Updated: Jun 26
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
(1&2) Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) ponders the weight of the Chachapoyan Fertility Idol. After surrendering the golden idol to French archaeologist René Belloq (Paul Freeman) Hovitos warriors chase after Jones.
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“INDIANA JONES 4-MOVIE COLLECTION”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 1981, 1984, 1989, 2008, PG-13 for violence and profanity; streaming via Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: The creation of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”
FORTY-YEARS ago, I and 100 other moviegoers crammed ourselves into a small college town theater in Athens, Ohio, to watch a sneak preview of Steven Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” We weren’t sure what to expect since the media hoopla for “Raiders” hadn’t surfaced and his previous film, “1941,” had been a critical and box office bomb.
As we waited it became obvious something was wrong with the air conditioner. Earlier in the day, it had hit nearly 90 and the theater was getting steamy while sweat began to drip down our faces – so fitting for what we were about to see.
Then the lights dimmed, and the Paramount mountain logo dissolved into a Peruvian jungle mountain and we were instantly transported into what would become the summer’s wildest thrill-a-minute adventure. Harrison Ford, who had just finished shooting “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back,” starred as Dr. Indiana Jones, a professor of archaeology at a small New England college. He’s recruited by U.S. Army Intelligence to locate a sacred artifact before Nazi agents seize the all-powerful relic.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Paramount has meticulously remastered each of the four franchise films with Spielberg’s approval. The original 35mm camera negatives were scanned in 4K, with HDR10 and Dolby Vision grading applied to give each adventure new life. Oscar-winning sound designer Ben Burtt also created a new Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Sorry, but the original soundtracks are not included.
(1) Peruvian guide Satipo (Alfred Molina) helps Jones find the Temple of Chachapoyan Warriors. (2) Jones used his bullwhip to disarm Barranca who cocked his gun. (3-5) Jones warns Satipo inside the Chamber of Light of the trap spikes, which killed a rival archaeologist. (6) Jones prepares to take the golden idol.
Indy’s journey began during a Hawaiian vacation between Spielberg and director George Lucas. Winding down after the media frenzy surrounding “Star Wars” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in 1977, they dreamed about their next projects.
Spielberg wanted to direct a James Bond flick.
Lucas wanted to make a kind of Saturday matinee cliffhanger about a man named Indiana Smith, who travels the world looking for exotic artifacts.
Spielberg loved the idea, but didn’t groove on the name. “OK, how about Indiana Jones?” said Lucas, who used his dog’s name for the leading man.
The documentary picks up the back-story as the crew lines up “Raiders’” first shot. The camera aims at a distant mountain, a perfect match to Paramount’s trademark mountain. With Hawaii subbing for the jungles of South America, the camera operator uses a photograph of the Paramount icon to size up the mountain to get the framing just right.
Next, with cameras rolling, actor Harrison Ford in the role of the soon-to-be legendary Dr. Jones, walks toward that mountain – as Spielberg directs additional cast members. “Look back Vic, then go.” Using 16mm footage of the set and outtakes, deleted scenes and movie clips, the documentary gives an insider’s look into Spielberg's creative process. “I’m finding a sort of rhythm for ‘Raiders,’ not so much from planning every shot, but seeing it from the dailies and how I’m shooting each scene,” he says, propping his feet on a desk, and talking straight into the camera. When he accepted the project, the young director made it clear to Lucas that he was going to shoot fast. “We’re not gonna do 20 takes on a long dolly shot, and we’re not going to get the girl’s hair out of her eyes in every shot.”
(1) It doesn't end well for Satipo. (2) Hovitos warriors take aim at Jones. (3) René Belloq wants the golden idol. (4&5) Kauai, Hawaii subs as the jungles of South America as Indy escapes by a pontoon plane.
The documentary follows the production from Hawaii to Tunisia – the North African country where Lucas filmed the desert scenes in “Star Wars.” We discover how Ford got the role during one of the handful of documentaries carried over from previous Blu-ray and DVDs sets. Testing began in 1979 with Tim Matheson, then Peter Coyote. Finally, they had their guy – Tom Selleck. But just days before signing, CBS put the brakes on the deal, forcing Selleck into a future TV series, “Magnum P.I.” Now, it was back to Spielberg’s first choice: Harrison Ford.
Additional documentaries total over six hours, and are filled with behind-scenes footage from the four movies including the dark and dreadful “The Temple of Doom.” Spielberg tries to distance himself from “Doom.” He recalls how he resisted the idea of Indy’s stories being darker. “I wasn’t sure if it would be commercial enough, but I deferred to George’s better judgment. I was just his director for hire.” Obviously, “Doom” got terrible reviews. Spielberg admits, “The greatest thing that happened … is that the girl I cast as Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) became my wife.”
During the “The Last Crusade’s” documentary, Lucas mentions that, originally, it was going to be a haunted castle tale. But Spielberg balked since he had just finished “Poltergeist,” which he had written and produced. Lucas wanted to use a quest for the Holy Grail, while Spielberg wanted to flesh out the estranged relationship between Indy and his father; the search for the father would mirror the search for the Holy Grail. And, Spielberg had only one person in mind for that role – none other than James Bond himself, actor Sean Connery.
“[Connery] elevated everyone’s game,” Ford says, admitting he considers “Crusade” is his favorite, with its fabulous locations and leading lady played by Irish actress Alison Doody.
(1&2) University of the Pacific in Calif., and Rickmansworth Masonic School for Girls in England sub for Barnett College, as museum curator Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) tells Jones U.S. Army Intelligence is in need of his services. (3&4) Indy flies on a Pan Am Clipper to Nepal to find Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), who runs the Raven bar. (5) Nazi agent Arnold Toht (Ronald Lacey) follows Indy to Nepal, with hopes to take the headpiece for the Staff of Ra.
