The man with the whip is back … in hi-definition!
We have AVC encodes and 2.35:1 frames for the original three films, and 2.40:1 for Crystal Skull.
All four films look spectacular on Blu. No question. The first three were awarded a 4k scan of the original negative, although it was Raiders that received the most meticulous preservation and restorative work, mainly in view of the fact that it was going to have an IMAX theatrical presentation.
Naturally, the majority of us were focussed on how well this entry, being the oldest and the most-loved of the series, made the leap to hi-def. So, having played theatrically in its glorious, frame-by-frame restored print, some people were already been reminded of the anamorphic softness that was going to appear in certain shots, blurring some peripheral information from time to time. This is only to be expected from the style of photography and the lenses used. Personally speaking, I adore the scope and look of anamorphic, with both the Indiana Jones films and the early John Carpenter classics being my favourite examples. The next two movies in the series also feature this appearance, but this is exactly as it should be. Detail is fantastic across the board. Characters frequently loom into the centre of the frame, with Indy, Molo Ram in his horn-headdress, Henry Jones and (the Nazi from 3) all revealing amazingly intricate facial texture, respectively. Contrast is impeccable – never blown-out or drowned in murk. Grain is inherent to all prints, and it looks great for the majority of the time. Contrast is fantastic, and the black levels ensure that the imagery is grounded with the utmost level of atmospheric and visual depth. Crystal Skull has a different appearance to its ancestors, being shot by Spielberg’s regular DOP of Janusz Kaminski as opposed to the original’s Douglas Slocombe, and I would say that the overall aesthetic stands apart, too.
Raiders of the Lost Ark – 9/10
Well, you know what? I put this on and sat there for the first viewing thinking that it wasn’t that much of an improvement. Seriously. What a plonker. I don’t know what I was expecting exactly, but like many excited punters I probably thought that I would be instantly blown-away. Those opening titles as Indy and his nervous guides make their way through the jungle looked a little too soft, and not so well-defined. There was that shonky wobble that appears as Indy and Molina’s treacherous Satipo make their way into the temple of the idol, appearing almost like two images floating over one another. And I just thought that this wasn’t the restoration that it was cracked up to be. From that point onwards I was almost looking for faults and a lack of definition, and gradually, as the film went on, and I realised that I wasn’t finding anything else worth complaining about, I felt myself reluctantly admitting that this was actually pretty decent.
And then I watched it again. And, man, it was as though the blinkers came off and the painstaking work with the colour-timing, the debris removal and the slight modification of the visuals – the safety-glass pane between Indy and the cobra cannot be seen now - suddenly sat up and said “Hi!”
The sweat on Indy’s face, the tight separation on his stubble, the acute detail of sets and the vehicles and the costumes, and the attention afforded the crowd scenes or the shots with distant figures or fast-moving elements. Everything looked incredible. There were no irritating colour fluctuations or contrast wavers. Blacks were superb, really adding a sense of depth to the jungle and the Well of Souls. As I say, that pane of safety glass had been wonderfully eradicated, and although some purists may not admire such tinkering I think this is a little modification that was worth it – just like the removal of the wires on the harpies in Jason and the Argonauts.
Colour has been retimed, but I find this warmer palette entrancing. There are moments that look a touch earthier and murkier, actually most notable with Paul Freeman’s scenes in the desert dig, I found, but on the whole this is an improvement that puts the image more in-synch with Doom’s richer, deeper level of moody fidelity. The scene of Indy taking his jacket off as he stands silhouetted above the diggers atop the Well of Souls, and majestically lensed against the burning amber of the sunset is simply breathtaking.
Although grain is still there, with a couple of spikes, such as when Indy spies upon the U-Boat from behind some packing crates, DNR has been applied and you can definitely see instances when this is apparent. Looking at Marian and Indy aboard the steamship – the where doesn’t it hurt scene – I found skin-textures to take a hit and to come over a little bit too smooth and waxy. God, this is hardly a deal-breaker, but these and a few other shots like them, do detract from the amazing results seen elsewhere.
