RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK shot-for-shot teenage remake review!!!
Published at: May 31, 2003, 7:21 a.m. CST by headgeek
Fandom – Magic – Fate – Passion – Love… They all came together tonight at the Alamo Drafthouse.
In 1981 – I was 9 years old when I saw RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Some of you, though it boggles my brain, were not even born yet. However, to the crowd right now entering our thirties, heading into our mid-thirties and even stepping well into our forties and fifties… June 12, 1981 was one of those – OHMYGOD moments in history. I actually saw RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK at a sneak preview at the Fox Theater here in Austin, Tx 4 days before it opened. That theater is now, oddly, a Mercedes Benz Outlet. I was a maniac before and after that film, but I don’t think I knew a kid that didn’t want to be Indiana Jones.
I was going to central America and South America with my parents to visit temples buried deep in the jungles, and had been for 4 years when I saw that movie. Growing up on serials, it amazed me.
However, in Mississippi – there was a 10 year old boy, also born in 1971 that saw RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and he didn’t idly think… I want to be Indiana Jones… He was determined TO BE INDIANA JONES. His name, Chris Strompolis. He had friends and they all began hatching a plot, “We’ll film a shot-for-shot remake of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK!”
We’re talking 10-11-12 year olds. Kids at the age where they can do anything, dream of anything. We all dream a lot at 10-12… hell, on up through college and until we hit the real world. Some never cease dreaming, few ever really do the dream. Eric Zala, Jayson Lamb and Chris Strompolis shot a shot-for-shot remake of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Close to Seven years later… they finished.
They grew up in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. They learned to sew costumes, blow shit up good, take molds of their heads, drag under motorized vehicles, be hurled through windows, set themselves on fire, set their basement on fire, take over a WWII Submarine, improvise brilliantly another animal for the monkey, blow up a truck, get a shitload of snakes, build a giant boulder, the first kiss, get a girl to strip and put on Marion’s dress while they filmed it in the mirror. They dressed their friends up as Nazis, killed a brother over and over again, made over 40 traditional Arabic costumes, swordfight, beat the shit out of each other, build giant Egyptian statues, con someone out of a Rolls Royce, scour Goodwill’s and Salvation Armies for costumes and props.
This was pre-DV so they had to capture things with BETAMAX recorders, VHS Camcorders… They had substandard equipment, but they got their shots. They weren’t trained actors, but they knew RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.
They started as boys and girls and finished the film as young men and women. They had the hometown screening, they dressed up for it, then Eric Zala, Jayson Lamb and Chris Strompolis went to the four winds. Eric Zala was the director and played Belloq – he went to NYU film school. Jayson Lamb set out to pursue a creative position in film and wound up in Fine Art in College. Chris Strompolis – well he went to become an actor in Hollywood, went to school, studied the craft, got a few bits here and there. Point is, for 7 years these kids shared a dream, and now they were gone.
As fate would have it, the story of their shot for shot remake of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK became a bit of a thing of legend. Whispered about at NYU film school. A copy was made. A copy of that copy was made. Then those spawned more, till it began drifting around. Years pass by. To Eric, Chris and Jayson - it had probably become something they’d show a new friend or loved one… “This was my childhood.” But otherwise, like most memories of childhood, it became fodder for conversation, but it probably would stay in childhood.
Unknown to any of them – fate was working behind their back.
I had begun to form a friendship with Eli Roth while he was in post on CABIN FEVER. Unknown to Eli Roth – the artist who did the original teaser one-sheet for TEMPLE OF DOOM was doing my Butt-Numb-A-Thon 4 poster. All of this would have meant nothing to the three childhood friends. But fate works mysteriously. Then I travel to Sitges, Spain and so does Eli Roth. Two Americans – wildly out of place, having the time of their lives – chatting, telling old lies and new ones, Eli was going to bring CABIN FEVER to my All-Night Horror Marathon I was doing with Tim League. Eli attends that – falls in love with Harry & Tim League's insanity, decides he must attend BUTT-NUMB-A-THON 4. The poster comes out – the Indiana Harry poster… Eli looks at that poster thinking what a huge fan I must be of Indiana Jones and…
…makes a copy of a tape he got while at NYU of… the RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK shot for shot remake. As I entered the Alamo Drafthouse at BNAT last year, Eli pushes it in my hands, tells me, “You’ve never seen anything like this, if there’s anywhere you can play this, play this. It was made by kids for like 8-10 years --- you’ve got to see it, this crowd would love it.”
I look at the tape, think… why not, and go up to the theater, hand the tape to Tim League with the instructions… “Tim – if we hit any dead time – put this in!” Tim looks at it, shrugs a bit… I got the idea he had weird stuff of his own he was wanting to put in, I doubted we would see it that night or the following day.
