In Harrison Ford’s first outing as the charming, daring and just-bungling-enough archaeologist, Indiana Jones races against the Nazis, and arch-rival Belloq, to track down the Ark of the Covenant from the Bible, in Steven Spielberg’s action adventure.
The Paramount Pictures logo becomes an actual mountain. Cicadas are chirruping. A man in a worn leather jacket and a battered fedora obscures the mountain peak from our view as he surveys the inhospitable terrain between him and his goal. We don’t see his face until one of his crew draws a weapon. Quick as lightning, the crack of a bullwhip, the gun falls to the ground discharging one round as Harrison Ford steps from the shadows into his second iconic role in only four years – Indiana Jones.
The rest is cinematic history – the golden statue, the massive boulder, the louche French nemesis, Belloq (Paul Freeman), who always seems to pip our hero to the post, the rekindling of an old flame – well, more a raging blaze really – with the indomitable Marion (Karen Allen), and the deliciously cartoonish Gestapo officer, Toht (Ronald Lacey) and his sinister folding coat hanger. That’s not to mention students so smitten by Jones they write ‘I love you’ on their eyelids, his one vulnerability: ‘snakes – I hate ’em’, the actual Ark of the Covenant and melting faces that seemed so frightening at the time, and that massive warehouse with all the boxes. It’s just one hell of a film. And remember – it belongs in a museum!