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From the advent of DVD, fans have been drawing up their lists of most wanted titles. Over the past couple of years those lists have been slowly diminishing; the main titles on most peoples’ wish lists would have included the Star Wars Originals, Back To The Future trilogy, Alien movies and the Indiana Jones collection. Two of the above mentioned titles were released prior to last year, so that leads me conveniently onto the Indiana Jones trilogy which was finally released at the tail end of last year. The box set was destined for great things, and when Paramount announced that they were restoring the transfers and soundtracks especially for DVD, many fans were hoping that the titles were released there and then!

It was no great surprise when recently the box set was announced as the best selling box set released so far on DVD. We at DVDAnswers decided to wait a few months until the hype had died down to see whether this box set really is as good as people suggest. Read on to find out.  

Adventures of Indiana Jones, The
The character of Indiana Jones was the result of the foresight of George Lucas, who around the same time as Star Wars decided to start work on bringing the character to the big screen. He persuaded his good friend Steven Spielberg to direct the first movie, and as they say, the rest is history! The trilogy has become one of the most respected and successful pieces in cinema history. Many films have tried to replicate the success of the movies, but have never really created the same excitement and atmosphere that is part of the Indiana Jones collection. For the purpose of this review I am not going to delve too much into the storyline of each movie, as I am sure there are better and more comprehensive resources available if you want to find out more. Anyway, here is a brief summary of each of the movies:

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
The first instalment of Indiana Jones starts in triumphant fashion; the year is 1936 and we are introduced to our courageous hero, an archaeologist who goes by the name of Dr. Henry Jones (Harrison Ford), or for short Indiana Jones. Indy is on a mission to find a lost artefact in the South American jungle. The only problem is that between him and the item stand lots of deadly traps, one of which is a huge boulder! Indy achieves his goal, but has the artefact snatched out of his hands by his rival Belloq (Paul Freeman).

Obviously upset by this experience, Indy heads back to America, but upon his return he is given more bad news. It appears that the Nazis are hatching a plan to steal the mythological Ark of the Covenant, an item which according to the Bible is a source of the tablet of the Ten Commandments. Indy is hired by the American Government to hunt down the Ark and ensure that the Nazis don’t get their hands on it. If he fails, the enemy will have the power to rule the world. Surely our hero must succeed?!

 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
After the international success of the first movie, it was only three years before Indy was to embark on his next adventure. This time the year is 1935 and we find our hero frequenting the Obi Wan Nightclub in Shanghai. Indy is meant to be doing a business exchange with a local called Lqo Che (Roy Chiao). Che is desperate to get his hands on an artefact called Muhatchi, and is not afraid to go to any lengths necessary to do so. Things get a little heated and Indy finds himself escaping with the combined help of Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), a singer at the nightclub, and Short Round (Ke Huy Quan), a confident and cocky 12 year old who holds no fears.

Adventures of Indiana Jones, The
The trio escape the clutches of Che, but end up stranded in an Indian village, where the inhabitants are suffering from malnutrition and believe that they are the victims of an evil curse. The children in the village have been taken away, and the villagers believe that Indy and his colleagues have been sent from above to help to find the youngsters.  Indy soon discovers that things are not as clear as they first seem, and there is a lot more to the story than the villagers know! However, if any one can help, Indiana Jones can!

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The intro to the third and final Indiana Jones movie steps back in time to 1912 where we get to meet a young Indiana Jones (River Phoenix) who is in Utah on a boy scout assignment. This opening serves as background information on several points which hadn’t been explained in the previous movies, for example we get to see Indy using a whip for the first time while trying to fend off a lion. After the opening the film then jumps forward several years, well to be precise we move forward 26 years to 1938, where we once again catch up with our hero who is otherwise engaged trying to get his hands on the Cross of Coronado (the same artefact he was involved with at the beginning of the film). So far, each of the Indiana Jones films have involved our hero attempting to uncover some sacred artefact and this movie is no different, but this time the stakes are a little higher; Indy finds out that the Nazis are attempting to uncover the Holy Grail, which on its own is a pretty daunting thought, but he also has to come to terms with the fact that they have also kidnapped his father, Professor Henry Jones (Sean Connery). What ensues is a cat and mouse chase with deadly consequences.