Three-dimensionality is incredible, and the depth of field is frequently gobsmacking.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – 9.5/10
Now, this time, I was impressed right from the get-go. Colours are resplendent. With imagery that is thick, sweltering and luridly comic-book, and gorgeously saturated to perfection. This is not just my favourite film of the series but also my favourite aesthetic, what with its glowering intensity and powerful shadows, and the transfer lovingly captures all of this garish redolence with accuracy and a splendid degree of vibrancy. The opening Busby Berkley number is wild and flamboyantly red and glittering. The fetid warmth of the jungle and the ominous red/pink of the view across to Pankot Palace are smoothly displayed. But once we descend into the ritual cave and witness the flaming pit and the hellish vista of the Thuggee cultists in that cavernous set, the image is drenched in fire and brimstone. Swathes of red and orange fill the screen, and there isn’t a single trace of banding, or smearing. Contrast remains spot-on, with detail never flattened by boosted highs or crushing blacks. Indy and co peer out from the shadows without the heavy darkness ever seeming to drown them in anything less than a very convincing manner.
We can see lots in the shadows of the mines – anguished faces and chains on the children further back at the recess of the frame. The detail on Pat Roach’s infernal Thuggee beard and the blazing clarity of his eyes. The beads and jewellery adorning Capshaw in her princess attire sparkle and shine just that little bit more, yet retain all the necessary resolution. As with the bug-tunnel, the hideous Bush Tucker Banquet also serves up some finer points that you may have wished had remained hidden. We can even see a long strand of Kate Capshaw’s hair still stuck on Indy’s chin and waggling in the breeze of Pankot Palace.
As with Raiders, this image boasts amazing depth-of-field, at times becoming almost fully three-dimensional. Doom is the most intensely photographed and this transfer I found to be spellbinding.
There are a couple of shots of grain-spikes. Once, as the shot changes from a vengeful Indy in the mouth of the mine to the stricken children in chains looking at him, it even appears to be frozen.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – 9.5/10
After the darkness and lurid excess of Temple it is a pleasure to return to the brighter and more open-air escapades of the third film. Visually, this carries the same immaculate photography of Doug Slocombe, and much of the same intense close-up zooming occurs, perfectly tying the film in to the initial trilogy. There are more optical effects this time around, and some surprisingly poor ones. When Michael Byrne’s Nazi officer Vogel gets chucked out of the zeppelin he lands in a pile of suitcases and then shakes his Nazi fist at the Joneses making their escape into the clouds he becomes part of a pretty lousy matte-shot that looked ropey even back when the film was released. This shot fares no better when seen in hi-def, although the haloing is down to the initial cinematography and FX work and not a result of the transfer.
Detail is impeccable once again. Skin texture, object d’art, craggy rock striation and material patterns all pass the test. Look for tufts of strangled threads on Connery’s jacket, for instance. Far-off detail – the shooters in the canyon wall, cranes and warehouses in the Venetian docks, mountain ranges during the dogfight – is also so much cleaner and better delineated than ever before. And, hey, there is another blonde hair caught on Indy’s chin – this time one of Alison Doody’s.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – 9.5/10
Pretty much all of the above applies here, too.
The transfer is the same as we have previously seen. For my money, though, it suffers from an all-too-obvious hike in contrast. Not the transfer, but the original photography. Although just as colourful and comic-book flamboyant as the rest of the series, this entry was lensed by Janusz Kaminsky, now the Spielbergian DOP of choice, and his collaborations have usually resulted in a high-sheen, squint-lit approach. To this end, Skull, has more striking high-lights and a hazier veneer. We don’t lack for detail – I mean the jungle foliage and the shifting stones and the sands of Nevada can frequently be pin-sharp, and there is plenty of facial texture on offer. But there is a definitely noticeable difference in the visual appearance of the fourth outing when compared to the original three.
