restricted access 9. Raiders of the Lost Ark Background: A Neoclassical Film
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145 9 Raid­ ers of the Lost Ark Back­ ground A Neo­ clas­ si­ cal Film May 1977. Mauna Kea Hotel, Ha­ waii. Ste­ ven Spiel­ berg and ­ George Lucas are on va­ ca­ tion to­ gether. Star Wars is just com­ ing out in the­ a­ ters. Lucas, think­ ing it would be a com­ mer­ cial flop, de­ cided to flee Cal­ i­ for­ nia, away from the ex­ pected ­ box-office dis­ as­ ter—which, on the ­ contrary, would soon turn into the ­ biggest suc­ cess of all time. The two film­ mak­ ers and close­ friends are on the beach, work­ ing on a gi­ gan­ tic sand cas­ tle, and ­ George tells Ste­ ven an old idea of his: a story, or ­ rather a se­ ries of ad­ ven­ tures, whose pro­ tag­ o­ nist is a fear­ less ar­ chae­ ol­ o­ gist who ­ travels the world in ­ search of treas­ ures.1 This was the ­ quasi-legendary mo­ ment in which Raid­ ers of the Lost Ark and the In­ di­ ana Jones saga were born, a saga that would de­ velop over the next ­ twenty-seven years into four fea­ ture films—Raid­ ers of the Lost Ark (1981), In­ di­ ana Jones and the Tem­ ple of Doom (1984), In­ di­ ana Jones and the Last Cru­ sade (1989), In­ di­ ana Jones and the King­ dom of the Crys­ tal Skull (2008), and a TV se­ ries, The Young In­ di­ ana Jones Chron­ i­ cles (1992–93). Lucas, story au­ thor and ex­ ec­ u­ tive pro­ ducer with his film com­ pany Lu­ cas­ film Ltd., ­ relied on his ­ friend Ste­ ven Spiel­ berg to di­ rect all the films of the se­ ries. Spiel­ berg ac­ cepted the task en­ thu­ sias­ ti­ cally as he saw in it the ­ chance to some­ what ful­ fill one of his ­ long-standing de­ sires: to di­ rect a James Bond film.2 Ac­ tu­ ally, the two se­ ries are very dif­ fer­ ent. The James Bond films are ­ firmly set in the con­ tem­ po­ rary world and, since the first films and up to those re­ al­ ized 146 • Raiders of the Lost Ark Background in the ­ twenty-first cen­ tury, they have al­ ways been a show­ case for the ­ trends and hab­ its of the so­ ci­ ety of the time. They ­ flaunt the fads of the day in terms of cars, cloth­ ing, men’s and ­ women’s hair ­ styles, tech­ nol­ ogy, mu­ si­ cal ­ tastes, and the state of the art in cur­ rent film style. Armed with the fu­ tur­ is­ tic gad­ gets of Dr. Q, Bond is com­ mit­ ted to pro­ tect­ ing West­ ern civ­ il­ iza­ tion; Bond lives in the ­ present day and is con­ cerned in the fu­ ture of his so­ ci­ ety. In­ di­ ana Jones, armed with his PhD in ar­ chae­ ol­ ogy, is com­ mit­ ted to re­ triev­ ing an­ cient rel­ ics and is inter­ ested in past so­ ci­ eties, not ­ merely be­ cause he is an ar­ chae­ ol­ o­ gist—the past is his job— but be­ cause his ad­ ven­ tures are set in the 1930s. ­ Rather than being im­ mersed in a con­ tem­ po­ rary and ­ up-to-date con­ text like Bond, In­ di­ ana lives in a “vin­ tage” past.3 Said Spiel­ berg: “[That was a] pe­ riod where ad­ ven­ tures could hap­ pen, a ro­ man­ tic time when it took a lit­ tle ­ longer to get ­ around the world by air than it does today, a pe­ riod with­ out ad­ vanced tech­ nol­ ogy, where the clev­ er­ ness of the in­ di­ vid­ ual ­ against the enemy was what mat­ tered. So it ­ wouldn’t use laser guns and light sa­ bers and James Bond weap­ onry.”4 As had hap­ pened be­ fore with Star Wars, the idea was to pay hom­ age to the clas­ si­ cal Hol­ ly­ wood genre films. Par­ tic­ u­ larly, in­ spi­ ra­ tion was drawn from­ B-movies like The ­ Masked Mar­ vel (Spen­ cer Gor­ don Ben­ net, 1943) and se­ ri­ als like Don Win­ slow of the Navy (Ford Beebe, Ray Tay­ lor, 1942) and Black­ hawk: Fear­ less Cham­ pion of Free­ dom (Spen­ cer Gor­ don Ben­ net...


Subject Headings

  • Williams, John, 1932- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Motion picture music -- History and criticism.
  • Jaws (Motion picture).
  • Star wars (Motion picture).
  • Raiders of the lost ark (Motion picture).
  • Boston Pops Orchestra.
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