After two of the films at BNAT 4 bombed and before the gigantic silent film SALOME II, there was some spare time… Some how we were an HOUR ahead of schedule. We needed to “stretch” and Tim was up in the booth, saw the tape and thought… Yeah. It gets put in. It’s like 8am, the audience is filled with the biggest geeks in the world and suddenly with exhausted eyes, they’re watching what seems to be teenage children doing a shot for shot remake of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. There was no introduction – but really… it needed no introduction.
It stole BUTT-NUMB-A-THON 4. The premieres? Shameres. Eric Zala’s RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK – began to capture the audience. We kept waiting for them to drop the ball, but they were rising to each and every occasion. After key moments, cheers began rocking the Drafthouse. People started trying to guess how these kids would pull off the next big moment. And they always were doing it bigger than we could imagine.
When it came time for that final film, and Tim pulled the plug on it, right as Indy says, “WHAT TRUCK!?!?!” the audience boos. I get up to introduce the next film and say, “I want to see the rest of this RAIDERS thing,” but TIM – ever the schedule keeper insists we show SALOME II, the audience begrudgingly agrees then cheers often through that.
ELI ROTH – was so blown away by the performance and acceptance of Zala’s RAIDERS that he becomes obsessive about several things. 1)Tracking down Eric Zala. 2)Directing the Olsen Twins and Monkeys. 3) Getting the film into Steven Spielberg’s hands and getting a response. While he has yet to achieve the 2nd obsession, the first and third… he got. Spielberg was astonished at the ingenuity and imagination with which these kids recaptured the magic of his, arguably, greatest film. After that – Eli suddenly gets a DVD of the film from Eric Zala, then hooks Eric up with Tim League – who after watching the audience at BNAT nearly go RIOT when he cut the film off, well… he became obsessing about showing this film and bringing the director, photographer and the star, Indiana Jones to the Drafthouse for a big event.
That Event was tonight.
Very few of the BNAT people were in the audience, I’d say… under 10. I showed up, because no earthly power could keep me away. I get there, turns up Tim is caught at another event and I am immediately roped into introducing Eric, Jayson and Chris and the film. I hadn’t really thought about how to introduce the film. So essentially, I told the story of how it came to be at the Alamo Drafthouse and the audience was jazzed. I mean thrilled to be seeing this thing.
On Friday night, I met Eric, Jayson and Chris at Tim League’s house for Bar-B-Que after I’d seen WRONG TURN. The thing that struck me, was they couldn’t imagine why folks would come out to see their childhood project. They like it, but that’s because every moment had earned blood, sweat and tears. They had trauma and success invested throughout. But I overheard Jayson wonder if anybody would come.
TONIGHT – the place was PACKED TO THE GILLS. The audience stunned, entertained, cheering and laughing not because it is bad, but because of how good these guys pulled this sucker off. Laughed because in Chris Strompolis’ face he captures the magic of Harrison Ford in the film. Because – when we see him and Marion in Captain Katanga’s cabin – and Marion is kissing the spots that don’t hurt… We’re witnessing Chris Strompolis’ first kiss… ever. The moment has John Williams under it, but it’s so honest and real feeling that the scene blew the audience away as if they were seeing it again… LITERALLY FOR THE FIRST TIME.
Watching the Truck scene – and seeing the fear on his face as he holds onto a falling apart grill and going under the truck… We know this isn’t Terry Leonard going under the truck being dragged… we know this video camera can’t be UNDERCRANKED… Here… We see Chris Strompolis wondering if he’s gonna die trying to be Indiana Jones and it is brilliant.
The film was made to see if they could do it. To learn how to make a movie. As a dare to themselves reinforced by dozens of naysayers along the way. This was all about doing it, because giving up wasn’t an option.
They’d spent Christmas wishes to get a case of spray-paint. Asking parents for a Fedora for Chris' birthday, a bullwhip for Eric’s birthday. This became a neighborhood thing, a challenge to themselves and a sacrifice of not sitting in front of that ATARI 2600 – but in BECOMING Indiana Jones and Belloq.
I feel this is the best damn fan film I’ve ever seen. The love and passion and sacrifice is on every single frame of this thing. And tonight as they received their STANDING OVATION for 4 solid minutes – I saw 3 friends on that stage thinking – Jesus, how did we get here? The three of them haven’t all seen each other in the same room in 7 years. Tonight, they saw the magic that can happen when they do.
Personally, this is what fandom to me is about. This sort of triumph. This sort of magic.
If Lucas or Spielberg or the folks at Paramount were smart, they’d be contacting Eric Zala and crew to put this thing on an Extra Disc for that RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK DVD set – Along with a little interview thing with the three kids all grown up. Why? Because frankly – this is the dream of what films can do. Motivate kids to learn and make it. To get that first kiss, to make that first facemask, to create Nazi Uniforms and giant boulders. Because, for everyone that saw this thing, they’d remember who they were when they saw this film, that they were Indiana Jones, that they could have the greatest adventure ever. Because this thing is magic. Because it’d make for great stories and interviews and publicity, but most of all because it’d be so damn cool.