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"Indiana Jones" - the film started 40 years ago: The man with the hat and whip


Traitors, spiders, nasty Nazis? "Indiana Jones" takes care of everyone. In 1981 the fearless archaeologist abducted the cinema audience for the first time into distant adventures. "Star Wars" director George Lucas named the hero after his dog.

The most famous archaeologist in film history is created on the beach in Hawaii.

Filmmaker George Lucas sits there with his buddy Steven Spielberg and builds sandcastles.

The year is 1977. Lucas has just learned that his film "Star Wars" is breaking all box office records.

Spielberg is looking for a new project.

He has a kind of James Bond movie in mind, after he was not considered as a director for the original.

"I have something there," Lucas tells him.

“Something like Bond.

Only better.

A kind of metaphysical adventure film. ”He also already knew the hero's name: Indiana, like his dog.

Spielberg listens.

The two bring in the authors Philip Kaufman and Lawrence Kasdan.

They nest with Lucas for a week and throw ideas around.

"In the end, everyone claimed the good for themselves and didn't want anything to do with the bad," says Spielberg in the Arte documentary "Indiana Jones - A Saga Conquers the World" from 2020. Kaufman brings the whip into play, everyone is enthusiastic .

Daredevil and a thirst for adventure

Should Indiana also be a gamer, womanizer and even a kung fu expert?

Rather not.

An archaeologist with charm, a dash of bravado and a thirst for adventure, that's what he should be - Kasdan writes the script.

Lucas also hires him in as a writer for "The Empire Strikes Back", the darkest and most beautiful film in the "Star Wars" series.

On June 12, 1981, "Raiders of the Lost Treasure" was released in the US - still without the name of the hero in the title, as in the later films.

It quickly became clear that Lucas and Spielberg had created more than just another blockbuster.

They created a character that everyone still knows 40 years later.

A figure that only the cinema can produce - and that is quickly characterized.

Hat, whip, leather jacket: if you are still groping in the dark, the term "archaeologist" or the catchy theme music will help you quickly.

Films sometimes age quickly.

Film language, aesthetics, effects and zeitgeist are constantly changing.

It is all the more surprising that the first Indiana Jones has lost little of its magic in four decades.

Timeless entertainment

Is it because you've seen it on TV from time to time and the film takes you back to your own childhood?

Or the fact that it is timeless and that some masters of their field have simply contributed?

Maybe both come together.

Because the film never wanted and should never be more than great entertainment, which is probably why it never appears on any lists of the best films of all time.

As adolescents, Lucas and Spielberg enjoyed watching "serials", short sequel films in the cinemas with a "cliffhanger" at the end of each episode - so that the audience would come back.

The »Serials« offered heroes, adventures and distant worlds.

Lucas and Spielberg put all this and more in "Raiders of the Lost Ark".

And pushed the mythological superstructure with the hunt for the Ark of the Covenant and its ten commandments right after.

Archaeologist defeats Nazi

Even the opening scene of the film would have been enough for a furious showdown in many other films.

Here Indiana Jones steals a valuable artifact from a cave in the jungle of Peru, defending himself against traitors, spiders and nasty traps - only to have to hand it over to his charming opponent and Nazi collaborator Beloq in the end.

"There's nothing you have that I can't take away from you," Beloq tells Indiana Jones.

This phrase became a main theme for the plot of all of the films in the series.

Tom Selleck turned out to be the ideal Indiana Jones - well, almost.

He was the favorite for the role, and the test shots with him can be seen in the Arte documentary on "Indiana Jones".

His problem was that he'd recently accepted a TV series that was now going into production.

He wrote television history as "Magnum" - and Harrison Ford took over as Indiana Jones.

It turned out to be a good choice.

With chutzpah and cleverness

Who could have embodied the everyone hero Indiana Jones better?

Someone who is always a little bored with his job and then just puts on a hat, pulls on a leather jacket and takes a whip to set off on the next adventure.

Someone who has no superpowers, but who can survive the most dangerous situations with chutzpah and cleverness.

And who is a charmer, but never drifts into Bondian Playboy areas with women.

Only weakness: his fear of snakes.

Which leads to two further qualities of "Raiders of the Lost Ark": the humor and the authenticity of the stunts and effects.

For example, when Indiana Jones has to abseil into a pit full of snakes, real snakes crawl around there.

And when director Spielberg thinks the pit doesn't seem full enough, he simply orders a few thousand snakes.

The humor already sets in when Indy's sidekick Sallah, looking into the pit, says to him with a mischievous look: "You go first!"

Monkey with Hitler salute

These ideas run through the entire film.

The greatest and funniest, of course, is taking the Nazis as opponents.

The film is set in 1936, so it just made sense.

At least that's what Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan thought.

To portray them only as villains was not enough for them.

So they let a monkey show the Hitler salute, make wonderful joke figures from Nazis and treat everyone to a nasty and effective demise.

The fact that there were a few splatter scenes as a result almost brought the film to youth approval in the USA.

But the authorities turned a blind eye to the Nazis as opponents.

When you take another closer look, you notice how the film overflows with ideas of all kinds.

Spielberg was at the zenith of his ability.

His talent for technology and assembly, his enthusiasm for details and his knowledge of film history merge here in an ideal way.

Mangold instead of Tarantino for "Indiana Jones 5"

The shooting of the next Indiana Jones film has just begun, the planned release date is July 28, 2022 - the first pictures from the set have already appeared on Twitter.

It would have been particularly appealing if Quentin Tarantino had directed the film as Spielberg's legitimate successor.

He also loves Nazis as joke characters, splatter scenes, has recently dared to work on historical material and put his own stamp on them.

But the job of director for "Indiana Jones 5" has already been taken to James Mangold.

With the wonderful first installment, you could almost forget that there were three other Indiana Jones films.

"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" was too confused and over-the-top, it even made the makers accuse of racism.

In return, "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" reconciled the fans again, basically a remake of the first part: Again the Nazis are the opponents, this time Sean Connery is on board as Indy's father.

River Phoenix plays young Indiana.

And "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull?" Too many CGI effects, too much zeitgeist, no charm.

But despite the weaker parts, the films were never embarrassing, there was never oversaturation like in the "Avengers" or most recently in the "Star Wars" series, where you quickly lose track of things.

Four parts in 40 years really isn't much, and despite having the same lead actor, Indy has barely aged.

Let's hope it stays that way when Harrison Ford in "Indiana Jones 5" will swing the whip again next year as an 80-year-old (!).

Until then, it's worth seeing the original version again, which was released 40 years ago.

So: hat on, leather jacket on - and off to the next adventure!

Source: spiegel

All news articles on 2021-06-15

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