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DRAFTHOUSE

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Tim Skousen and Jeremy Coon
Cast:
Eric Zala, Chris Strompolos, Jayson Lamb, Eli Roth
Writing Credits:
Tim Skousen and Jeremy Coon

Synopsis:
The true, decades-spanning tale of the greatest fan film ever made.

MPAA:
Not Rated

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 93 min.
Price: $19.95
Release Date: 6/17/2014

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Tim Skousen and Producer/Director Jeremy Coon
• Audio Commentary with Film Subjects Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos
• Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes from “The Adaptation”
• Alamo Drafthouse Q&A
• Trailers
• Booklet


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made [Blu-Ray] (2015)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 10, 2016)

Back during my adolescence, I liked to shoot short movie parodies with my Super8 film camera. I always dreamed that I’d have the ability to do something that a) lasted longer then three minutes, 20 seconds, and b) allowed for niceties like editing. However, my “filmmaking career” predated the easy access to consumer video cameras, so none of this ever occurred.

Eric Zala took the “home movie” idea and ran with it. Back in 1982, he and his friends embarked on an attempt to create a shot-for-shot remake of 1981’s classic Raiders of the Lost Ark. A documentary called Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made gives us a look at this topic.

Raiders shows at what led Zala and his pals to attempt this endeavor. We also hear about aspects of the seven-year shoot and its ramifications. In addition, we see which scene Zala and company never executed – and their desire to finally complete the project.

Raiders follows the standard documentary framework, so it focuses on interviews. We hear from Zala, actor/producer Chris Strompolos, Film Threat founder Chris Gore, filmmaker Eli Roth, Ain’t It Cool News founder Harry Knowles, Chris’ father Steve Strompolos, Chris’ mother Elaine Stevens, Eric’s brother Kurt Zala, Eric’s sixth grade teacher Milton Biebvenu, author Alan Eisenstock, Eric’s wife Cassie Zala, plane builder Mark Spain, camera and effects Jayson Lamb, Eric’s mother Mary Jensen, Eric’s stepfather Dave Jensen, director of photography Francisco Gonzalez, “adult supervisor” Peter Keefer, TV anchorman David Elliott, 2nd AD Michael Mobley, Eric’s former boss Dave Arnspiger, Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League, 8th Dimension Comic Book’s Annie and Jeremy Bulloch, film critic Alan Cerny, writer Ernie Cline, Chris’s Monica Leigh Rodriguez, and actors John Rhys-Davies, Scott Lionberger, Alan Stenum, Clay Legrone, Joey Roberts, Angela Rodriguez and Jason Melton.

Even if I didn’t enjoy the childhood love of home movie-making embraced by those involved here, Raiders still would’ve sounded fascinating due to the scope of the project. It’s one thing to create a short project – lots of kids did that – but it’s another to take on something as ambitious as a total feature film remake.

In the case of Raiders, this leads to a sporadically interesting documentary. The film fares best when it looks at the original shoot. The aspects of the program that tell us about the subjects as kids and discuss how they worked on the film over such a long period of time often become very interesting.

Unfortunately, these don’t go into the depth I’d prefer, and we spend way too much time on the modern-day attempt to finish the film. Some of that seems intriguing, but I admit I just don’t care all that much about the filmmakers’ desire to finally shoot the airplane sequence.

Some of this attitude comes from the shift in expectations, as Zala’s obsessiveness can be frustrating. As kids who made this remake, they had nothing to lose, but we see how Zala actively risks his job and his family’s well-being to complete the movie.

And for what? It’s not especially clear why Zala seems so desperate to shoot the final scene. The adaptation gained lots of notoriety over the years without the Nazi plane sequence, so it never becomes obvious why Zala needs to finish off a project that already was a success.

Raiders does engage in some psychoanalysis, but that mainly looks at the kids’ desire to work on the adaptation over such a long period of time. Whether or not their remake boasts any artistic value, I admire the kids for their refusal to say die – they made a relatively intricate production and showed the perseverance to keep with it over many years.

