Indiana Jones is back, in a daylong marathon retrospective on History TV. And while you may be forgiven for wondering what the fedora-wearing, bullwhip-cracking archeologist-adventurer has to do with actual history, the movie marathon is followed by a documentary, Indiana Jones and the Ultimate Quest, that purports to show how real-life reason and science have played their part in the search for legendary artifacts over the years.
The marathon features the first three films in the Indiana Jones canon, or, as Woody Allen would say, the early, good ones. A digitally remastered edition of the 1981 Steven Spielberg classic, Raiders of the Lost Ark, leads off, followed by 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The final film in the trilogy, 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, brings us to Museum Secrets and the Ultimate Quest documentary.
The 2008 entry, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, is — thanks be — left on the bench.
Indy fans and casual viewers alike are better served by separating fact from fiction with Indiana Jones and the Ultimate Quest, in which archeologists, paleontologists and movie buffs share tales about how they were inspired by the Indiana Jones films, while examining the truth behind such legends and relics as the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail.
There’s a thread on the real dangers archeologists face while working in the field — yes, snakes! — and assorted skulduggery: everything from rival archeologists to grave robbers lying, cheating and stealing in their bid to stake a claim to fame, to the dangers of bugs, dysentery and various tropical diseases in countries where archeological digs are conducted today.
Ultimate Quest touches, too, on how changing technology has turned archeology into a modern-day science, complete with ground-penetrating radar, satellite imagery and digital re-imaginings of ancient relics and sites.
Of course, the real reason to watch is for the films themselves, and some of the real-life secrets and little-known facts buried within. The fact that Tom Selleck very nearly played Indiana Jones instead of Harrison Ford, for example. Or the fact that the spitting cobra that spat venom at Indiana Jones’s face in Raiders of the Lost Ark was a real cobra spitting real venom; in the days before CGI (computer-generated imagery), the actor was protected by a thin sheet of glass.
Then there’s the list of actors, Selleck aside, who were considered for the role of Indy before Spielberg and co-producer George Lucas settled on Ford, actors such as — so it’s said — Peter Coyote, Jack Nicholson, Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Nick Nolte, Jeff Bridges, Tim Matheson, Nick Mancuso and Chevy Chase. Ford was cast less than three weeks before filming began. Amy Irving, Sean Young and Debra Winger were considered for Marion; Karen Allen eventually played the part. And Danny DeVito was offered the role eventually played by John Rhys-Davies.
Movie trivia may be trivial, but it’s fun in its own way — especially when the movies are as famous and well-known as the Indiana Jones films are. The submarine used in Raiders of the Lost Ark was the same one used in Das Boot, for example. Indiana Jones was very nearly named Indiana Smith. The story goes that Lucas wanted Smith, and Spielberg wanted Jones. Spielberg won, but Lucas had the last laugh in a way: Indiana was named after his dog, an Alaskan malamute named Indiana.
Raiders of the Lost Ark: 10 a.m.
Temple of Doom: 12:30 p.m.
Last Crusade: 3 p.m.
Museum Secrets, 6 p.m.
Ultimate Quest: 7 p.m.
All on History Television
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