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BY Steven D. GreydanusFilm Critic
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) PICK
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) PICK
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) PASS
At last, the greatest action-adventure movie of all time, Raiders of the Lost Ark, is available in a stand-alone Blu-ray edition, which means you can own it without buying the entire four-movie box set that includes the oppressive Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as well as the superfluous latter-day sequel Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
If you’re looking for it alphabetically, you’ll find it under George Lucas’ revisionist title Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, but don’t let that fool you: This is the original classic, with Harrison Ford’s Indy and Karen Allen’s Marion battling Nazis in Nepal, Cairo and the Aegean Sea over the lost Ark of the Covenant.
Roger Ebert said Raiders "plays like an anthology of the best parts of all the Saturday matinee serials ever made" — and does it ever — but it does much more than that.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is also newly available in a stand-alone Blu-ray — but why would you want it? It fails as entertainment by miscalculating the ratio of unpleasantness the audience will endure in relation to its entertainment value.
You might want to pick up the new Blu-ray for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a significant improvement on its immediate predecessor, though still no rival for the original.
Sean Connery is an inspired choice as the senior Jones, and the lighthearted tone is closer to Raiders, but while the quest for the Holy Grail holds out hope for transcendence, in the end, the Grail is a bit of a disappointment.
Partly this is because the Grail of Christian legend is a hazier property than the Ark of the Old Testament — and also a more spiritual one. The film reaches for "enlightenment," but that’s harder to pull off than melting Nazi heads.
Caveat Spectator: Raiders and Last Crusade: Stylized action violence, mayhem and menace, some gruesome images and brief mild sensuality. (Each includes an implied bedroom encounter, very subtle in Raiders.)