Yes, "Temple of Doom" still stinks -- save that spectacular opening Shanghai nightclub scene. In fact, forget its mediocre F/X and pointless unpleasant darkness -- the film is an embarrassment of cliches that are obnoxious (does Kate Capshaw's shrill, useless, outdated damsel ever stop whining and screaming?), hackneyed (gee, how can we crowbar a cute kid into the story?), and illogical (seriously, why does Indy even take them with him on the plane to begin with?). And don't even get me started on the appalling romantic dialogue or the insulting depiction of Indian cuisine.
But why even worry about the sorry second installment of "The Adventures of Indiana Jones" when the long-awaited trilogy DVD collection has pristine, souped-up transfers of "Raiders" and "Last Crusade" too -- and a whole disc full of sublime extras to drool over?
An ingenious homage to 1930s adventure serials, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" hasn't aged at all in the 22 years since its release -- although one of the bonus features could put a scare into any fan, watching in horror at how it almost went so very wrong with Tom Selleck and Sean Young as Indy and Marion! But Harrison Ford justifies every iota of his stardom in a performance that pops with prickly charisma as the ultimate intellectual, Everyman action hero -- probably the last action hero with enough real personality to make it through a trilogy without uttering a single inane catch phrase. A joyous succession of adrenaline-shot action cliffhangers, scholarly mystical mythology and spitfire romantic chemistry (all of which get spotlighted in the bonus disc), it set a classy, seat-gripping precedent that has never been equaled by the over-amped muscle movies that have been surfing in its wake ever since...
...except possibly by its second sequel. While "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" got a little too cute at times (who decided to turn Denholm Elliott's Marcus Brody into a bumbling clown?), the picture matches its originator in spirit, exhilaration and acting, what with the perfecto father-son antagonism between Ford and Sean Connery (a masterstroke of casting). This movie returns the "Indy" series to its roots of thundering thrills (the tank chase and rescue), spiritual inspiration and perfectly timed humor.
Henry (startled): "They're trying to kill us!"
Indy (aggravated): "I know, Dad!"
Henry (quizzical): "Well, this is a new experience for me."
Indy (rolling his eyes): "Happens to me all the time..."
While I experienced an unusually long pause during a couple layer changes, I'll give Paramount the benefit of the doubt and assume that was my DVD software's fault (I watched the movies on my computer). Otherwise, all three discs are technically spectacular, with fine video transfers and remastered THX Surround sound.
I would have loved commentary tracks, but Spielberg's never done one, so I'm guessing he's not a fan and would rather let the movies speak for themselves. I can respect that -- although I'll have my fingers crossed for him to change his mind when they re-box the Indy movies after the still-in-limbo fourth installment.
Oh, where to begin! You know that distinctive double-impact sound of every punch thrown in these movies? A pile of leather and a baseball bat! The bonus disc is full of such gems in several minutia-oriented featurettes, one each on the special effects, the sound design, the stunts and the music of Indiana Jones -- the last of which includes in-studio footage of Spielberg and composer John Williams discussing the score as they listen to a playback -- with the related scenes shown to the viewer picture-in-picture style. That's the kind of detail-oriented thought that went into making this great extras disc.
The engrossing feature-length making-of covers the whole trilogy, and despite being fairly standard in its style, it is something any fan will watch more than once. The detailed production includes interviews with just about everyone you can imagine (a designer remembers asking Spielberg, "Does the hero's hat stay on the whole time?" to get a bead on the movie's spirit) and acknowledges famous trivia (yes, you can see the cobra's reflection in the glass you're not supposed to know is there in the Well of Souls scene). Spielberg and Lucas all but admit that "Doom" wasn't what they'd hoped ("I don't mind the film," hedges the latter) and it's a refreshing relief to hear it. We see screen tests and behind-the-scenes joshing (Ford showing his horse some storyboards so he'll know what to do -- then shows them to his hat), and much more that really gives a sense of the heart, soul and sweat that went into making these hallmark movies.
But the most surprising extras of the whole box set are the original theatrical trailers, which are so stunningly bad it's a wonder anyone ever went to see these movies at all!
SOUND & PICTURE
The remastered in THX surround only makes the films' distinctive sound effects all the better, and the transfers are crisp and beautiful.
2.35:1 ratio (16x9 enhanced)
DUBS: Spanish, French
SUBS: English, Spanish, French
THE FILMS: "Raiders" **** "Doom" ** "Crusade" ***1/2
DVD RATING: ***1/2
-- By Rob Blackwelder