Indy tropes on how he seemed to always be getting chased and we found out that Indy’s name was Henry Jones Jnr. and that they named the dog Indiana.

Even though Connery and Ford played off other other well as father and son, between each them there was only a 12 year age gap.

Connery played well as the serious father figure and the bumbling dad with excellent comic timing when it was required.

It was more fun than the dark Temple and we still had a load of chases and incidence throughout including a tank chase, a boat chase, a dogfight leading to a car chase and the inevitable animal sequence, in this it was a tomb full of rats.

The story leads us to the temple where the Holy Grail is kept.

I still find the temple location they used in Petra, Jordon as it is a temple entrance carved out of the stone rock face. Fascinating.

The grail was protected by a Grail Knight, an ancient crusader who protected in from the forces of evil.

This is probably one reason I own a Templar knight costume. It’s a bit different and I can hide in the helmet. Which over the years has changed and I’ve ditched the shield.

The Grail in the film suggests that if you drink from it, it will grant you eternal life. Donovan, the bad guy of the Crusade was played by Julian Glover who I met a few years back at a Screen-Con event in May 2014.

Julian also played General Veers from The Empire Strikes Back a couple of years earlier.

Problem was that there were lots of cups to choose from choose the wrong one an you die. Choose the right one and you have eternal life, but only in the walls of the temple. I always wondered why the grail knight looked so old. No matter.

All in all Crusade looked back at the other films, lightened things up a little, introduced new history for Indy, developed ideas for future adventures and introduced the start of the Jones family tree which would continue into the next film.

Overall out of the original three 80s films, unfortunately Temple is possibly a smidge my least favourite but it was still a great film, possibly due to it’s more dark tone. Raiders started the Indy journey and Crusade finished the 80s trilogy with a smile. I raise the correct grail to combined efforts of Ford, Spielberg and Lucas and the rest of the crew.

We haven’t even touched on the video games. So watch this….

The fourth film in the Indy series didn’t happen until 2008 and we are currently talking about the 80s so we will leave that for another time.

Let’s hope when the next Indiana Jones movie eventually comes out, it will be keeping it’s Logan director, James Mangold and written by the original Raiders script writer Laurence Kasden and maybe hoping Struzan will produce just one or two more posters?!

We will be returning to Drew Struzan in the next blog when we will be going Back To The Future. Great Scott.

Take care and throw me the idol, I’ll throw you the whip.

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