Raiders of the Lost Ark (AFI #66)

April 28, 2011 at 3:29 am (AFI Top 100 in 100 Days)

Another of my top 10 favorite films ever, Raiders of the Lost Ark was a welcome stop on my journey through the AFI Top 100 Films list. This one should have cracked at least the top half, AFI. Annie Hall does not deserve to be higher than Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Watching Raiders as a film student, I was struck for the first time by the skillful use of color filters, and how Spielberg painted with shadow as effectively as he paints with light. Part of the fun on this viewing was to try to catch which shots are Harrison Ford, and which shots are Stunt Guy.

One new discovery: I don’t think there are actually any live snakes in the proximity of Harrison Ford. There are so many shots that establish the snakes in the pit, that we take it for granted that the snakes are real, and are focused on Harrison Ford. There are snakes that look like they’re models, being pulled by strings from outside the shot. But…I challenge you. Look closely. I don’t think there are ever any live snakes in the proximity of Harrison Ford.

I don’t know that there is any other film besides “Star Wars” that has had so many different scenes in the same film parodied throughout pop culture. The score, another John Williams creation, is one of the most recognized and best in film history. My husband and I used it as the recessional at our wedding. The best man threw him The Fedora, and we ran down the aisle.

I remember reading something funny once about the scene where there’s a big bad guy swirling swords in the marketplace, and Ford just pulls a gun and shoots him. Apparently, the heat had been terrible that day, Ford had a serious case of intestinal distress, and was frustrated by the length of the shoot. He improvised as a joke, Spielberg howled, and kept it. I wonder how the scene was originally supposed to go.

There’s something a little sad about the fact that my youngest child knows the plot line of Raiders from his LEGO video game, without ever seeing the original film. I will have to schedule an Indiana Jones marathon around here, post haste.

Does this film belong on the AFI list? Yes. But at least in the top half of said list.


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