Do you remember your first time seeing Raiders Of The Lost Ark? I do. The film came out the same year I was born, but unlike most kids my age, I didn’t grow up with it. I didn’t actually see it until I was about 12 or so, borrowing a VHS copy from the library. I loved it, naturally.
In the film, after Indy has rescued the Ark Of The Covenant from a Nazi convoy in a major action sequence, the story reaches a brief calm before the next storm. Indy and Marion finally get a chance to relax and smooch a bit. My Mom was pretty vigilant about what we could watch, and assuming the movie had reached its end (not an unreasonable assumption) and might cap off with a sex scene, she stopped the tape and all was good. And for few years, that was that.
It wasn’t until I rewatched the movie a few years later that I realized – holy smokes, there’s an entire last act that I never knew existed. It was like watching the movie for the first time. Heck, it was watching the movie for the first time, and mixed in with the regret of having been duped was the equally potent thrill of discovery. (Incidentally, this also explained why I couldn’t remember the melting faces when I saw stills in a Lucasfilm book).
Since then all three Indy films have become very familiar and beloved favorites, but watching Raiders Of The Lost Ark: The Adaptation is unique in that it brings back a bit of that thrill of discovery – of something old and familiar made new. Created by a tenacious group of nerdy teens over the course of the 80s, The Adaptation is a wonderful embodiment of another Harrison Ford character’s maxim, “never tell me the odds”.
Years after its completion, The Adaptation was discovered by filmmaker Eli Roth, who unearthed it with the excitement of an archaeologist on the cusp of a major discovery. Roth evangelized it to film geekdom at large, convincing Harry Knowles to show a portion at Butt-Numb-A-Thon. This opened up the question of “Where are these kids now?”, and the answer to that question has taken on a life of its own: a history of a shared passion project marred by adolescent struggles and contention, and ultimately a new adventure and a testament to the importance of personal growth and repairing relationships. This continuing story serves as the basis for the documentary Raiders! The Story Of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, which follows the “Raiders Guys” as they reunite and seek to complete the final unfinished scene of their childhood project.
I just had the opportunity to visit the Kansas City stop on the RAIDERS! “Follow Your Dreams” Tour at the Mainstreet Alamo Drafthouse, and I would encourage anyone who can attend a future show to do so. The Roadshow’s format is a double feature, opening with the Raiders! documentary, then following with a Q&A with Chris Strompolos (who produced and played Indy) and Eric Zala (who directed and played Belloq) before completing the double feature with The Adaptation. Here in Kansas City, we had the additional treat of Rob Fuller, a locally-based actor who played the musclebound Nazi mechanic in the newly-produced flying wing scene, in the mix as well.
I’ve previously reviewed this pair of films and don’t intend to repeat myself here (please read my earlier review for a more in-depth analysis of the films themselves), but I do have a few new follow-up thoughts in reference to this event, along with some Q&A highlights.
- On this rewatch of The Adaptation, I was much more in tune with the original film, having just watched it within the last month (in the same theater, actually). It really is incredible how close they got without even owning a copy of the movie to work from.
- The first time I saw The Adaptation I was so engrossed with the amateurish child acting that I didn’t notice how legitimately great Eric Zala is as Belloq. He absolutely nails his line delivery, which is something I only appreciated by having just seen the original.
- I was surprised to discover the Raiders! documentary benefited greatly from the theatrical presentation. My first viewing was an online screener, and for a documentary that’s usually appropriate enough. But there was so much energy rippling through this audience. They audibly laughed, gasped, and reeled with each twist, and at one particular moment the guy sitting next to me literally leaped out of his seat. At a documentary.
- It’s worth noting that while Chris and Eric are the producers and subjects of the Raiders! documentary in an official capacity, they didn’t craft the film. It was written and directed by independent filmmakers Tim Skousen and Jeremy Coon. Eric even mentioned to us during the Q&A that the first time he viewed it was with a festival audience. This is important because the film doesn’t shy away from showing the guys at their most human – even if they risk coming off as angry, smug, selfish, or rude.
- Asked what advice he would give his younger self, Chris’s response was to simply be himself, without caring about what other people thought of him.
- Another audience member asked how the boys managed to match their film so closely to the original without having a reference copy. The answer was a combination of theatrical viewings, bootleg audio recordings, and amassing a collection of books, photos, and reference materials.
- Kansas City actor Rob Fuller became involved with the project while traveling to an audition for Jurassic World (in which he does appear). He was already a fan of The Adaptation when he was surprised to see a casting call for the muscular German mechanic, and was thrilled to take on the role.
- True to the “Follow Your Dreams” theme of the tour, Chris and Eric encouraged audience members to believe in themselves and pursue their passions.
- In my prior review, I posited that the Raiders! documentary might be best served by having seen The Adaptation first. For this roadshow event, they opted to show the documentary first, laying out a lot of the context and allowing the viewer to get to know the kids and their back-stories. It worked really well, and I’d conclude that their screening order is probably ideal. Watching in either sequence is a rewarding experience, though, so check them out!
From Left: Eric Zala, Austin Vashaw, Chris Strompolos, and Rob Fuller
The Raiders! Roadshow is still cruising all over the US with more stops planned through September, hitting many theaters (not just Alamo Drafthouse locations). You can view the tour schedule at RaidersGuys.com. The roadshow also provides an opportunity to pick up Raiders merch, such as a poster, T-shirt, or a DVD copy of The Adaptation at lower prices than their online store, sans shipping costs.