Blu-ray Review: The Man In The Hat Is Back (And Looks Great) In ‘Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures’

The screen above is from one of my favorite transitions in the entire series, the jump from the flashback at the opening of The Last Crusade, to Indy, aboard a ship, grinning like the devil, even as he’s about to take a solid punch to the face. It’s a beautiful moment, segueing his first adventure to his then-latest, and the way John Williams’ score swells here is simply one of the big, heart-bursting moments of joy in action cinema.

And across all the entire series, they’ve been wonderfully reproduced in this remastered, polished, and prettified Blu-ray release in the “Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures” five disc set from Paramount.

Special Features and Presentation

First off, the packaging is pretty sweet, with disc in a sleeve on each page bearing some of famed poster artist Drew Struzan’s artwork and promotional materials, along with photos and stills of Lucas, Spielberg, and Ford. Each “page” is made of solid, unbending stock and the discs fit in snugly, without any jostling. The whole package comes in a heavy cardboard slipcase.

As for the discs themselves, those you looking for a complete reconsideration of the series via some spanking new features will be mildly disappointed if picked up the 2003 4-disc “The Adventure of Indiana Jones” set or “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” disc. That’s not to say that the set needed anything else beyond the seven hours or so of content provided here, but it might have been nice to get some material dealing with the restoration process for the tech heads out there.

Each of the discs includes its trailer on the disc, and all of the special features are included on a fifth disc. Annoyingly, there’s no pop-up menu option for any of the features, simply returning to the main menu screen to navigate from the list of available documentaries.

Here’s what you do get (unless indicated, all features are in standard def):

The two-part “On the Set With Raiders of the Lost Ark” featurette:
* “From the Jungle to the Desert” (29:35): Fairly candid footage of Spielberg and the “Raiders” team shooting the film’s opening scenes as well as getting Indy to Marion’s bar and Egypt, cut with interviews of a young Spielberg talking about his goals on the production. This is a great look at some of the process of getting “Raiders” made along with alternate takes from the film.
* “From Adventure to Legend” (28:17): This mini-doc considers the back half of the film, from the Ark temple sequence to its opening at the movie’s climax.

Making the Films
* “The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981, 57:48): This longer documentary plays like one of the old time sales/investor docs for studio heads to let them know that the were indeed going to be putting out a big hit. Still worth checking out for all of the behind-the-scenes footage, but not as easygoing as the two half-hour docs in “On the Set.”
* “The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark” (2003, 50:52): A more recent, lengthy consideration of the film featuring a series of interviews with all of the principals from “Raiders,” archival footage, early screen tests for Sean Young and Tom Selleck, and production art.
* “The Making of The Temple of Doom” (2003, 41:09): This revealing look back shows Lucas and Spielberg discussing how they recycled elements that couldn’t fit into “Raiders” into the darker sequel. This, along with production art, Jonathan Ke Quan and Kate Capshaw’s screen tests, detailing some of the film’s stunts, and most interesting (to me, at least) some of the troubles that went into moving the production for a planned shoot in India to Sri Lanka.
* “The Making of The Last Crusade” (2003, 35:03): A look at casting for the third film, as well as the process of developing the story (Lucas famously wanted it to be about a haunted castle), along with a look at some of the stunts.
* “The Making of The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (28:49, 2008): Compare this making of to the early ones, and you can see how a movie that no one seemed especially excited about making came to the screen. It’s especially interesting to contrast the lean and dangerous adventures in filming out in the wild for “Raiders” with the stuffy, slack work on a series of soundstages here.

Behind the Scenes: Nearly all of these short featurettes are from the 2003 set, and are what you see is what you get, straightforward look at their particular subjects.
* The Stunts of Indiana Jones (10:56)
* The Sound of Indiana Jones (13:21)
* The Music of Indiana Jones (12:22)
* The Light and the Magic of Indiana Jones (12:22)
* Raiders: The Melting Face! (8:12)
* Indiana Jones and the Creepy Crawlies (11:46): Includes a pop-up trivia track from the 2008 “Crystal Skull” disc.
* Travels With Indiana Jone: Locations (9:48): Includes a pop-up trivia track from the 2008 “Crystal Skull” disc.
* Indy’s Women: The American Film Institute Tribute (9:15): An excerpt from a conversation with Kate Capshaw, Karen Allen, and Alison Doody about their roles as Indy’s love interests.
* Indy’s Friends and Enemies (10:10)
* Iconic Props (9:52)
* The Effects of Indy (22:34)
* Adventures in Post-Production (12:36): A brief look at cutting and prepping “Crystal Skull” from its film source.

The Look and the Sound

This is why you came, isn’t it–to see brand-new transfers of the three original films? Well, they look gorgeous, and the freshest, most vibrant presentations of any of the films I’ve had a chance to see (I caught “The Last Crusade” during its theatrical run back in ’89, but my younger self couldn’t speak to the quality of the projection at the time).

“Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” seems to be largely ported over from its 2008 disc, so no real surprises there. “Raiders,” in particular, has benefited the most from the extra love, adding extra levels of detail so you can see every little button and embellishment on the Nazis’ uniforms and every bit of stubble on Indy’s face. “The Temple of Doom” and “The Last Crusade” likewise have a fine spit polish, with the former looking more lurid now than it ever has in memory. Each of the films has received a 5.1 audio upgrade which push the sound around the room dynamically (although Williams’ score in the menu screens seems a little extra reedy).

While the disc lacks any new bells and whistles, the high def scrub of the first three films definitely makes this a set worth picking up.

“Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures” is available now on Blu-ray.