47 Great Movie Moments #13 – Raiders of the Lost Ark

Continuing with this series of 47 moments in film that I love (Why 47?), today we hit #13, with the second part of one-two punch of Harrison Ford…

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Directed by:  Steven Spielberg

Archeologist Indiana Jones is hired to find and recover the fabled Hebrew Ark of the Covenant before Nazi Germany is able to make use of its supernatural power.

The Set-up

A rugged figure makes his way through the jungles of South America, wearing a fedora and armed with a pistol and a bull-whip.  The local natives who travel with him refuse to go any farther, and one of his guides actually attempts to kill him, but the man is too fast with the bullwhip for that to happen.  He steps into the light, and we meet Indiana Jones  for the first time.

Indiana Jones and his one remaining companion, Satipo, played by Alfred Molina (Dr. Octopus!) enter a temple, avoiding traps and dangers.  Finally, he reaches his prize, a beautiful gold idol sitting on a pedestal.  Indy grabs the idol, doing his best to swap it out for some sand of the same weight…

The Moment

But it’s not the same weight, and the idol begins to sink.  Then the whole temple begins to shake, and Indy and Satipo run for their lives, avoiding poison darts and falling rocks.  When they come to deep pit which they’d previously crossed with Indy’s bullwhip, Satipo makes it across but the bullwhip comes loose.  Indy commands him to throw him the whip, but Satipo refuses unless Indy first throws him the idol.  When Indo complies, Satipo betrays him and leaves him to die. Leaping desperately, Indy is able to make it across, and finds the idol in Satipo’s dead hand, the guide having been killed by one of the temple traps.  But then, the worst trap of all:  a huge boulder starts rolling toward Indy, threatening to kill him and / or trap him inside the temple.  Indy runs for his life, narrowly avoiding being crushed, and finally bursting through a last layer of cobwebs and vines to safety outside…

Raiders of the Lost Ark is something of a perfect storm of a movie, a moment in history when the talents of director Steven Spielberg, writer / producer George Lucas, movie star Harrison Ford, composer John Williams, and a whole bunch of other talented people came together to craft a storytelling experience that was so indelible that it essentially redefined what an adventure movie is in a way that is still leaving its mark.  This opening sequence perfectly establishes the air of extravagance to everything, serving as a perfect introduction to the character and the franchise overall.


The Payoff

It turns out that outside isn’t much safer than inside, as Indy now finds himself at the mercy of his rival archeologist Belloq, as well as a whole bunch of angry natives.  Once again, he’s able to make a getaway, reaching his friend Jock and his seaplane.  Indy and Jock fly away, only for Indy to freak out about Jock’s pet snake Reggie.  Jock rebukes him, telling him to “Show a little backbone.”  The movie will go on to allow Indy a chance to face a lot more snakes, confront Belloq, and show plenty of backbone.

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