Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Special Edition DVD)
Directed by Steven Spielberg
The most amiable of the original Indiana Jones adventures, The Last Crusade is loaded with heart and, as it turns out, the most valuable treasure Indy finds is a restored relationship with his hard-nosed father.
1938: The Holy Grail
Starting out in 1912 Utah, when a young Indiana Jones (River Phoenix, The Mosquito Coast) gets an early whiff of treasure hunting in the form of the Cross of Coronado (and also acquires many of his trademark attributes and quirks, including a fear of snakes and a fetish for leather jackets and fedoras), events fast forward to 1938 and the Portuguese coast. Older, somewhat wiser, and every bit still in pursuit of that cross, Indy (Harrison Ford, Clear and Present Danger) finally manages to bring the object of his desire home.
Back at school and the workaday world, Indy prefers to escape out the window of his densely-packed little office than deal with the strains of getting his students all on the same page.
That little back window getaway leads him into the hands of one Walter Donovan (Julian Glover, The Empire Strikes Back). After the two men share in their affinity for history and artifacts, Donovan alerts Indy to his work in finding the Holy Grail. Unfortunately, the project has hit a snag and their team lead has disappeared.
That team lead is none other than Henry Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery, Dr. No).
With his father's safety a major concern, Indy takes off to find the man with whom he had a falling out some 20 years earlier and, quite possibly, also find the Holy Grail, which, given its legendary ability to provide eternal life, has captured the interest of those nefarious Nazis.
So Why Is It Great?
There were five years between Temple of Doom and the release of The Last Crusade. As it turns out, it was time well spent. Lucas and Spielberg were able to piece together a third chapter that is quite fresh and rounds out what is one of the best movie trilogies of all time. That's even more significant considering Lucas' other prized project, the Star Wars trilogy, was muddled in the end with Episode VI turning into a glorified rehash of Episode IV. Sure, in The Last Crusade, the Nazis do come back, but even then it's a different crew; remember that Toht, Dietrich, and their gang of baddies were all sent to their maker at the end of Raiders.
Henry Jones, Sr., and Junior.
Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd. / IndianaJones.com
Cutting to the chase, the absolutely best part of The Last Crusade is the relationship between father and son, Henry Jones, Sr., and Henry Jones, Jr. In a move of perfectly sublime casting, they even got the original James Bond to play Indy's father, which is especially appropriate given the early inspiration Bond provided for Jones – as well as Spielberg's desire, back in 1977, to direct a Bond movie.
Each of the Indy movies offers its own unique collection of joys. In the case of The Last Crusade, one major joy is the interaction between Connery and Ford. Their scenes in Castle Brunwald and on the zeppelin are simply pitch perfect. The two men are initially at odds with each other. Indy instantly reverts to the subordinate role of "Junior" he was so accustomed to as a child, then quickly tries to regain control of his own life; in the process he takes out his frustration by taking out some more of those damn Nazis.
As father and son spend more time together, it's sheer magic to watch their relationship unfold and see old wounds slowly heal, at least somewhat.
Aside from their interaction, there's a wonderfully upbeat sense of humor underlying the entire movie that is of a sweeter variety than that found in Raiders and it sets a tone that is quite obviously and decidedly different from Temple of Doom. The Messerschmitt bomb drop right in front of Indy's car? Classic. The plane chasing after Indy and Henry – right on into a tunnel? Classic. Even the movie's motorcycle chase feels fresh, an awesome achievement in its own right, considering the standard-bearing level of the truck chase in Raiders.
Oh, and this one also shows Ford doing something he so rarely does: he takes on a Scottish accent as "Lord Clarence MacDonald" prior to storming the castle in pursuit of his father.
And let's not forget Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody, Taffin), the female lead. What a great character she turned out to be! She's not as strong and willful as Marion Ravenwood, but she's also no lightweight in the vein of Willie Scott. She's very unique, with an excellent role that is pivotal to the movie's action.
