Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Forty years ago today, the film Raiders of the Lost Ark premiered. The first in a critically and financially successful series of movies that I personally find very enjoyable. You should create a rainy day film fest and watch them all.

Title: Raiders of the Lost Ark
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Produced by: Frank Marshall
Screenplay by: Lawrence Kasdan
Story by: George Lucas, Philip Kaufman
Starring: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott
Music by: John Williams
Cinematography: Douglas Slocombe
Edited by: Michael Kahn
Production Company: Lucasfilm Ltd.
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release date: June 12, 1981
Running time: 115 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $20 million
Box office: $389.9 million

In 1936, American archaeologist Indiana Jones recovers a golden idol from a booby-trapped Peruvian temple. Rival archaeologist René Belloq corners him and steals the idol; Jones escapes in a waiting seaplane. After returning to America, Jones is briefed by two Army Intelligence agents that Nazi German forces are excavating at Tanis, and one of their telegrams mentions Jones’s old mentor Abner Ravenwood. Jones deduces that the Nazis seek the Ark of the Covenant, which Adolf Hitler believes will make their army invincible. The agents recruit Jones to recover the Ark first.

At a bar in Nepal, Jones reunites with Ravenwood’s daughter Marion—with whom Jones once had an illicit relationship—and learns Ravenwood is dead. The bar is set ablaze during a scuffle with Gestapo agent Arnold Toht, who arrives to take a medallion from Marion. Toht attempts to recover the medallion from the flames, but only burns its image into his hand. Jones and Marion take the medallion and escape together.

They travel to Cairo, where they meet Jones’s friend Sallah, who reveals Belloq is assisting the Nazis, and they have fashioned an incomplete replica medallion from the burns on Toht’s hand. Nazi soldiers and mercenaries attack Jones, and Marion is seemingly killed, leaving Jones despondent. An imam deciphers the medallion for Jones, revealing one side bears a warning against disturbing the Ark, and the other the correct measurements for the “staff of Ra”, an item used to locate the Ark. Jones and Sallah realize the Nazis are digging in the wrong location and infiltrate the Nazi dig site. They use the medallion and the correct staff of Ra to locate the Well of Souls, the Ark’s resting place. They recover the Ark—a golden, intricately decorated chest—but are discovered by Belloq and the Nazis, who seize the Ark and seal Jones and Marion—who has been held captive by Belloq—inside the well. The pair escape through an opening and flee with a truck carrying the Ark. Alongside Marion, Jones arranges to transport the Ark to London aboard a tramp steamer.

A Nazi U-boat intercepts the steamer and seizes the Ark and Marion; Jones covertly boards the U-boat. The vessel travels to an island in the Aegean Sea, where Belloq intends to test the power of the Ark before presenting it to Hitler. En route, Jones ambushes the Nazi group and threatens to destroy the Ark, but is forced to surrender after Belloq deduces he would never destroy something historically significant and also wants to know if the Ark’s power is real. The Nazis restrain Jones and Marion at the testing site as Belloq ceremonially opens the Ark but finds only sand inside. At Jones’s instruction, he and Marion close their eyes to avoid looking at the opened Ark, as it releases spirits, flames, and bolts of energy that kill Belloq, Toht, and the assembled Nazis before sealing itself shut. Jones and Marion open their eyes to find the area cleared of bodies and their bindings removed. Back in Washington, D.C., the United States government rewards Jones and Marcus Brody for securing the Ark. Despite Jones’s insistence, the agents state only that the Ark has been moved to an undisclosed location for study by “top men”. In a large warehouse, the Ark is crated up and stored among countless other crates.

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