Some of Raiders gives hints about motivations behind this, mainly in the way it presents the adaptation as a refuge from problems within the kids’ home lives. Insights related to ups and downs in the Zala/Strompolos relationship also hint at emotion.

These feelings fail to materialize in a satisfying manner during the modern-day moments. As noted, Zala takes many risks to complete the film, but we get little reason why. That creates a bit of a void.

Still, I do like the glimpses of the original shoot, and when Raiders sticks with those, it turns into a winner. Most of the documentary works fairly well, but its occasional missteps make it less satisfying than I’d like.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Raiders! The Story Of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Overall, this was a solid image.

I didn’t factor the archival material not shot explicitly for Raiders into my grade. Those elements demonstrated a mix of flaws, but it didn’t seem fair to criticize the disc for problems that seem inevitable with that kind of stuff.

As for the new shots, they presented good sharpness. These elements usually looked crisp and detailed, and they betrayed few signs of softness. Those bits portrayed no problems with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. Outside of the archival materials, print flaws failed to mar the presentation.

Not surprisingly, the movie’s palette tended toward natural tones. The hues came across with positive clarity and definition, so they were more than adequate within their subdued goals. Blacks also seemed deep and firm, while the occasional low-light shots appeared well defined and clean. I felt this was a positive presentation.

Given the film’s focus, I expected little from the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Raiders, and it usually displayed the limited focus I anticipated. Dialogue remained the core, as the majority of the film’s information came from interviews or other conversational bits. Music spread to the sides pretty well and a few effects added pep, but the track stayed dialogue intensive.

Audio quality seemed fine. Speech was consistently crisp and concise, with no issues connected to edginess or intelligibility. Music and effects remained background elements to a substantial degree, but they seemed well-reproduced and clear. Ultimately, the audio of Raiders worked for the film, even if it lacked much ambition.

We get a mix of extras here, and we open with two audio commentaries. The first features writer/director Tim Skousen and producer/director Jeremy Coon. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at aspects of the shoot, interview subjects, editing and deleted scenes, music, and related topics.

Overall, Skousen and Coon offer a fairly good view of the film. They give us a reasonable number of insights and tell us a bit about the challenges they encountered. Whle not a great track, the commentary works.

The second commentary features film subjects Eric Zala and Chris Strampolos. Both also sit together for their own running, screen-specific view of their experiences during the creation of the adaptation, working on the modern-day shoot, the documentary itself and varios connections/relationships.

Though the commentary starts slowly, it picks up pretty well before too long. Zala and Strampolos manage to delve into the requisite topics in a manner that gives us a mix of new insights. I’d have preferred a bit more about the original 1980s shoot, but the track still adds good material.

10 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 32 minutes, 29 seconds. These offer info about the original 1980s shoot as well as efforts for the modern-day airplane scene. As was the case in the final film, the latter elements don’t interest me much, but the glimpses into the work done by the kids prove to be interesting.

We also find outtakes from “The Adaptation”. This collection runs 19 minutes, 33 seconds and shows behind the scenes footage from the original shoot. I can’t call any of this material fascinating, but it’s still fun to see what the kids went through back in the 80s.

Next comes a Q&A from the Alamo Drafthouse premiere of “The Adaptation”. From May 2003, it lasts 40 minutes, 43 seconds and features Zala, Strampolos and fellow “Adaptation” filmmaker Jayson Lamb. They chat about various aspects of the production. Some of this appears in the commentaries, but we get enough new insights to make the Q&A worth a look.

Trailers offers promos for Raiders, 20,000 Days on Earth, A Band Called Death, The Final Member and I Declare War. Finally, a booklet presents storyboards from the “Adaptation”.

A second disc offers a DVD Copy of Raiders. It includes the same extras as the Blu-ray.

As a look at an unusual film remake, Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made comes with ups and downs. Still, it does more right than wrong, so even though it may be inconsistent, the documentary mostly works. The Blu-ray provides generally solid picture and audio as well as a pretty good collection of bonus materials. I’d like a little more insight from it, but I find Raiders usually entertains.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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