Indyfacts: Recollections from the Mattsonian Archives
- Rumors of Sean Connery being cast as Indy's father were the perfect fodder for the gossip columnists. As legend has it, Spielberg and Lucas were vacationing when Star Wars opened and, while enjoying some beach time, Spielberg said he'd like to direct a James Bond movie. Lucas said he had something better: A globetrotting archaeologist named Indiana Smith. Going on 12 years later, who better to cast as Indy's father than the man many still consider to be the best Bond of all? Some "critics" actually scoffed at the notion, chirping about how Connery's only 12 years older than Ford. Lordy. Some people simply don't get it. They're actors! They can play different ages! It's not like they were suggesting Tom Selleck play Indy'a father. (For those not in the know, Selleck was originally cast as Indy, but Magnum P.I.'s success and subsequent scheduling constraints put the kibosh on that one.)
- Last Crusade was the first in the series to offer a novel opportunity: Advance ticket sales.
- Last Crusade was the first in the series to be rated PG-13, even though in 1984 it would probably have been a solid PG.
- Indy took second to Tim Burton's revisionist Batman at the summer box office.
- Indy didn't have a Web site to visit.
- The initial home video release was on a couple formats: VHS and Super VHS.
- Eventually the entire trilogy would make its way to the videophile's preferred format du jour, laserdisc.
The first surprise: the new Special Edition DVDs, which are available for the first time as individual titles or in a new box set, kick off with the first Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull trailer. Unfortunately, it's not readily accessible as a menu option.
The first disappointment: the menus are virtually identical to the previous edition, with the main exception of a new Special Features option.
The next surprise: a splendid new THX prelude that has eye-popping CGI and house-thumping surround sound.
The next disappointment: the special features on the Last Crusade disc aren't all that special. In terms of pure marketing, though, the new features offer a nice, contemporary bridge between The Crystal Skull and the original adventures and seem to aim mostly at newer fans.
The Introduction by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas (6 minutes) does a nice job of setting up the movie and offers an informative glimpse into the thought process behind following up The Temple of Doom.
Elsa and the Jones boys.
Photo: Lucasfilm Ltd. / IndianaJones.com
Indy's Women Reminisce (9 minutes) is an excerpt from American Film Institute's interview with all three leading ladies, on stage together at the same time. Somewhat ironically, the interview was done in celebration of the trilogy's original DVD release in 2003. At the very end, Harrison Ford shows up – in fedora, leather jacket, and blue jeans – for a photo shoot. This is a fairly good piece, most notable for having all three lovely ladies together.
Indy's Friends and Enemies (10 minutes) is a decent analysis of the good guys and bad guys in the series, with some interesting comments on the careful planning behind their creation, including the balancing out of "champagne villains" like Belloq and Donovan with the more seriously evil Nazis.
The Birth of an Action Hero! The Last Crusade Opening Scene Storyboards (3.5 minutes) is a standard split-screen offering with the storyboards running above the related film sequence.
The disc also includes an extensive set of photo galleries broken out in groups as Illustrations and Props (which, in this case, includes excerpts from Dad's Grail diary and the famous father and son photo); Production Photographs & Portraits; Effects/ILM; and Marketing (including nifty logo concepts, some of which were used as labeling for a line of T-shirts and hats at the time of the film's release and are being resurrected now for Crystal Skull merchandise). In all fairness, these are actually more fun to page through than the typical assemblage of images.
Also on tap is LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures Game Demo. Well, there's a difference between a "special feature" and a "commercial." This is clearly the latter. On the disc is the video game trailer and, via DVD-ROM, a link to the Lucas Arts Web site for access to the game demo download which, at press time, was still listed as "coming soon."
Picture and Sound
The audio and video are virtually identical to the previous box set, released in 2003. There's nothing wrong with that, though. Both are exceptional. The video is pristine; the movies have never looked better at home than on the DVD format. And they've never sounded better, either, with the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track providing plenty of bass to John Williams' score, speed boats, and motorcycles.
The audio is also available in French and Spanish 2.0 Surround. Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish are also on tap.
How to Use This DVD
Watch the introduction by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas then dig right into the movie (pun intended).
After that, check out Indy's Women Reminisce for the pure nostalgia value. Indy's fans should also check out the galleries, particularly the Illustrations and Props and Production Photographs & Portraits sections. Then start hoping the Indy gang gets it together for a much more comprehensive Blu-ray set some time down the road.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.