I’ll be honest, at first I was going to give the nod for 1981 to Dar Robinson for Sharkey’s Machine as his 220 ft fall from the Hyatt Regency was the world’s record for the highest fall from a building for a commercially released film, but only the start of the fall made it into the final film as the rest of the fall is obviously a dummy. Besides, I had a really hard time not acknowledging a film that has had such a big effect on stunt performers all around the world as Radiers of the Lost Ark has. It really is viewed as a stunt man’s movie.
From start to finish, there are layers upon layers of fantastic stunts. No other series has as many stunts, besides the James Bond series. Believe it or not you can thank George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s love of the old stunt layered cliffhanger serials of the 30’s and 40’s for creating this movie as well as for their love of Carl Barks. Carl Barks, you say? Yes, indeed, it’s their love of the old Uncle Scrooge McDuck adventures that Indiana Jones was born.
The opening scene in the lost South American temple is partly based on a classic Disney Ducks adventure written by the legendary artist Carl Barks, many of whose comic books have inspired George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Exploring a lost temple, Donald Duck, his nephews, and Scrooge McDuck must evade a succession of booby traps, like flying darts, a decapitating blade, a huge boulder, a tunnel flooded with a torrent of gushing water, etc., in the story “The Prize of Pizarro” (“Uncle $crooge” no. 26, June-August 1959), which hit the newsstands when Lucas and Spielberg, both avowed fans of that comic book, were respectively 15 and 12 years old. Another Barks story, “The Seven Cities of Cibola” (“Uncle $crooge” no. 7, September 1954), has a native American lost city and a valuable idol that triggers a giant round rock to smash everything in its way.
But how can you have a movie like this with so many stunts and not pay tribute to some of the old time legendary stunt men? You can’t! When Indy is dragged under and then out behind a moving truck, it’s a tribute toYakima Canutt’s similar famous stunt in John Ford’s Stagecoach. In fact, it was a stunt that stuntman Terry Leonard had tried to pull off the year before, and failed to do so, on The Legend of the Lone Ranger. He was thrilled at the chance of having another shot at it, but only agreed to do it if his friend & colleague Glenn Randall Jr. was driving. The truck was specially constructed to be higher above the ground than normal so as to allow clearance for Indiana Jones to pass underneath safely. The center of the road was also dug out to allow more clearance. In Great Movie Stunts: Raiders of the Lost Ark we see, on the camera slate, that the camera was set at 20 frames per second instead of the traditional 24 fps; in other words, the shots were done in “fast motion,” so the truck was not really moving as fast as depicted on screen.
Harrison Ford was actually dragged behind the truck for some of the shots, badly bruising his ribs. When asked if he was worried, Ford quipped: “No. If it really was dangerous, they would have filmed more of the movie first.” During the chase, Harrison Ford dispatches all three of his stunt doubles, all of which are playing German soldiers. Terry Leonard plays the driver of the truck, who gets punched out of the cab by Harrison. Vic Armstrong and Martin Grace play soldiers hanging onto the side of the truck before being knocked off. The truck chase took approximately eight weeks to film. It’s interesting to note that it was also these three stunt men to double Harrison Ford throughout the film: Vic Armstrong when riding the horse; Martin Grace at the falling statue and Terry Leonard when pulled behind the truck.
A few interesting notes, renowned British wrestler Pat Roach gets killed twice in this film – once as a giant Sherpa left in the burning Nepalese bar and once as the German mechanic chewed up by the plane’s propeller. Also, Director Steven Spielberg admitted in the “Making of” DVD that watching the stage hands preparing the Well of Souls set by laying out the thousands of snakes for the scene really made him nauseous–even to the point where he nearly wanted to puke a few times. Raiders of the Lost Ark is directed by Steven Spielberg for LucasFilm.
Things to look up (go to IMDB):
- Raiders of the lost Ark
- Steven Spielberg
- Harrison Ford
- Vic Armstrong
- Terry Leonard
- Martin Grace
History of film companies as defined by Wikipedia: Lucasfilm Ltd., LLC is an American film and television production company that is best known and responsible for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Lucasfilm was founded by filmmaker George Lucas in 1971. Originally founded in San Rafael, CA a number of operations were moved to San Francisco in 2005 where Lucasfilm has continued as a leader in developing new film technology inspecial effects, sound, and computer animation, and because of their expertise its subsidiaries often help produce non-Lucasfilm pictures. Lucasfilm was acquired in 2012 by The Walt Disney Company for $4.05 billion.
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