RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) C widescreen 115m dir: Steven Spielberg

w/Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott, Wolf Kahler, Anthony Higgins, Alfred Molina, Vic Tablian

From The Movie Guide: "The 1930s-style adventure serial was never better served than in this spectacular cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers. Indeed RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK totally transcends its modest source material. Packed with astounding action sequences, this movie was crafted with such polish, humor, and elan that it became an instant classic. This was the film that Spielberg made while still smarting from the massive flop of 1941, his large-scale period slapstick comedy about invasion paranoia in southern California on the eve of WWII. Spielberg described it as 'work for hire' for his old pal executive producer George Lucas, but it comes off as a labor of love.

"Harrison Ford went stellar with this perfect portrayal of archaeologist Dr. Indiana Jones, a distinguished scholar who sheds his spectacles to live a life of high adventure outside of the classroom. Ford's performance is an underrated but remarkable achievement; he succeeds in fully embodying a comic-book style hero without ever descending into camp. It's a brilliantly stylized portrayal that is now burned into our pop-cultural memory.

"Set in 1936, the film follows Jones on his US intelligence mission to find the Ark of the Covenant, which reputedly still contains the Ten Commandments. The catch is that the Ark is also being sought by agents of Adolph Hitler, who resort to all manner of treachery to stop our hero. Aided by Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen), his tough, beautiful, hard-drinking ex-flame, Indy escapes one outrageous life-threatening situation after another in the quest that takes him from Nepal to Cairo.

"Most viewers are powerless to resist the kinetic pleasures of this endlessly inventive action adventure. Some naysayers have correctly pointed out that the film gave new life to late and unlamented racial stereotypes --- cowering natives of color and all that --- and that initially proto-feminist Marion is all-too-soon reduced to screeching for Indy to rescue her. It is difficult to resuscitate dead genres without bringing back their offensive aspects and assumptions, but RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK could have been far worse on these counts. This is great filmmaking, warts and all.

"The action, though fairly intense, is extremely witty and playful. The violent setpieces have the imaginatively stylized quality of the progressively escalating gags in a vintage 1940s Tex Avery cartoon. Spielberg demonstrates a delightfully oblique approach to action. He also has a sharp eye for simultaneous movement on several planes of action. The supporting performances are outstanding, as are the stuntwork and special effects. Shot in Hawaii, France, Tunisia, and at Elstree Studios in England --- in just 73 days for $22.8 million --- this perpetual motion machine has made more than $200 million and inspired two sequels (INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE)."

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK won Oscars for Best Art Direction, Sound, Editing, Visual Effects, and Sound Effects Editing. It was also nominated for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, and Score.