Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade
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Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade

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In 1981 film history was made and the first of the Indiana Jones films was released. Much to the surprise of most the sequel ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ was a critical success, made the fans very happy and pulled in a lot of box office. When two films do so well it is as natural as cats having kittens that the studios would go for the hat trick and release a third movie. So, in 1989 Paramount released ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’. This would complete the trilogy, that is until the summer of 2008 with the long awaited release of the forth Indy Jones flick. Since at the time Crusade was released it was intended as the third act in a three film arc director Steve Spielberg set out to tie up many of the loose ends and mysteries surrounding Dr. Indiana Jones. This resulted in a film that is part ‘secret origins’ story, part parental conflict movie and all action. Like the previous two Jones films this one makes those of the baby boomer generation get more than a little nostalgic. We used to go to the Saturday matinee for a whole day of fun. There were usually a main and secondary film, cartoons, a newsreel and the ever popular adventure serial. The Jones films are an extended version of these segmented films. The episodes were only about 15 minutes each and always ended with the hero in some dire and deadly predicament. Of course at the start of the next episode he would get out of it just in time for the cycle to repeat. This is how the Indy flicks work, non stop action and excitement.

The main part of the action takes place after Raiders but the film opens in 1912 during the early teen years of Indiana. He is in Utah on a field trip with his Boy Scout troupe. The ever adventurous young Indy (River Phoenix) sneaks off with a friend to explore some caves. There they come across a tomb robber dressed in a fedora hat who is stealing a priceless relic, the Cross of Coronado. This outrages Indy who feels that it belongs in a museum. He steals it from the thieves and runs. They give chase in the finest tradition of the Keystone Cops. The pursuit takes them on a circus train where Indy falls into a snake car, explaining his fear of snakes; fights off a lion with a whip, inflicting his famous chin scar and gets away. He runs back home but the police make him give the cross back to the man in the hat. In consolation the man gives his fedora to young Indy. Some time later Indy finally gets his way and gets the cross back and gives it to his friend Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) to include in an exhibit. This was a fantastic way to open the third installment of this series. In a short time so much of the Indiana Jones persona is explained but instead of dry exposition it is in the form of a mini adventure before the main action starts. We also get a little more of a glimpse into the academic life of Dr. Jones as he wraps up a class in front of a bevy of adoring coeds. His office is in a remote part of the building’s back corners but by the time Indy gets there he has to push through the horde of female students. He finds that a package was delivered that turns out to have belonged to his father, Professors Henry Jones Sr. (Sean Connery). It is his father’s most prized possession, his Grail Journal, detailing decades of investigating every clue and rumor to the whereabouts of the most famous lost artifact of all time. Dr. Jones Sr. is missing and Indy is determined to find him.

Indy meets up with a wealthy man, Walter Donovan (Julian Glover) who had been backing Indy’s father’s quest for the Holy Grail. The one clue he had was a broken stone tablet that is missing a vital piece of information to the Grail’s location. Indy and Brody are lead to Venice, the last place his dad was seen. Once there they are met by Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody) who was assisting the senior Jones until his disappearance. Using clues in the Grail journal Indy determines a library built over an old church will provide a full copy of the text on the broken tablet. Indy and Elsa poke around the library and break through the floor to long forgotten catacombs. They are filled with rats and oily water. The rats here provide one of two mandatory scenes for all Indy Jones flick, the gross creature moment. In Raiders we had a room filled with snakes. In Temple it was the young lady covered with every imaginable insect. Here were have a living, furry carpet of rats; wet rats. The do discover the final resting place of Sir Richard, a knight of the First Crusade. His shield has the complete text of the stone tablet. Just as Indy makes a transfer the catacombs burst into flames. They get out but are chased by men belonging to a secret organization, the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword, dedicated to protecting the secret of the Grail at any and all costs. Indy meets up with the leader of the group, Kazim (Kevork Malikyan) who explains his mission and tells Indy where to find his father. This is just another plot device that harkens back to the old serials. Secret societies were big in those tales especially as a means to come up with information quickly with little or no exposition.

Indy and Elsa go to a castle on the German-Austrian border and locate the elder Professor Jones. Indy gets some disturbing information. First that Elsa and Donovan are in league with the Nazis and second both Doctor Joneses have shared intimate times with Elsa. They manage to escape and travel to the Holy Lands to put together the puzzle and locate the Grail. There is one scene that is notable where Indy is hanging off a speeding tank. This is another requirement of all of these movies; Indy hanging on for dear life. In Raiders it was a truck, in Temple there was the mine cart and here we get a careening tank. Needless to say Indy has the final confrontation and ultimate discovery. This film had move than just action; it was a story about an adult son learning to redefine his relationship with his father. Jones Senior was always condescending to his son, overly demanding and extremely strict. Indy hated the fact that he always called him Junior even though he was now a world renowned archeologist in his own right. During the course of this adventure the characters begin to really talk for the first time in their lives and gain a mutual respect.

After the decidedly darker tone of Temple this was a great way to finish the then trilogy. It has danger and excitement but the prevailing mood is much lighter and comical. It is also amazing that this film was made for only $36 million. Even with inflation that is incredible for a film with so much in the way of high energy stunts and special effects. While waiting for the forth Jones flick it is great to have all three of these classics on DVD.

Posted 05/03/08

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