With River Phoenix's 1989 appearance as young Indiana Jones (in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) still in the rear-view mirror, George Lucas developed a TV series that would use the character as a vehicle to introduce historical characters and cultural concepts to a young audience. Airing on ABC for two short seasons and wrapping up as four feature-length episodes produced for The Family Channel, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles stayed true to its imperative with educational adventures starring Corey Carrier as the boy Jones and Sean Patrick Flanery playing Jones as a teen and young man.
The series suffered from unrealistic expectations created by the film series, but by television standards it was an unprecedented effort, one that benefited enormously from Lucas' deep pockets. Shot in over 35 countries (on budget-conscious 16mm), the series demanded period verisimilitude in terms of sets and costumes. The corny concept required a different brand of supended disbelief than the films: Indy had a knack for making fast friends with the most important people of the twentieth century, including Sigmund Freud, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy, Sidney Bechet, Elliot Ness, Howard Carter and T.E. Lawrence.
For most of the ABC episodes, the series included an Old Indy (George Hall), aged 93, but inveterate tinkerer Lucas excised every bit of Old Indy when the series was recut into 22 feature-length episodes and arranged chronologically for home video releases. Not to worry, though: the special guest appearance by Harrison Ford remains intact in Mystery of the Blues. The wraparound set in 1950 Wyoming amounts to five minutes of footage, and represented a last-ditch effort to prolong a series not embraced by a large enough portion of the masses.
In young Indy's orbit were his father (Lloyd Owen doing a spot-on imitation of Sean Connery's Scottish drawl); his mother (Ruth De Sosa), before the character's early demise; and his governess-tutor Helen Seymour (Margaret Tyzack). The growing Indy would have brushes with his father and Miss Seymour, but spent most of his time in the company of Belgian buddy Remy (Ronny Coutture), with whom Indy fought in the Great War. The WWI episodes, several penned by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) stand among the series' best.
Lucas attracted an impressive roster of writers (including Carrie Fisher) and directors, including Mike Newell, Nicolas Roeg, Bille August, Deepa Mehta, Terry Jones, Simon Wincer, and Robert Young. The guest-star roster boasted Jones, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Lee, Daniel Craig, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Michael Gough, Elizabeth Hurley, Lukas Haas, Jane Krakowski, Anne Heche, Kenneth Cranham, Timothy Spall, Tim McInnerney, Charles McKeown, Freddie Jones, Peter Firth, Tom Courtenay, Jennifer Ehle, Josef Sommer, Jeroen Krabbe, Frank Vincent, Ian McDiarmid, and Paul Freeman (Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark —though he played a different role on the series).
Though some fans could never wrap their heads around a kid Indy given to enthusiastic exhortations like "Geez Louise!" and "Holy smokes!", Carrier's curious and recklessly adventure-hungry version of Jones makes sense. And Flanery was a canny choice for the transitional Indy, whose sometimes klutzy naïveté was reflected in romance and threatened by exposure to the realities of war and politics. Approached with an open mind, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles offers an intriguing angle on one of the greatest characters in modern cinema.
[The episode guide below lists the home-video feature titles and the episode names/settings from the series' original run.]
My First Adventure:
"The Curse of the Jackal" (Part I) (Egypt, May 1908)
Passion for Life:
"British East Africa, September 1909"
"Paris, September 1908"
The Perils of Cupid:
"Vienna, November 1908"
"Florence, May 1908"
Travels with Father:
"Travels with Father" (Russia, 1910)
"Travels with Father" (Athens, 1910)
Journey of Radiance:
"Benares, January 1910"
"Peking, March 1910"
Spring Break Adventure:
"Princeton, February 1916"
" The Curse of the Jackal" (Part II) (Mexico, March 1916)
Love's Sweet Song:
"Ireland, April 1916"
"London, May 1916"
Trenches of Hell:
"Somme, Early August 1916"
"Germany, Mid-August 1916"
Demons of Deception:
"Verdun, September 1916"
"Paris, October 1916"
Phantom Train of Doom:
"The Phantom Train of Doom" (Part I) (German East Africa, November 1916)
"The Phantom Train of Doom" (Part II) (German East Africa, November 1916)
Oganga, the Giver and Taker of Life:
"German East Africa, December 1916"
"Congo, January 1917"
Attack of the Hawkmen:
"Attack of the Hawkmen" (Ravenelle, Germany, 1917)
"Attack of the Hawkmen" (Ahlgorn, Germany 1917)
Adventures in the Secret Service:
"Austria, March 1917"
"Petrograd, July 1917"
"Barcelona, May 1917"
"Prague, August 1917"
Daredevils of the Desert:
"Palestine, October 1917" (Part I)
"Palestine, October 1917 (Part II)
Tales of Innocence:
"Northern Italy, June 1918"
Masks of Evil:
"Transylvania, January 1918"
"Istanbul, September 1918"
Treasure of the Peacock's Eye:
"Treasure of the Peacock's Eye" (London/Egypt, November 1919)
"Treasure of the Peacock's Eye" (South Pacific, November 1919)
The Winds of Change:
"Paris, May 1919"
Mystery of the Blues:
"The Mystery of the Blues" (Part I) (Chicago, April 1920)
"The Mystery of the Blues" (Part II) (Chicago, May 1920)
Scandal of 1920:
"The Scandal of 1920" (New York, June 1920)
"The Scandal of 1920" (New York, July 1920)
"The Hollywood Follies" (Hollywood, August 1920)
"The Hollywood Follies" (Hollywood, August 1920)
Look up "labor of love" in your DVD guide, and you'll see a picture of these three astounding box sets. Lucasfilm, in conjunction with Paramount Home Video, has pulled out the stops to make The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones a home-video event. Despite problematic 16mm masters, Lucasfilm has polished the picture quality to look quite good, and the Dolby Digital stereo tracks are certainly adequate. The real story here are the phenomenal bonus features: though there isn't a single bonus feature devoted to the show's production (a shame, that-not even a commentary), creator-producer George Lucas has bigger fish to fry: namely, he has produced a series of documentaries to accompany each Young Indy feature, covering the historical characters and cultural phenomena addressed in each episode.