All in All.
Altogether, these films look absolutely fantastic. Damage is gone, and the prints are clean and sharp and detailed. The first three films fit together like a glove despite the dramatic lighting differences from bright exteriors in Raiders to pungent, evocative interiors in Doom, to much brighter again and far more cheerful in Crusade.
“Indy … why does the ground move?”
Because Ben Burtt’s sound mix is so damn awesome. That’s why.
Paramount’s collection boasts DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio for all of the movies. Would a 7.1 mix have been better? It is hard to tell, but with Burtt’s exemplary sound design now attaining clarity and depth and a richness that previous DD surround incarnations could never hope to meet, it is impossible not to be impressed with what has been achieved here. I don’t know the full background to how these mixes have been attained, but the original elements sound stunning, with the heightened ambience pushing things all around us with sublime finesse and a new degree of warmth.
With their lossless makeovers, the first three Indy adventures now have the truly engrossing, all-channel accompaniment that we always wanted from them. These aren’t vintage productions that had limited scope and invention in the sound department, so there is nothing inherently bogus about the immersive qualities they now possess. They were always meant to sound dynamic and detailed and larger-than-life. We already knew that Crystal Skull would sound amazing, because we’ve heard it lossless before. The soundmix for this outing appears to be the same as previously. No need to go over that then.
The big stuff is bigger and bolder and more aggressively staged than we’ve heard it before. Whip-cracks, gunshots – Indy’s revolver has always sounded like a canon, but this is now deeper and even more relishable – explosions, chin-smacks and gut-punches gain snap, power and crunch. The more subtle things, such as the cracking of glass, the groaning of old moving stone, the chirruping of a carpet of insects, the alteration of a zeppelin’s direction, the chipping of stone in a mine, the sickly, syrupy sound of a monkey-skull being lifted and the inserting of a spoon into its jelly-brain, the fluttering of wings from an alarmed flock of birds.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The film has always been an audiophile’s delight, and the BD presentation of it is a triumph. Burtt’s sound design is one of the best ever conceived. It isn’t realistic, of course, because it is so far over the top that it would probably disturb Zeus high up on Mount Olympus. The steerage around the channels is nigh-on faultless. Although patently heightened for entertainment purposes, this is an all-in, swirl-around, head-turning, ear-twitching, sonically detailed delight of truly extravagant proportions. The bellowing gunshots from Indy’s revolver, the whistling of the darts in the Idol’s temple, the fluttering of wicker-basket lids as they fall to the floor, the hiss of snakes, the immaculate clong of the mirror whacking Indy on the chin and his resultant hollering getting swallowed by the ship’s funnel, and all of those solid, meaty, sever-an-oak-tree sound-effects for the two-fisted rough-n-tumble come across with full-blooded vigour. Like Star Wars, the sound designs for Indy have been tweaked over the years, but they remain absolutely iconic from the soaring music to the floor-plunging bass.
Just listen to the deep echo on the impacts of Indy’s punches in Marian’s bar!
Standouts for wraparound would be the roiling heavens and thunder and lightning bolts above the Well of Souls and the fury and Nazi-damning powers of God during the Ark opening ceremony. You can really hear the voices spirit swirling around the speakers now.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
No issues with dialogue, directionality or score. This one thunders along with just as much intensity as its predecessor, employing the full speaker set-up with absolute precision and a furious desire to engage the viewer in the onscreen action. I love the directionality and clarity of the popping cork and disguised gunshot in the Club Obi-Wan.
Some people have complained about the lack of sub action with this one … and I have to say that I was also struck by this. Right until up the Kali sacrificial sequence, when the percussion from John Williams’ manic, dread-filled score gets a volatile grip on you, and simply shreds the nerves and rattles the ribs. But even after this, some of the chaotic action during the mine-chase is lacking the really deep bass you might have expected. The wall of flooding water, for example, doesn’t really have the appropriate weight.
