[I’ve posted this on some other forums, but it’s probably best here…]
Hi everyone: I’m a newbie here but (naturally) a long-time Indy fan. I saw The Last Crusade
last night for the first time in a while and greatly enjoyed just about every moment of it. I still think it’s the weakest of the three, but that’s (of course) relative; on its own, I think it’s a very strong movie indeed, and Connery and Ford are wonderful together. The last time I saw it, there was a sequence (I think between the castle and the zeppelin?) that I found a little dull; this time, I had no such qualms. Perhaps I was just in the wrong mood last time?
Anyway, I got to thinking about a few things I found curious, and I wonder if anyone else has picked up on them too. Now, all of these may be oft-discussed here or in Indy fan circles in general, but I don’t know and hadn’t picked up on them before.
1) In the opening with River Phoenix, are we originally supposed to think that “Fedora” is Indy? I’d never thought about this before, but we don’t originally know when that opening sequence is taking place, and—this struck me as particularly curious—Herman never calls Phoenix “Indy” until after we see that Fedora isn’t Indy. Spielberg originally shows Fedora with his—er—fedora down, and he’s dressed exactly like Indy. Of course, that’s not a major point, but I just never picked up on it before. EDIT: I confirmed it thanks to a pdf of Jeffrey Boam’s script here
, but I’m sure I’m not the first person to pick up on it.
2. I’ve always thought and still think that the opening is really well-done filmmaking, but I was amused by the fact that Indy developed three important points of his character (not exactly “character traits”)—the use of the whip, the fear of snakes, and the outfit—all from a single adventure on a single day. Not really a flaw as it’s obviously done to show us where he gets all of these, but it’s one of the reasons why I think Indy is best without our delving too far into his character; he’s supposed to be a somewhat enigmatic figure, like two of his inspirations, Charlton Heston in Secret of the Incas
and Robert Taylor in Valley of the Kings
. Having him develop all of these character points in a single day is a bit contrived—but that opening sequence is a ton of fun.
3. I’ve long been amused about how a few scenes in Last Crusade
are derived from From Russia with Love
in particular. The sewer escape (Istanbul with Bond, Venice with Indy) is notable—and this time I picked up on two more, I think: (1) Henry Jones, Sr., is afraid of rats as his son is afraid of snakes, which may be a callback to all the sewer rats in FRwL
, and (2) the scene with Ford and Connery escaping from the plane seems directly borrowed from Connery and Daniela Bianchi running from the plane (which was itself a take-off of North by Northwest
’s crop-duster scene). Spielberg stages and frames the shot nearly identically to the way Terence Young did in FRwL
. I’m guessing those were winks at the audience because of Connery? I’m not usually a big fan of the “wink-wink” approach, but this is subtle enough that it comes across as more a loving tribute. I like it.
4. Alison Doody may well be the weakest “Indy girl,” but I still think she’s quite good. (She’s also incredibly beautiful, which is always a plus!) She betrays Donovan at the end and purposely chooses the false grail for him—OK. But I’m unsure if she’s supposed to be sympathetic or not: she comes across as rather sympathetic, crying about the book-burning, in Berlin, and in retrospect perhaps she told Vogel and Donovan (“I do as the doctor orders”) to keep the Joneses alive because she somehow hoped they’d escape. (Her question for Indy in Berlin was telling, I thought—“what are you doing here?” rather than “how are you still alive?”) And then, at the end, she goes full-blown loony and won’t give Indy her other hand, trying to grasp the Grail instead. The point is clear, especially when juxtaposed just afterwards with Indy in the same situation, where he “chooses wisely” (as the Knight put it) and gives his dad his other hand. But are we supposed to view Miss Doody’s Dr. Schneider sympathetically or not? If not, why all the favorable things she says and does (she doesn’t give Indy away in Berlin) after the twist is revealed? If so, why the elaborate villain death?
5. Apropos of 4, do we ever get a reason why the Grail can’t be taken past the Great Seal? Practically, of course, it makes the climax work, but in-story I would think that the whole point is that the Grail can be removed. For all the criticisms about Raiders’s story happening anyway even if Indy had not got involved (which I think unfounded for reasons previously articulated in this section), with this movie wouldn’t Donovan and the Nazis, who planned to take the Grail, have died anyway when they tried to leave? Ehhh, I’m nitpicking, but it was just something else I noted.
Probably silly points, but I’d appreciate if anyone lets me know if they’ve been mentioned before (I’m sure they have). I like all of the Indy movies (the original three the most, of course), and I had a great time re-watching this one.