In honor of the 30th anniversary of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Hero Complex has been looking back at the landmark film and its influence on cinema and pop culture. Today, a gem from the Los Angeles Times archives: “Raiders” obviously made an impression on these young fellows, decked out with hats, whips and jackets a la Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones in this photograph taken by Times staffer Mike Meadows in the days of “Thriller” and Ronald Reagan.
The picture shows the group of young men waiting for the opening of the second film in the series, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” which was released May 23, 1984. They weren’t alone. More than 1,000 people lined up outside Mann’s Chinese for the “semi-annual Lucasfilm pilgrimage,” many dressed as “virtual Indiana clones,” the Times reported at the time.
Other George Lucas and Steven Spielberg fans who camped outside Edwards Newport Cinema Theatre for five days ahead of “Temple of Doom,” surrounded by Indiana Jones and “Star Wars” memorabilia, framed pictures of Spielberg and had a chalkboard with the message “We Love Steven & George! 4 more days.” One fan, then-21-year-old John Lawrence, bragged to a Times reporter that he had seen “Raiders” 35 times in theaters.
The anticipation for a “Raiders” sequel had been building for almost three years since the movie hit the big screen on June 12, 1981. “Raiders” was selected for a special screening for Olympic athletes during the 1984 games in Los Angeles. Indiana Jones costumes were among the most popular picks each Halloween after the movie, archives show. And just days before the release of “Temple of Doom,” Lucas and Spielberg sunk their hands and feet into concrete outside Mann’s Chinese, Lucas joking, “We want to be the first people to have tennis-shoe prints.”
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” was as popular with critics as it was with fans. Times critic Sheila Benson wrote in 1981 that “‘Raiders’ has the power, the innocence and the astonishment of ‘Star Wars’ and the action-adventure energy of ‘Jaws.'” Here’s an excerpt from that review:
For audiences parched for heroes and for the pure, intense joy of moviegoing, here comes “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with Indiana Jones, a boyish Bogart with a bullwhip, mean as Fred C. Dobbs, sexy, in his own rumpled way, as “Casablanca’s” Rick. And camellia-white, shoulder to shoulder with him is Marion Ravenwood, an absolutely smashing heroine, fierce, tough, bright, wicked, more than his match at about half his size.
As played by Harrison Ford and Karen Allen, they are a perfectly realized couple: the romantic ’30s as seen by the romance-starved, realistic ’80s. …
A strange dualism happened while watching “Raiders.” There was the almost exhausting excitement of the film itself. And at the same time a second emotion, a rush of gratitude which almost brought tears for the contagious joy and — not to be corny about this — the strength of the film’s positive vision. If this is an era in which the heroic is lacking and the mediocre threatens us from every side, then “Raiders,” which has no pretentions to importance, which is unabashedly wide-eyed and exaggerated and true blue but somehow cherishes the best in life and in film making — is a high-water mark.
Critics were far less kind to “Temple of Doom,” denouncing its gore and violence and calling Spielberg a “techno-glut.”
Benson wrote, “They got it into their heads that the charm of their first film was its stunts, and if something wasn’t whizzing past Indiana every second — or vice versa — it would be all over for the movie.”
But by then, “Raiders” had already bull-whipped its way into the hearts of the country’s next generation of Super-8 filmmakers.
— Noelene Clark
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