Spielberg and Lucas on Ark of the Covenant traditions

It’s been up on YouTube for almost three years now, but last week, for some reason, a vintage TV special on the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) began making the rounds on the internet.

I don’t believe I had ever seen it before, though I do recall a friend at school telling me about it and describing one sequence in it, in which Steven Spielberg tries to give Harrison Ford a passionate summary of where the story is going, only to have Ford abandon him mid-story to put some mustard on his hot dog or whatever.

I mention the special here because it includes a clip of Spielberg on the set of the film’s climax, explaining to some of the extras what the supernatural concept behind that climax is — and I was intrigued to hear Spielberg suggest that the film might actually differ from the traditions surrounding the Ark as he understands them.

[Read more...]

Bible movie of the week: The Big Fisherman (1959)

Four years ago, I wrote a blog post on The Big Fisherman (1959), one of the more obscure Bible movies ever released by a major Hollywood studio.

As far as I know, the film, which was originally distributed by Walt Disney’s Buena Vista division, has never been officially released to home video, at least not in North America. But I had read a bit about it in books on the history of Jesus movies — the title refers to the apostle Peter — and I was intrigued by the information I found at the Internet Movie Database.

For one thing, the film is based on a novel by Lloyd C. Douglas, who also wrote The Robe, which 20th Century Fox turned into a much more famous film in 1953. For another, it seemed that this film might rely on the secular account of Herod Antipas and John the Baptist given to us by Josephus, which no other film I could think of had ever done.

And what did the apostle Peter have to do with any of this? I had no idea, but I was curious to find out.

[Read more...]

Lawrence of Arabia gets a six-hour mini-series

There are two kinds of films that Roland Emmerich specializes in: the city-smashing disaster epic, as seen in Independence Day (1996), Godzilla (1998), The Day after Tomorrow (2004) and 2012 (2009); and smaller, nuttier quasi-historical films like The Patriot (2000), 10,000 BC (2008) and Anonymous (2011).

So it is with a certain inevitable trepidation that I greet the news that Emmerich is producing a six-hour mini-series about T.E. Lawrence, the British soldier who is known to the world as “Lawrence of Arabia”.

Thankfully, the series does seem to have at least one serious biographer on its side, said person being Michael Korda, author of the 2010 book Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia. So maybe that will help rein in some of Emmerich’s crazier impulses.

[Read more...]

Harrison Ford asks: “Is Indy a believer?” “Where in Bible?”

Cinephilia & Beyond has found what it claims is Harrison Ford’s copy of the original shooting script for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), complete with Ford’s hand-written notes. The site has posted only a few pages from the script so far, but the bits they have revealed are certainly interesting.

One page, for example, includes some extra dialogue regarding the fate of Abner Ravenwood, the former mentor to Indiana Jones and the father of Indy’s on-and-off girlfriend Marion Ravenwood.

[Read more...]

Flashback: The Indiana Jones franchise (1981-2008).

The Indiana Jones tetralogy comes out on Blu-Ray in a couple weeks, and to mark the occasion, an IMAX-sized version of Raiders of the Lost Ark is coming to certain cities this weekend. My own city, alas, is not one of them, but I figured this would be as good a time as any to re-post the article that I wrote on the Indiana Jones franchise for Books & Culture some four years ago — and, in this version of the article, I have added several links to blog posts that expand on some of the themes that I touched on only briefly within the text of the article itself. You can read that article here; and, in the spirit of deleted scenes everywhere, you can read four paragraphs here on the franchise’s approach to sex and the family, which I had to squish down to a single paragraph for space reasons.

Indiana Jones and the Deadly Blather / Notes on the devolution of a franchise.

“Didn’t any of you guys ever go to Sunday school?” So said Indiana Jones to a couple of bemused military intelligence agents in Raiders of the Lost Ark, easily the top-grossing film of 1981 and one of the greatest action movies ever made. And thus producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg seemed to make explicit what had only been implicit in the handful of films that they had made over the previous few years — films that had captured an entire generation’s spiritual imagination.

Lucas, of course, had helped to revive interest in the power of myth with his space-opera throwback, Star Wars (1977), and its sequel, The Empire Strikes Back (1980); the latter was particularly heavy on the spiritual development of its hero, Luke Skywalker. Some Christians, keen to capitalize on the franchise’s popularity, even went so far as to draw extensive analogies between the first movie and the biblical narrative; the fact that Obi-Wan Kenobi was betrayed by his disciple, and died, and continued beyond death as a counsellor to Luke was, of course, key to their interpretations.1 Spielberg, for his part, had directed Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, re-edited and re-released in 1980), a film about aliens that spoke very strongly to the longing for enlightenment from above; in both images and dialogue, the film even made indirect references to the story of Moses and his encounter with God on Mount Sinai.2

[Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X