In 1981 three school friends correctly identified that Raiders of the Lost Ark is the greatest film of all time, and set out to make a shot-for-shot remake during their summer holidays. Seven summers later, with modest resources and a slavish attention to detail, Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala, and Jayson Lamb finished Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation. Complete, all bar one scene, it was a remarkable achievement. Thirty-odd years later Chris and Eric reunited to film that missing scene properly, raising the money via investors and crowdfunding, and Raiders!, or Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, charts their progress.
The missing scene in question is the famous plane fight where Indiana Jones battles hulking Nazi, Pat Roach, above and below a Nazi cargo plane. Ending in a series of spectacular explosions it was, at the time, a bridge too far for the three friends’ shoestring production. Lamb wanted to film the scene using miniatures, but Strompolos and Zala stuck to their guns, insisting on a faithful recreation.
Over the years it’s fair to say that the three filmmakers had an acrimonious relationship. Beginning the project as a trio, Lamb has been largely excluded from the re-do. Lamb is a bit of a naysayer and perhaps a tad eccentric, but there certainly seems to be some value in his claims that he was left out of things over the years. To the filmmakers credit, all three are given ample screen time, and with no judgements cast.
The documentary charts the lowly beginnings of the project, right up to the present day when the likes of Eli Roth and Harry Knowles championed the movie, and Indiana Jones fans across the globe took it in to their hearts. With the use of interviews, archive footage, news reports, and shots from both the original and the adaptation, we become included in the fascinating story of a summer holiday project that swept up the lives of its creators.
Outtakes from the shoot highlight their glorious attention to detail and disregard for personal safety. Friends, family, and other participants in the movie reunite to share their tales of a project fuelled by Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos’ youthful exuberance and inventive movie-making approach.
It’s a film about following your heart, when real life and boring responsibilities have intervened. We watch the fellas contend with inclement weather, inflexible bosses and all manner of obstacles standing in the way of their ambition. And as drama unfolds late on, we get excitement and adventure as well.
The story is a feel-good tale for every Indy fan. Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation might not have brought its makers ‘fortune and glory’, but it did provide closure to an extraordinary childhood dream. And while there’s probably not a lot on offer here for those who do not like Indiana Jones, the rest of us can enjoy an hour and forty minutes of vicarious joy and wonder why we never filmed our own Raiders of the Lost Ark adaptations.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10