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DVD Review

For the holidays, a fedora, a whip and high adventure

October 23, 2003|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

Perhaps not as precious as the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail, the trilogy of Indiana Jones movies produced by George Lucas and directed by Steven Spielberg have nonetheless ranked with the first three "Star Wars" movies as the most prominent holdouts from release on the booming DVD format. All other mega-blockbusters, it seems, had been released on digital discs.

The wait is over for fans of 1981's "Raiders of the Lost Ark," 1984's "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and 1989's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." "The Adventures of Indiana Jones -- The Complete DVD Movie Collection" arrived in stores this week (Paramount, $50), just in time for the all-important holiday season.

Available in either wide-screen or full-screen format, the four-disc set features digitally restored versions of each film, which also have new Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. The fourth disc features a juicy interview and a clip-heavy feature-length documentary on the making of each film, plus short featurettes on the special effects wizards at Industrial Light & Magic, the sound effects, stunts and music.

Frank Marshall, who produced all three "Indiana Jones" films, said it took this long for the films to enter the digital world because "we wanted to do it right. And it's not just one movie, it's three movies. I think the technology is now at the point we feel that the movies will look the way they originally looked."

"I think the DVD is becoming a little bit like the theatrical film business," said DVD added-value producer Laurent Bouzereau, who spent five months working on the documentaries, interviewing more than 40 people and culling the Lucasfilm Ltd. archives for footage. "The release of the movie in theaters is very crucial as to when you release it, so I think there is a lot of marketing strategy that goes behind the release of a DVD now as well."

Film restoration expert John Lowry's Lowry Digital Images digitally restored each film to its original glory.

Lowry said the company worked with a new print made from the original negative of each film. The prints, he said, "were in quite good shape, but they needed specific things done. We probably took half a million pieces of dirt out of the two versions [full and wide-screen] of each of the three movies. We had one piece of dirt every second frame on average."

The biggest problem was a 20-minute scratch in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." Said Lowry: "There was a scratch for about 35,000 frames right down the middle."

Lowry's company uses about 300 computers to digitally restore films. After the computers "erased" the scratch, "we followed that up with a hand-touch process," Lowry said. "We have a team of people who look at it in the final quality control stage, frame by frame, to make sure it's absolutely correct."

Lucas and Spielberg had the foresight to record every step of production of each of the "Indiana Jones" films, which Bouzereau said made his job a lot easier in putting together the fourth disc.

"It's much better than just a commentary when you have the actual film of when it was happening," Marshall said. "When Steven turned to me [in the footage] and said, 'We don't have enough snakes,' the look on my face is a real look of, 'All right, how am I going to do that?' Those are the kind of production problems people never know about."

One of the rarest bits of footage in the documentary is a screen test between Tom Selleck, who was originally cast as Indiana Jones, and Sean Young, who was auditioning for Marion, the role in which Karen Allen was eventually cast. Selleck had to relinquish the part because of his commitment to the series "Magnum, P.I."

Marshall admits that they looked at Mark Harmon, John Shea, Tim Matheson and Paul LeMat for the part of Indiana Jones before casting Ford. In candid interviews in the documentary, Lucas pointed out that when Spielberg mentioned Ford for the role, he initially nixed the idea because Ford had appeared in "American Graffiti" and the first two "Star Wars" films and he didn't want the actor in every project he directed or produced.

Though Lucas has done commentary on the DVD releases of the two "Star Wars" movies that have been released so far -- "The Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones" -- Spielberg remains true to previous form and is absent from the Indiana Jones commentary tracks.

"I think Steven is such a purist when it comes to his movies that [he believes] his movies were never designed to be experienced with someone else talking about it," Bouzereau said. "I think he thinks he's betraying his films by creating another way to experience it."

*

Indiana Jones

What: "The Adventures of Indiana Jones -- The Complete DVD Movie Collection"

Who: Starring Harrison Ford; directed by Steven Spielberg

Studio: Paramount

Cost: $50

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