Over 12 discs, Volume One holds the first seven features (cut together from fourteen original episodes): My First Adventure, Passion for Life, The Perils of Cupid, Travels With Father, Journey of Radiance, Spring Break Adventure, and Love's Sweet Song. If twelve discs sounds like overkill for seven ninety-minute movies, consider the documentaries: "Archaeology: Unearthing Our Past" (19:17), "Howard Carter and the Tomb of Tutankhamun" (22:33), "Colonel Lawrence's War - T.E. Lawrence and Arabia" (36:05), "From Slavery to Freedom" (30:08), "Theodore Roosevelt and The American Century" (30:52), "Ecology - Pulse of the Planet" (24:12), "American Dreams - Norman Rockwell - The Saturday Evening Post" (24:17), "Art Rebellion - The Making of the Modern" (26:07), "Edgar Degas - Reluctant Rebel" (22:53), "Braque + Picasso - A Collaboration" (23:14), "Giacomo Puccini - The Music of the Heart" (25:34), "It's Opera!" (29:02), "The Archduke's Last Journey - End of an Era" (20:56), "Powder Keg - Europe 1900-1914" (26:06), "Sigmund Freud - Exploring the Unconscious" (21:57), "Carl Jung and the Journey of Self Discovery" (19:30), "Psychology - Charting the Human Mind" (26:33), "Seeking Truth - Life of Leo Tolstoy" (31:15), "Unquiet Voices - Russian Writers and the State" (26:00), "Aristotle - Creating Foundations" (21:37), "Ancient Questions - Philosophy and Our Search for Meaning" (23:52), "Jiddu Krishnamuti - The Reluctant Messiah" (26:50), "Annie Besant - An Unlikely Rebel" (26:56), "Medicine in the Middle Kingdom" (26:49), "Eastern Spirituality - The Road to Enlightenment" (29:06), "Thomas Edison - Lighting Up the World" (26:53), "Invention and Innovation - What's Behind a Good Idea?" (22:55), "The Mystery of Edward Stratemeyer" (26:15), "Wanted: Dead or Alive - Pancho Villa and the American Invasion of Mexico" (28:10), "General John J. Pershing and His American Army" (28:26), "George S. Patton - American Achilles" (29:35), "Easter Rising - The Poets' Rebellion" (25:54), "The Passions of William Butler Yeats" (27:43), "Sean O'Casey vs. Ireland" (25:18), "Ireland - The Power of the Poets" (26:53), "Winston Churchill - The Lion's Roar" (33:48), "Demanding the Vote - The Pankhursts and British Suffrage" (27:07), and "Fighting for the Vote - Women's Suffrage in America" (31:29). You can start eating those doubting words-these twelve discs are enough to make a grown history buff cry.
The documentaries are expertly produced, with archival footage when available and comments by expert authors and university professors with authority on the given subject matter. For good measure, disc twelve is an "Interactive Bonus Disc," with not only a DVD-ROM "Interactive Timeline" and "'Revolution' Interactive Game," but also a fascinating historical lecture: "The Promise of Progress," conducted by H.W. Brands, a history professor at the University of Texas, Austin.
After the jump, a review of Volume Two!
Say goodbye to the younger Young Indy (Corey Carrier) as the elder Young Indy (Sean Patrick Flanery) takes center stage for good in Volume Two of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones. This nine-disc set features the same high-quality transfers of Lucas' re-edited Young Indy features: in this case, Trenches of Hell; Demons of Deception; Phantom Train of Doom; Oganga, The Giver and Taker of Life; Attack of the Hawkmen; Adventures in the Secret Service; Espionage Escapades; and Daredevils of the Desert.