Standouts are typically too numerous, but you can’t help but adore the madness and vigour and clarity of the shootout and skirmish in the Club Obi-Wan – the whirligig machine-gunfire that stipples the big gong Indy is hiding behind - and the subsequent chase through the streets, and, obviously the mine-car chase that whips and whirls fearlessly all around with tremendous momentum and precision. Bullets ping all around, with great metallic ricochets, metal grinds spectacularly, and the rushing momentum of a cascade of diverted water, even if not as weighty as you might like, offers plenty of splashing detail within the mix. Good splintering of the wooden slats in the collapsed rope-bridge, and some nice twanging of the thick twine of the rope, itself, as Indy hacks through it.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The audio here is pretty much spot-on. Once again, it is possibly the score that is first to reach around the listening environment and it is certainly the element that provides the most consistently enjoyable dynamic across the adventure. Motorcycle engines, tanks tearing chunks out of rocky walls, a bullet that cuts through three Nazis at once, big propellers chewing a speedboat to kindling and Henry Jones blasting his plane’s own tail-rudder to pieces – there’s plenty of action and dynamics to savour with this outing. Directionality and immersion are at a premium once again.
Standouts would have to be the opening introduction to Indy, with Williams’ score becoming a peerless concerto unto itself, and the dynamics of the chase really making for a sumptuous experience, and the entire Tank sequence, which rumbles and rocks with excellent detail and bass and that all-important all-speaker activity.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Again, as with the video, Skull no longer impresses quite so much as it once did, and this is probably because of the clear upgrade discovered in the original three. But this does not mean that the track is not filled with the requisite audio bombardage that Indy fans love and crave. Pretty much all that has been said about the other entries applies here. From the knuckles-on-chin interactions to the whip-cracking lashes to the furious gunfire to the rumbling of vehicles – and we get that in-excess with the endless chase through the jungle – to the sharp clang of swords and then the massively immersive lift-off and pyramid-decimation at the finale of the film, this is textbook stuff that cannot fail to bring a grin from ear-to-ear.
Musical clarity for all four films is exemplary with the detail of Williams’ lush and complex orchestration finding deliberate spacing and separation and finite detail afforded the exotic percussion, the celestial qualities of the harp and the more delicate specialised use of the strings and the woodwinds. Each score now sounds better and more enveloping than ever before.
To be honest, I can’t fault this collection in terms of audio.
It gets the full 10 from start to finish.
This collection retains material that we have seen previously on the SD boxset, but adds a delicious smorgasbord of Behind the Scenes footage from Raiders. Sadly, we still don’t get any commentary tracks. We know why Spielberg won’t do them, but there’s no reason why Lucas can’t assemble some cast and crew members around himself and embark on a few audio adventures to spill the beans on the making of the man with a whip.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Teaser Trailer (HD)
Theatrical Trailer (HD)
Re-Issue Trailer (HD)
IndianaJones and the Temple of Doom
Teaser Trailer (HD)
Theatrical Trailer (HD)
IndianaJones and the Last Crusade
Teaser Trailer (HD)
Theatrical Trailer (HD)
IndianaJones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Theatrical Trailer #2 (HD)
Theatrical Trailer #3 (HD)
Theatrical Trailer #4 (HD)
Disc 5 – which is where we discover the meat of the matter, with some genuine artefacts and treasures to be unearthed.
On Set with Raiders of the Lost Ark (57:53). This is broken into two parts - From Jungle to Desert and From Adventure to Legend - and plays without any narration. We hear from cast and crew in interview segments from the time of filming, and during exchanges actually heard on the set. Elements that never made the final cut can be seen, and we can hear some interesting snippets from Spielberg’s direction of key sequences and their preparation, and from Ford discussing the role. This is a time-capsule, and one that is worth its weight in gold for fans.
Making the Films – each movie is cheerfully and quite candidly explored.
