“Raiders of the Lost Ark” was the first and either the best or the second-best of the Indiana Jones films (you know this to be true, commenters), and it now seems like such a stone-cold, well-known classic that it’s hard to believe its 1981 release was a gamble of sorts. Sure, it had George Lucas and Steven Spielberg behind it, who at the time were amicably tied for the title of “most powerful film-maker in the world”: but the film appeared to be a hokey, intentionally old-fashioned attempt at a two-fisted tale about ne’er-do-well Nazis and shifty Arabs, starring that guy who played Han Solo in those movies about space. This could easily have been a “Lone Ranger”-type situation.
Well, it wasn’t, and Indiana Jones took off into a whole big franchise (until it nuked its very own fridge), but it’s interesting to look back at the moment when it was an untested idea, and (via Slashfilm), here’s a way to do just that: a 1981 PBS “making-of” doc. It’s a fun hour: watch old-school, schlubby Spielberg, before he learned how to trim his beard, teach his leading lady how to pant fearfully and then describe one of the models of the Ark’s lost souls as looking “like a girl I once slept with”. The real delight, of course, is 1981-vintage Harrison Ford, strolling around a backlot cracking his whip while still wearing his glasses and performing his own truck-riding stunts. Sit back, enjoy, and try not to think about crystal skulls.