Most movie collections normally have a weak point (Alien Resurrection is a prime example of this), but that’s not the case with the Indiana Jones movies. Each one has its own unique story, humour and tone. The first movie was a good introduction to the main character and possessed some good, fun scenes, while Temple Of Doom was a lot darker, and has been criticised by many for a lack in plot, however in my opinion it is the best of the trilogy. The Last Crusade returned to the formula of the first movie, but also added the fun rivalry and banter between father and son. The fact that many films over the years have tried to follow suit and failed miserably just goes to show what classics Spielberg and Lucas created.

I am sure the majority of people reading this review know all about the Indiana Jones films, and therefore you don’t need any encouragement to watch the movies again. Well if that’s the case don’t waste your time reading any more, just skip to the next section and find out about the DVD. However, if you have never seen these movies (and shame on you if that is the case!) then you would be well advised to make up for lost time. I have to be honest and say that before reviewing this disc I hadn’t seen any of the Indiana Jones movies for about five years, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Too many films disappoint when you watch them again after such a long time, but that wasn’t the case here. The Indiana Jones movies are timeless classics and don’t seem to age at all. The special effects are not quite up to the today’s standards, but that makes the films more fun.

Adventures of Indiana Jones, The
There is something special about the Indiana Jones movies and it is hard to explain what makes them so good; maybe it’s the unadulterated action scenes, the cheeky humour or even the actors involved. Whatever it is, one thing’s for sure, the timeless magic of Indiana Jones will not be matched for a long time to come. Indiana Jones is one of the best collections of movies ever!

Each of the three films has been carefully restored with THX certified 2.35:1 widescreen transfers which are anamorphically enhanced. Before this release, Lucasfilm and Paramount were blowing their trumpets about this aspect of the collection, apparently each film had been meticulously cleaned up frame by frame, and fans would definitely be impressed. Have they delivered with this bold statement? Well, the simple answer is yes, without exception all three of the movies look stunning.  

My first impressions of the Raiders transfer weren’t particularly favourable, as the first five minutes appeared very grainy, but thankfully the level of grain subsided to a respectable level. Considering the age of Raiders, the transfer that is on show here is nothing short of amazing. It really is that good! A lot of the blemishes/dirt have been removed and the overall image is full of detail. The colour palette is also full of life and black levels are solid. Raiders is probably the weakest of the transfers (if that’s how you want to think of it), but that said, it is twenty years old so this is no surprise. Temple of Doom has also been cleaned up expertly and has a vibrant colour palette; this is the major advantage it has over Raiders.

As for The Last Crusade, this is probably the most detailed of the transfers but considering that it was released eight years after Raiders, once again that is not really surprising. The third Indiana Jones movie is also a lot brighter than its predecessors and therefore gets a colour palette which is vibrant and defined. Paramount have also done a perfect job of keeping free of it edge enhancements and compression artifacts. Apart from the occasional bit of grain, for the most part these transfers are about as good as they could get.

Adventures of Indiana Jones, The
As with the transfers, Paramount and Lucasfilm have also spent a great deal of time and effort on the soundtracks of each of the movies. Each one has been remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1, although both Raiders and Temple of Doom have been sourced from mono soundtracks and therefore don’t have the same scope as The Last Crusade which is the only true discrete track. That said, all three soundtracks make good use of the soundstage, while at the same time not sacrificing the dialogue which appeared audible throughout all three movies.

The Indiana Jones movies are made for home cinema set-ups, be it car chases, aeroplane stunts or simply death defying escapes, all of these are brought to life wonderfully with this collection. Most of the action scenes are transferred to the rears proficiently and create an all round experience which is second to none. Dialogue levels are also precise and never get lost in the chaos that ensues from certain action scenes. Once again this is an aspect of the collection which couldn’t really be any better.

As well as the English 5.1 tracks, each movie has French and Spanish Dolby Surround tracks, and subtitles are provided in English, French and Spanish.

The only difference between the region one and region two releases lies in the version of The Temple Of Doom. In the UK, The Temple Of Doom was cut so that it avoided a 15 certificate. Unfortunately that meant it was butchered by just over a minute, and the bad news is that the cut has been included on the region two disc. This may not bother some people, but if you have a multi-region player then you are probably better off sticking with the region one or four versions. Otherwise there are no differences between the discs.

