Indiana Jones is obviously making big news at the moment with the imminent release of the long awaited fourth movie in the series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (what a mouthful that is). Whether the new film turns out to be great or not, we can at least console ourselves in the fact that the first film in the series, Raiders of the Lost Ark, is an exciting slice of adventurous fun that is the reason why we’ve had so many “big boulders rolling at the hero” sequences in films and TV shows over the years.
The film opens with our hero Indiana Jones, an archaeologist and sometimes treasure hunter, deep in a jungle looking for an ancient artifact. After entering the cave containing the artifact and avoiding the various traps set up to protect it, Indy finds his treasure but sets off one final trap, the afore mentioned giant boulder. Escaping the cave Indy is forced to hand over the gold idol to rival archaeologist Rene Belloq who is waiting for him outside the cave with a group of local natives.
Back at the university where Indy is a professor he is visited by two army agents who enroll him into the search for his old mentor Abner Ravenwood who is an expert on ancient Egyptian history. The Nazis are also trying to track down this man in an attempt to track down the Ark of the Covenant, which they believe has huge magical power. Indy is sent to track his mentor down before the Nazis can.
Indy first travels to Nepal to meet with Abner, only to discover he is already dead, and his daughter Marion, Indy’s former girlfriend, isn’t best pleased to see him. The two end up working together though after a Nazi SS agent threatens them both, and ends up burning down Marion’s bar. He is after an amulet that belongs to Marion, which is actually a clue in the quest for the Ark. He does get his hands on the amulet briefly, but it has heated up in the blaze of the bar and he drops it again, leaving a big amulet shaped burn on the palm of his hand.
Indy and Marion fly to Egypt to discover more, but Marion is soon kidnapped by the Nazis and Indy believes her to be killed. Indy escapes the Nazis after a chase across Cairo. This has another memorable scene where a skilled swordsman threatens Indy, who being in a bit of a hurry simply shoots the guy! I remember seeing a “Making of” documentary regarding this scene, which said that the poor swordsman had been practicing his routine for weeks and was supposed to have a proper fight with Indy. On the day of filming, most of the crew, including Harrison Ford, had come down with very bad stomachs, and the idea to just shoot the swordsman came about, because nobody felt much like leaping around all day!
Indy is helped by his friend Sallah, an Egyptian digger, who knows where the Nazis, aided by Belloq, are currently digging in their quest to find the Ark. They realise that the Nazis are digging in the wrong place, as they are using a replica of Marion’s amulet (made from the burnt in image of the amulet from the SS officers hand) to locate the dig position. Indy locates the correct place to dig and finds the Ark, but is discovered by the Nazis who make off with it. They do at least reunite Indy with Marion, leaving them in a pit of snakes, of which Indy has a terrible phobia.
They escape the pit and manage to claim the Ark back, but the Nazis don’t give up that easily. Indy is travelling back with the Ark on a boat, when a U-Boat submarine surfaces and the Ark is stolen back again. The Nazis decide to open the Ark to test it out, but luckily Indy knows this is a bad idea. He threatens to destroy the Ark, but the Nazis pay no heed and open it up. Marion and Indy screw their eyes shut as a blinding light emerges from the opened Ark, very effectively dealing with the Nazi soldiers by causing them to melt! The Ark snaps shut after doing its work, and Indy returns to the US with his treasure, which is promptly taken by the army for further study, which turns out to mean it is actually just stored away in a packing crate in a big warehouse somewhere.