Review – New extras on Indiana Jones trilogy

With Crystal Skull nearly upon us, we've gotten hold of the extras discs on Paramount's re-release of the original trilogy...

The original Indiana Jones trilogy was one of the most successful movie franchises of the eighties, and the first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, is one of my favourite of all time. Whether the fourth installment in the series – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – will live up to its predecessors (Raiders in particular) remains to be seen, but Paramount have taken the opportunity to release the original trilogy on DVD again under the title of Indiana Jones: The Adventure Collection to tie in with the new film.

This collection contains a completely new selection of special features, including snippets of previously unseen production footage and interviews with cast members of the forthcoming Crystal Skull.

I must admit that I’ve become rather numbed by the repetitive nature of some DVD extras in recent years – Hollywood’s love affair with CGI means it’s no longer a mystery how modern summer blockbusters are made; if a scene involves a grandiose location, an explosion or an imaginative-looking creature, it’s probably been achieved with a green screen and a 3D software package. The results are occasionally impressive, but the production footage makes for less than exciting viewing.

Thankfully, the original Indiana Jones trilogy’s pre-CG vintage (the films were originally released in 1981, 1984 and 1989 respectively) makes the collection of documentaries on this collection rather more engaging. The Indy movies relied upon the construction of gigantic sets and the combined talents of animal handlers, stuntmen and make up artists, and The Adventure Collection’s extras, largely composed of cast and crew members’ recollections and archive footage, are an illuminating insight into the films’ creation.

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There’s a five minute introduction for each movie, where director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas share their stories and reminiscences. These are followed by several, more detailed ten to fifteen minute documentaries that focus on a key aspect from the trilogy – there’s a recreation of Raiders’ climactic melting head FX sequence, a featurette all about the animals used in the films, a tour of some of the series’ exotic filming locations, and much more besides. There’s also an interview with ‘Indy’s Women’, where stars Karen Allen, Kate Kapshaw and Alison Doody all discuss their roles.

While these extras are nicely presented and informative enough, they’re still quite short – shorter, it should be noted, than the extras included on the original 2003 DVD release, meaning there’s little of interest here for owners of the old box set.

There’s still much to recommend to newcomers, however – there’s plenty of interesting trivia to be gleaned from the special features (I didn’t know, for example, that the full-scale replica U-boat shown near Raiders’ conclusion was borrowed from Wolfgang Petersen’s Das Boot), and some of the cast and crew recollections are also good value, with animal handler Jules Sylvester proving to be a lively and engaging raconteur.

Ultimately, it’s a pleasant enough repackaging of a much loved movie franchise, and The Adventure Collection would make a timely purchase for anyone who doesn’t yet own the original trilogy on DVD.

Full List of Features:

– New Introductions to Each Film by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas- The Indy Trilogy: A Crystal Clear Appreciation- The Mystery of the Melting Face- Snakes Alive! The Well of Souls Storyboards- Creepy Crawlies- Discover Adventure on Location with Indy- Hold Onto Your Hat! The Mine Cart Chase Storyboards- Indy’s Women Reminisce– Indy’s Friends and Enemies- The Birth of an Action Hero: The Last Crusade Opening Scene Storyboards- Spectacular Photo Galleries for Each Film- LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures Game Demo

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4 out of 5