The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981 documentary previously unavailable on DVD) This runs for just shy of an hour, and although of clearly inferior quality, offers us a lot of insight into what gave Lucas, Spielberg and Frank Marshal the impetus, vision and passion to create such a roller-coaster of a film and such a daring new hero.
The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark (58:52)
This is the biggest of the retrospective docs that were put together for the previous DVD collection. Everyone involved gets to reminisce about the production, and the classic is broken down from conception and story, through the shooting, the stunts and the FX, to the release and the lasting legacy.
The Making of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (41:08)
Same template. Good interviews that are quite frank about what was intentionally the darkest film, but which also turned out to be darker than anybody had reckoned on. Spielberg didn’t really enjoy making it, but he gained a wife out of it. Ford suffered quite terribly with a back injury and Capshaw had some grim encounters with the wildlife and a very tight-fitting red dress. Very good doc.
The Making of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (35:03)
More good stuff to found here. Same vein as before. The story, the casting, the shot and the stunts. There was more humour in this one, and this was naturally a deliberate choice after the grim antics of Doom. Connery reveals that his closest scene with “Junior” on the Zeppelin was performed with both himself and Ford sans trousers beneath the table, and the trials of shooting the tank scene – which was typically very slow moving when compared to the charging horse – is also given some detailed analysis.
The Making of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (28:48)
Spielberg gets to discuss how long it took Lucas and Ford to convince him to return to the series, and how the plot changed and took in a new decade and more SF elements. Everyone seems happy to be back on location with an Indy adventure, although the resulting movie does not live up to the enthusiasm we witness here. This doc is a touch too saccharine for my taste, but it covers some ground with a perfunctory style.
Behind the Scenes: A whole slew of featurettes covering a range of cool elements from the series. We have -
The Stunts of Indiana Jones
The Sound of Indiana Jones
The Music of Indiana Jones
The Light and Magic of Indiana Jones
Raiders: The Melting Face!
IndianaJones and the Creepy Crawlies (with optional pop-ups)
Travel with Indiana Jones: Locations (with optional pop-ups)
Indy’s Women: The American Film Institute Tribute
Indy’s Friends and Enemies
Iconic Props (Crystal Skull) (HD)
The Effects of Indy (Crystal Skull) (HD)
Adventures in Post Production (Crystal Skull) (HD)
“Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?”
In a year that has spoiled us with some phenomenal BD releases – Jaws, Lawrence of Arabia – and a slew of astounding boxsets – Bond, Universal Monsters – the Indiana Jones set really is the icing on the cake. The films are absolutely perfect entertainment through and through. And whilst the Ark, the Sankara Stones and the Grail are peerless milestones in the annals of action cinema, we can argue about the worth of Crystal Skulls until the day when we all need a handy fridge to avoid some nuclear blast, but the first three films are justifiably legendary and will doubtlessly last forever as the truest embodiment of thrilling adventure.
Paramount’s lavish boxset is stellar in terms of its AV presentation of the films. The restored Raiders is a barnstorming treat of loving care and meticulous preservation, and the others in the series look and sound wonderful too. My affection for the first two movies is undiminished even after three decades – they whisk you back to being a thrilled child no matter how many times you watch them - though I am still more partial to the darker, nastier Temple of Doom which, in the endless debate over which is better, often nudges the original into second slot as far as I am concerned. The humour and bonhomie of the third is fabulously infectious, however, and the pairing of two of Hollywood’s hottest heavyweights is one of the genre’s biggest coups. Sadly, the fourth instalment is just as dire as ever, but you can’t really bemoan its inclusion in the set. Its heart was in the right place, but it neglected to bring its soul for the trip.
Great extras provide the background to each yarn, but it remains the original that snags the lion’s share. Its history and legacy are lovingly chronicled, but the entire set, whether you opt for the standard release or the more elaborately stocked limited Collector’s Edition, is nigh-on essential for anyone with a Blu-ray player.
A must-have, folks! No question about that.
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