As movie fans, we all like to think we are the biggest fans. We strive for the most knowledge, we seek out special editions, autographed editions, rare and out of print editions, the list goes on and on. Some of us even seek out props in auctions and eBay sales to showcase on our mantles for our friends and relatives to be jealous of. There are many different ways to fly your movie fandom for all to see, claiming you are the one true fan of said movie. Well, we can all put our swords down in that fight because a few super fans of Indiana Jones and the first film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, have put all of that to shame and made it a life legacy to make the perfect ode to their favorite movie of all time and it’s something that no one is going to be able to replicate. Funny enough, replicate is a key word here.
Now, before I go into the description of what super fans Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb did, I have to express my own jealousy of their inventiveness. Had I been more an explorer creatively at a younger age, I too could have attempted something to the magnitude of what these three dreamers came up with and given the more relaxed nature of the times (these filmmakers being about a decade older than me), it was much easier to get away with doing crazy things with out the knowledge of our authoritative figures. It used to be a hell of a lot easier to have a Stand By Me style adventure, minus the dead body. My point is that this film gave me an inspired feeling but in a nostalgic and retrospective way. Something like what I’ll describe to you now could never happen in this technological watchdog society we live in.
So, after watching Raiders of the Lost Ark in theatres, just once, Chris Strompolos got the idea that he wanted to do a shot for shot remake of the famed Steven Spielberg film with the participation of friends and classmates. Taking on the hero role of Indiana Jones himself, Chris looked to his best friend Eric Zala to take control behind the camera, also serving as a producer of the film with Chris. They then employed a definite odd duck, Jayson Lamb, as the special effects guru to bring much needed things like bullet squibs, blood, ghosts and melting faces to this massive undertaking. We’re not talking a summer project here, as Chris, Eric, Jayson and their crew of volunteers constructed this fan film, starting in 1982, and over the next several summers, they managed to finish every scene in the movie except for one.
Twenty five years later in 2014, the members of the group had to finally shake the feeling of an unfinished film and create the sequence that had been left missing for so long. Battling and moving past bad blood, unrealized goals and bad past decisions, they come together to finish a film that had since garnered a huge and loyal following due to the efforts from Ain’t It Cool’s Harry Knowles through his Butt-Numb-a-Thon film festival and filmmaker Eli Roth. Having to use huge props and large practical explosions, it may very well be over Chris and Eric’s head to achieve some completion.
In 2007, Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy filmmaker Garth Jennings made a movie called Son Of Rambow, about a young boy reenacting Rambo shot for shot. It’s a movie that I found very rousing and the love for the subject film was really endearing and Raiders! embodied that so much more to me just with it being real. Chris’s dedication and determination, even putting his body at risk, really puts you onside with the adventure inspired dreamers. In the pivotal filming of that long sought final sequence, you are biting your nails with them and what happens, well, I never saw it coming.
When it comes to people who deeply love documentaries, Raiders! is a film that satisfies on a reality character level. The story is mostly given to you chronologically with intercutting of the preparation and some of the latest shoot. Any cinema fan is going to eat this one up, identifying with that infinite admiration for a certain piece of work. I’m using inspiring a lot but it truly is. My only issue comes really with the interview fades to black that happen a number of times throughout. It’s done for a dramatic effect that I felt wasn’t needed as the story kind of speaks for itself. It really wasn’t enough to detract from my enjoyment overall but was a slight pet peeve.
The greatest possible screening for a film like Raiders! The Story Of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, the perfect world of a cinephile way would be to watch the documentary, to soak in the imagination and later strife, then follow it up with the Raiders adaptation that Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb made. In an even more wonderful movie world, we’d watch the Spielberg Raiders to finish. It’s a nice dream, albeit a bit small, but it’s one that doesn’t seem so unattainable after you watch three kids recreate an iconic piece of time using friendship, borrowed things and a little unsupervised adventuring. If anything, Raiders! is a fun watch that will make you doubt the lengths of your own fandom. I give it a four out of five.