Each of the three movies are housed on separate discs, and the only extra (if you can call it an extra!) on each of those discs is exclusive access to the Indiana Jones DVD website. This is a good move by Paramount, because it leaves ample room for the transfers, something which let down the Alien Quadrilogy (this release had two versions of the movies, plus commentaries). The fourth disc of this collection is completely dedicated to extras. The first extra that can be found on fourth disc is called Indiana Jones : Making The Trilogy. This extra is split into three sub featurettes, one for each of the movies. You can choose to watch the three featurettes separately or all together. For the purpose of this review I watched all the featurettes together. George Lucas begins this extra by talking about how the idea of Indiana Jones came about. Steven Spielberg then joins in and talks about his recollections from the period around the making of Raiders. These featurettes all follow the same format. Most of the information is given by Spielberg and Lucas, and there is the occasional clip with other cast and crew members. Most of the cast are involved with this extra, and they talk about their memories from filming. There is also lots of behind the scenes footage throughout which is interesting to watch. Since the advent of DVD I have watched many ‘making of’ documentaries, but this is probably one of the best, if not the best. There is so much detail included that you will probably have to watch it more than once to get the full benefit.

Adventures of Indiana Jones, The
 The next section is simply entitled Featurettes and contains four featurettes, the first of which is called The Stunts Of Indiana Jones. These featurettes are a follow-on from the making of documentary. As the title suggests, this featurette focuses on the stunts involved with the trilogy. Once again this featurette shows lots of behind the scenes footage and also has plenty of input from Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Harrison Ford also reminisces about the stunts, and says that apparently he wanted to do all the stunts himself but had to be restrained at times. This featurette lasts for eleven minutes and is a treat for fans of the movie. The next featurette concentrates on The Sound of Indiana Jones and lasts for around thirteen minutes. This featurette discusses the work and research that went into creating the sound for the movie. Ben Burtt (Sound Designed for Raiders) has lots to say in this featurette. One of the main highlights is an interesting discussion with him about the whip noises and how they were created. Ben obviously had a great time working on the trilogy and this shines out throughout the featurette.

Following the same theme (well kind of!) is the next featurette which is called The Music Of Indiana Jones. This featurette concentrates on the musical score for the movies and involves John Williams who gives lots of detail. This is an elaborate featurette which goes into every aspect imaginable; there are also lots of scenes from the early stages of creating the score. This extra isn’t just for Indiana Jones fans, as lots of John Williams will love it as well. The final featurette is called The Light And Music Of Indiana Jones and lasts for twelve minutes. This featurette deals with the special effects for the trilogy. As you would expect, there are some in depth discussions about certain scenes and you also get to see how they were created. This may not be as detailed as some of the other featurettes, but I found it to be the most interesting.

If you are a fan of trailers then you are in for a real treat with the next section. It is simply called Trailers, and houses six trailers, some from each of the movies. Each movie has their theatrical trailers included, but Raiders and The Last Crusade have teaser trailers as well. Raiders also has a reissued trailer included for good measure.  

The final couple of extras are not that exciting, but I will discuss them anyway. The first one is called and is your key to an exclusive Indiana Jones DVD website. Apparently the features on the site are exclusive to owners of this DVD. To view the website you will have to play the disc on your computer. The final extra is called DVD Credits and is just a few different screens which mention the people involved in making the DVD.  

Adventures of Indiana Jones, The
So, the wait is over but was it worth it? To some extent this box set loses brownie points because of the recent release of the Alien Quadrilogy, which raised the level of excellence to the next plane. That’s not to say that Paramount have done a bad job, far from it actually. This box set has a brilliant collection of transfers, some of the best soundtracks from last year, and a disc dedicated completely to extras. The only disappointing factor is the lack of depth within the extras; there is a detailed documentary, some useful featurettes, and a bunch of trailers, but surely there must be more material available. I don’t want to sound too critical though as this box set is a significant piece of DVD history and should be an essential element of your DVD collection. The wait is over, our favourite adventurer has finally arrived, and the hype was justified. Lets just hope that George Lucas’ other trilogy is this good!