Scene Is Believing: Raiders Of The Lost Ark

 

The Peruvian Temple set, stage 4, Elstree Studios

“Throw me the whip.” “Throw me the Idol.”

Ever since Goldfinger, the James Bond series has come up with a spectacular opening pre-credit sequence. Appropriately enough, since Steven Spielberg had professed a desire to George Lucas to direct a Bond film, Raiders Of The Lost Ark goes one better. Inspired as it was by the old Saturday morning serials such as Flash Gordon and Lash La Rue, the film opens as if leading up to the climax of the last episode, and has one of the greatest hero reveals of all time. Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones cracks his whip, snatching the revolver out of the treacherous Barranca’s hand, and steps into the light, revealing his face for the first time.

Indy is on the hunt for a legendary Golden Idol, hidden within an overgrown temple deep in the Peruvian jungle. But many traps lie in wait for those foolish or daring enough to enter, as Indy’s rival Forrestal found to his cost…

Production designer Norman Reynolds did a fantastic job at Elstree constructing the ruined temple, overgrown with vines and moss, hiding the ingenious traps devised by producer George Lucas, director Steven Spielberg, and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. Beginning a tradition in the series of disgusting creatures and creepy crawlies, Ford and Alfred Molina as Satipo, were draped with tarantulas. Molina drew the short straw and was covered with far more, but they were seemingly suffering from stage fright. “Why aren’t they moving? They look fake,” Spielberg said. The spider wrangler explained they were all male, and would be more responsive if they had a female to fight over. A female tarantula was duly obtained. “They were running over my face,” Molina said. “Steven is going “Shoot, shoot, shoot! Alfred, look scared, look scared!” Trust me, I was scared.”

Spielberg felt they were still too inactive, so he had fans blown at them, whereupon they hopped off the actor and ran away, leaping over the plexiglass trough placed around the actors feet.

After the wonderful traveling shot and close up of Indy tilting his hat back, stroking his chin, weighing up the sack of sand and quickly replacing the idol with the sack, all hell breaks loose. The temple starts to crumble and break up, he dashes past poison darts shooting from the walls, activated by floor pressure pads, then runs for his life from a massive boulder. He also has to swing across a gap in the floor and make it under a slowly descending stone door, which in time honoured fashion, always moves a little slower than it appears in the previous frame.

Special effects supervisor Kit West wanted the darts to be a mechanical effect. Ford had to really dodge the (rubber-tipped) darts, so it made for a great shot. To ensure audiences were clear on what was happening, Spielberg also shot close ups of the darts shooting from the wall, with puffs of dust and smoke.

The giant boulder bearing down on Indy is one of the most exciting and iconic images in cinema. The boulder had to be able to roll, yet still be controlled; it needed to be quickly returned to the starting position for multiple takes. “Even though it was made of fibre-glass, it was still very heavy and could actually do a lot of damage, ” Reynolds said.

Once the stunt was rehearsed with stuntman Martin Grace, Spielberg was convinced to let Harrison Ford try it, for greater impact. The scene was shot from several angles and Ford raced the boulder ten times, making it each time. Brilliantly, Spielberg used the take where Ford stumbles and goes down on one knee. Indy is always in over his head, but wins through with pluck and ingenuity. He is a very fallible hero. As Spielberg says, “Indiana Jones redefined the classic American hero as someone who did not have a backbone made of steel and skin made of Teflon. The idea that our intrepid archaeologist could actually do himself injury made him accessible. He always comes out on top, but he has to swallow his pride without losing his nerve.”

Too bad he couldn’t speak Hovito…

 

Originally posted 2012-10-07 15:54:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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