Again, Lucas serves up a staggering wealth of documentaries: "The Somme" (26:49), "Siegfried Sassoon: A War Poets Journey" (30:09), "Robert Graves and the White Goddess" (30:18), "I Am France: The Myth of Charles de Gaulle" (30:09), "Into the Furnace: The Battle of Verdun" (28:45), "Marshal Petain's Fall From Grace" (30:41), "Flirting with Disaster: The Fantasy of Mata Hari" (29:53), "Reading the Enemy's Mind: Espionage in World War I" (24:21), "Chasing the Phantom: Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck" (24:54), "Dreaming of Africa: The Life of Frederick Selous" (25:06), "At Home and Abroad: The Two Faces of Jan Smuts" (32:17), "Albert Schweitzer: Reverence for Life" (29:47), "Congo: A Curse of Riches" (32:39), "Waging Peace: The Rise of Pacifism" (26:02), "War in the Third Dimension: Aerial Warfare in World War I" (26:43), "Blood Red: The Life and Death of Manfred von Richthofen" (27:34), "Flying High for France: The Lafayette Escadrille" (26:13), "Anthony Fokker: The Flying Dutchman" (27:31), "Karl: The Last Habsburg Emperor" (29:49), "The Russian Revolt: All Power to the Soviets" (33:36), "V.I. Lenin: History Will Not Forgive Us" (33:54), "Impresario: Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes" (28:13), "Ballet: The Art of Dance" (32:16), "Franz Kafka's Dark Truth" (31:21), "Lines in the Sand: The Middle East and the Great War" (34:29), and "Colonel Lawrence's War: T.E. Lawrence and Arabia" (36:05), carried over from Volume One. These colorful historical stories, dynamically retold, are sure to get kids interested in history.
Disc nine is built around historical lecture "War and Revolution" (1:03), conducted by H.W. Brands, a history professor at the University of Texas, Austin. DVD-ROM users can enjoy another "Interactive Timeline" and "'Special Delivery' Interactive Game."
After the jump, a review of Volume Three!
Volume Three—subtitled "The Years of Change"—could almost as well be called "That's Entertainment." On this ten-disc set, we get fine presentations of the final seven features: Tales of Innocence, Masks of Evil, Treasure of the Peacock's Eye, The Winds of Change, Mystery of the Blues, Scandal of 1920, and Hollywood Follies. The series gets into some typically weighty topics here (the resolution of WWI), but also the legend of Dracula, and the early days of Hollywood.
This time the roster of documentaries comprises "Unhealed Wounds - The Life of Ernest Hemingway" (34:56), "The French Foreign Legion - The World's Most Legendary Fighting Force" (28:22), "The Secret Life of Edith Wharton" (30:35), "Lowell Thomas—American Storyteller" (29:18), "For the People, Despite the People - The Ataturk Revolution" (30:25), "The Ottoman Empire - A World of Difference" (33:05), "The Greedy Heart of Halide Edib" (28:23), "Dracula - Fact and Fiction" (24:53), "Bronislaw Malinowski - God Professor" (29:34), "Anthropology - Looking at the Human Condition" (23:49), "New Guinea - Paradise in Peril" (25:05), "The Best Intentions - The Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles" (33:15), "Woodrow Wilson - American Idealist" (28:41), "Gertrude Bell - Iraq's Uncrowned Queen" (33:07), "Ho Chi Minh - The Price of Freedom" (31:01), "Paul Robeson - Scandalize My Name" (32:32), "Robert Goddard - Mr. Rocket Science" (31:34). "Al 'Scarface' Capone: The Original Gangster" (27:55), "On the Trail of Eliot Ness" (29:21), "America on the Rocks" (32:45), "Jazz - Rhythms of Freedom" (31:55), "Louis Armstrong - Ambassador of Jazz" (31:55), "Ben Hecht - Shakespeare of Hollywood" (31:15), "Hellfighters - Harlem's Heroes of World War One" (29:15), "Tin Pan Alley: Soundtrack of America" (31:15), "Wonderful Nonsense: The Algonquin Round Table" (26:00), "Broadway: America Center Stage" (29:58), "The Rise of the Moguls: The Men Who Built Hollywood" (25:40), "Erich Von Stroheim: The Profligate Genius" (32:53), "Irving Thalberg: Hollywood's Boy Wonder" (32:30), and "The World of John Ford" (33:19). Among the talking heads in the Hollywood docs: none other than the American dean of cinema Martin Scorsese.
Again, the last disc is the province of a sterling historical lecture, "New Gods for Old" (1:04), conducted by H.W. Brands, a history professor at the University of Texas, Austin. DVD-ROM users can enjoy another "Interactive Timeline" and "'Hunting for Treasure' Interactive Game." In summary, the three-volume The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones on DVD is one of the most thoughtful DVD sets ever produced. Even those skeptical of television might agree that this series would make an ideal centerpiece for a Family Movie Night programmed with school-age kids in mind. That said, adult History Channel junkies would also make good candidiates to receive these discs come Christmastime.
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