The absurd sci-fi subplot in “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” has Ford as an extremely weary Dr. Jones, although that might have been intentional. In its making-of documentary, Spielberg admits he thought he would never see Indiana Jones again after “The Last Crusade” – especially since the trilogy ended with Indy riding off into the sunset. But, fans kept pleading for a new story and Ford got the ball rolling, prompting Spielberg and Lucas to resurrect Indy.
The “Skull” documentary spills everything, including how the production was code-named “Genre” to keep it under wraps from internet buzz. Santa Fe, N.M., is where it all started. Spielberg began filming after a toast to cast and crew: “Break a leg, have a good shoot, do your best work, and here’s looking at you kids.” Next stop – Yale University for the exciting motorcycle chase scene with Shia LaBeouf (Mutt) at the wheel. Spielberg had two units filming simultaneously in New Haven, Conn. – one with the stars and the other with the stunt boys. Then off to Hawaii, subbing for the Amazon. The production finished on four Hollywood soundstages for the extensive cave sequences, interiors, and, surprisingly, the night scenes.
We first examine “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the top-grossing film of 1981, which received eight Academy Award nominations including Best Picture. It won four Oscars for Best Sound, Film Editing, Visual Effects, and Art Direction. And, it was selected No. 66 in the American Film Institute’s 100 Years 100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition of America’s Greatest Films.
Thank goodness for Spielberg approving this TRUE 4K restoration (2.39:1 aspect ratio). He believes in keeping natural film intact, as we see in varying levels depending on the film stock used in different scenes. Grain is more evident in the highlights – especially in the sky from a Cairo rooftop where we meet Egyptian Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), who becomes Indy’s right-hand man in extracting the Ark of the Covenant from the Well of Souls.
The expanded HDR10 and Dolby Vision grading open up mid-tones delivering more image information, while it uncovers a slight flicker in the added grain in the Egyptian desert. Uneven chemical processing of the 35mm film stock from four decades ago could’ve been the culprit or a shutter problem within one of the cameras. The defect nearly goes undetected on the new 4K digital version on Apple TV, since the streaming service has a lower bitrate, which removes the finest of detail. The actor’s faces have a slightly waxy look on 4K digital, while the physical disc uncovers the smallest of grain and detail. The Blu-ray from a decade ago didn’t expose the flicker, since the highlights and grain were nearly blown out.
The new 4K master provides a major bump in resolution, with expanded clarity in Douglas Slocombe’s Oscar-nominated cinematography on distant buildings, trees, mountains, and the cast of thousands in the desert. The same with facial detail as you can see every freckle on Marion’s face (Karen Allen) and the same with the whiskers on Indy. The color palette is realistic and natural; Marion’s costume pants worn in Cairo are a deeper shade of red. The overall black level is much deeper giving the onscreen image a more cinematic experience.
(1) Indy and Marion fly to Cairo and meet Egyptian Sallah (John Rhys-Davies). Spielberg had to remove 300 TV antennas for the rooftop scene - since it was something not around in 1936. (2) Indy and Marion encounter hired swordsmen while shopping in the Cairo street markets. (3&4) Apparently Marion is killed or badly injured in a fiery truck crash and Indy drinks in his sorrows. (5&6) Indy and Sallah head to the Map Room to find the Well of the Souls.
The new eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack provides a nice boost to height speakers creating a more enveloping environment, but strangely, we found a slight decrease in bass response compared to the DTS-HD soundtrack on the previous Blu-ray. The audio is still balanced from front to back and side to side. It’s energetic throughout with sound effects and John Williams’ fantastic score!
You don’t want to miss one of cinema’s greatest roller coaster rides in 4K. The “Indiana Jones Collection” puts Spielberg at the top of the 4K heap, pushing his grand total to 15 films in Ultra HD format. Director Ridley Scott is No. 2 with 10 films.
Footnote: Production of the upcoming fifth untitled Indiana Jones film has started without Spielberg, who’s passed the torch to director James Mangold (“Ford v Ferrari,” “Logan”). Harrison Ford returns as Indy, with new co-stars Mads Mikkelsen and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1) Nazi agent Arnold Toht was severely burned trying to stealing the headpiece for the Staff of Ra. (2) René Belloq and the Nazis are digging in the wrong spot at Tanis to find the Well of the Souls. (3) Indy finds thousands of snakes inside the Well of the Souls. (4) He and Sallah remove the Ark of the Covenant from its tomb. (5&6) At daybreak Indy and his men are closing up the Well of the Souls, but Belloq and the Nazis discover them silhouetted against the sky.
(1) Indy fights a Nazi on the wing of the futuristic Flying Wing. (2) The Nazis load the ark onto a truck heading back to Cairo since the aircraft was eventually destroyed. (3) A stuntman as Indy jumps from the horse onto the moving truck as Belloq points to the action.
(1) Captain Simon Katanga (George Harris) will take Indy and Marion back to England on the Bantu Wind. (2) Indy tells Marion, "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage," during a brief romantic scene on the ship. (3) A Nazi U-Boat stops the Bantu Wind to search for the Ark. (4) On an island in the Aegean Sea, Belloq plans to open the Ark of the Covenant, but Indy threatens to destroy it. (5-7) Belloq performs a ceremony and opens the Ark, which leads to disastrous consequences. (8&9) Indy and Marion end up in Washington D.C. and the Ark is sealed in a wooden crate and stored in a giant government warehouse.