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Raiders of the Lost Ark

Considering yesterday’s unenthusiastic summer movie post – this is uncanny. I just learned, via JoBlo, that Raiders of the Lost Ark was released 30 years ago today. My 7-year-old self hasn’t been the same since.

raiders-artIf I were tasked (by someone who was incredibly bored and probably unemployed/smelling of pee) with selecting just one movie to represent my childhood – it would be Raiders. History has been kind to the film – it didn’t exactly get poor reviews on this day back in 1981 (It has a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but it’s legacy has grown considerably. What began as little more than a fast-paced summer blockbuster (resulting from a Lucas/Spielberg collaboration dedicated to serials from the 1920s) is now heralded as a cinematic benchmark frequently selected by critics as one of the best movies of all time…

  • Just this past March a TV special put together by ABC News and People Magazing voted Raiders the best action movie of all time.
  • In 1998 the American Film Institute voted it #60 on their list of the 100 best American movies, evah. To give context it outranks Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction and Unforgiven. By a lot.
  • It’s #22 out of 250 on IMDB’s list of best flicks.

But forget about established critics and accredited film society thingys for a second. As part of my own personal tribute I’m going to share just a few foggy Raiders memories from my distant childhood:

  1. My father must have also been a huge fan of the film, because he took me to see it 7 times. It’s how we bonded. How we related to each other – and I have no complaints.
  2. I remember him asking his sister, my Aunt Susan, if after seeing it she thought it was appropriate for a 7-year-old. Her exact response was “Well, there’s a little bit of blood, but I think he’ll be alright.” Which brings me to the next memory…
  3. After the first time we saw it, I ran ahead of my father and checked the back seat of his car for mummies.
  4. My friend Adam and I spent countless hours trying to beat the tie-in Atari 2600 video game. 30 years later it is still frequently mentioned as one of the hardest games of all time.

  5. I’d jump at any chance to accompany my Mother to the grocery store in Manotick, Ontario as I was determined to collect each of the 100 Raiders trading cards. After consuming near-fatal quantities of nasty pink-colored gum sticks, I only ever got 99 of them. The elusive card? That bastard, Belloq. And I still have all 99 in a photo album for which I actually won a Boy Scouts “collector’s” badge a couple years later.
  6. My grandmother gave me an Indy action figure during one of her visits, that had a spring-loaded arm which would crack a little cloth whip. I still have it.
  7. One of our neighbors, Terry (whom many years later I would end up working for in England) claimed he knew a guy who had a bootleg VHS copy and if we could organize $100 and two VCRs for the dub I could get one of my very own. Needless to say, he lived to regret telling me that. I don’t think the word “haunting” covers it.
  8. We bought the soundtrack on LP, which I then transferred to cassette, which then became the soundtrack of many backyard adventures, blasted via carefully-balanced ghetto blaster through my bedroom window.
  9. I remember friends and I acting out so many “takes” of the famous swordfight scene that David Fincher and Stanley Kubrick would have said in unison, “Enough already, kid. We got the shot.”
  10. Due to a glaring lack of actual Indy toys in the marketplace, Star Wars stormtroopers and Cobra soldiers frequently stood in for Hovitos, Thuggees and Nazis.
  11. I learned what a Nazi was.

Toht-meltingIf we forget our history we are doomed to repeat it. So in honor of this magnificent anniversary, take time out today and force a 7-year old child to sit through Raiders of the Lost Ark. And don’t let them close their eyes at the end, either. The children are our future, so teach them well and let them watch melting Nazis. Happy birthday, Dr. Jones.

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When men hit their mid-50s they usually buy a convertible sports car. When men hit their mid-30s (and are secretly huge movie nerds) they usually combine and display action figures on shelves. And then die alone for all of their troubles. I’ll be turning the big 3-5 this Pearl Harbor Day (that’s December 7th and yes I do have an Amazon Wish List, thank you for asking) so when I began getting urges to do the latter I simply accepted it. I went with it. It’s who I am. Dave Pye – the font of useless pop culture knowledge who will watch the same movie over and over until his eyes bleed – and it’s usually Blade Runner.

virgin

Shall I pull my pants down and show you the jewels… of my personal collection? Super then. Top shelf Indy, bottom shelf Star Wars. Let’s start with the Indiana Jones conglomerate, left to right. First we have a genuine leather satchel, designed to look like the one Indy wears, with the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull logo burned into the lower right corner. Spielberg had them made by the Canadian company Roots (more details) as gifts for all of the cast and crew. I found it on eBay last month when I was looking for additions to my Halloween costume and couldn’t help myself. In the background we have an electronic whip, a Spalko action figure and three lego sets – all from the newest movie. Next we have four prop replicas – a Sankara Stone from Temple of Doom, the Hovitos Fertility Idol and Staff of Ra Headpiece from Raiders of the Lost ark and a bullwhip.

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Ladies, all of this could be yours. Form a line to the left.

The Star Wars shelf contains a couple of items that are actually worth quite a bit of money on the open dork market. On the far left we have a modern little Chewbacca beanie baby. Behind that is a stuffed R2D2 doll with a little red button that squeaks that I got for Christmas in 1977. In front of that is a remote control R2, the controller long since lost, which I believe I got in 1981 when Empire Strikes Back came out. Next up is an original Han Solo Blaster, with no chips, the sticker intact and it still works.

Beside the blaster is a Canadian-version, bi-lingual copy Han Solo figure. The packaging is in pristine condition and I found the little guy whilst cleaning out one of my grandmother’s closets last summer. She must have bought it for me for Christmas in ’77 and hidden it from my 4-year-old self in said closet – where it became lost for three decades. As I was cleaning out her home due to the fact that she is now in a long term care facility out of her mind and near death, the discovery choked me up. It was like a last gift from her to my inner-child. Nerd or not – you have to admit that’s pretty gosh darn cool. Thanks for everything, Claire. You did an excellent job with Janet and I.

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“Pardon-et-moi? C’est la Guerre des E’toiles, cocksackeer!”

Next up is a rubber Yoda puppet in decent condition, still with all of his white yarny hair, which was given to me in 1981 and then finally bookended with another modern beanie baby version of the same little green Jedi master. All told and in retrospect a decent little collection of movie paraphernalia. Which begs the question – guys and gals: what are your most treasured trinkets from childhood? More Star Wars stuff? A little G.I. Joe or Rainbow Bright, perhaps? Maybe it’s just me, but I sincerely doubt it. Don’t leave me hanging here, folks.

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