"Raiders Of The Lost Ark": 12 Year Olds Remake A Classic
For years I've heard underground whispers of a 1980's fan-made recreation of the original Indiana Jones movie. I only ever got disjointed little bits and pieces of the story. First I heard it was young boys who'd shot the film, then that it was young men. With no real knowledge of filmmaking they went and saw the film obsessively in 1981, secretly tape recorded the sound track, and came up with their own ad hoc storyboard of the whole film. I'd heard that one of the “stars” of the film had set himself on fire with gasoline, a resident of their their small home town still has the giant prop boulder from their recreation of one of the film's signature scenes, the snakes were mostly cut up garden hoses... Many odd “facts” about this mystery movie have floated around for years.
Turns out that pretty much everything I heard is true.
As boys, Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb spent every summer from 1982 – 1989 (that's eight summers, folks!) crafting their shot-for-shot recreation of the film they'd later entitle “Raiders: The Adaptation”. Amazingly they did actually finish the film. Fortunately the project is charming enough that you can ignore the amateurish moments, admire the surprisingly accomplished low-tech effects, and forget that the principal actors seem to vary wildly in age and appearance from scene to scene. Just check out this YouTube clip.
What started as a boyhood dream turned into an obsession, with lots of drama both in front of the camera and behind it. The details of the story take up a whole chapter in “Homemade Hollywood”, including it's rediscovery over the last few years (see our review).
The movie has been wildly popular at SF & fantasy conventions. It was even screened at Skywalker Ranch for employees of a Mr. George Lucas. Everyone loved The Adaptation so much they clamored for the video's release. The filmmakers flippantly answered “Ask your boss”. As it turns out, both Lucas and Spielberg have seen the video with Spielberg calling it “the best piece of flattery that George and I have ever received”.
The filmmakers named their group Rolling Boulder Productions, and in the space of a few years went from being a sci-fi convention whispered oddity, to internet notoriety, to actually meeting Steven Spielberg. As if that weren't enough, get this... their story has been optioned by a Hollywood producer, and a screenplay is currently being written by Daniel “Ghost World” Clowes. How Spielberg-ian an ending is that?
Whether their small town video will ever turn into Tinseltown celluloid is anyone's guess. The story is such an odd Moebius of logic and self-reference that it might be hard to sell as a true story. It does make me smile to think of how many projects similar to this one we have all naively hurled ourselves at as kids. How many of us could finish even one of those projects decades later? Is the Hollywood myth true? If we work hard enough can we all accomplish our dreams and befriend our heroes? Or is it that the boys from Rolling Boulder have used up all the good luck for the rest of us?