The third film in Spielberg’s Indiana Jones series has Indy assisting his eccentric father, Henry (Sean Connery) in nothing less than a search for the Holy Grail (albeit several hundred years after Monty Python’s knights went looking for it!).
In a prologue set in the 1910s, teen Indiana Jones (played by River Phoenix) discovers a group of no-good treasure hunters while on a hike with his Boy Scout troop.
The archaeologist-to-be knows that their find – the jewel-encrusted Cross of Coronado – belongs in a museum, so he steals it and tries to make his escape.
The ensuing chase spills onto a passing circus train, where the origins of several of Indy’s famous features are revealed – the bullwhip, the fear of snakes, even the little scar on his chin.
The adventurous teen loses the cross but gains his trademarked fedora, given to him by one of the treasure hunters.
Flash forward to 1939, where a now-grown Indy tries to get the cross back during a storm at sea. Back on land, Indy gets the news that his father has disappeared on his never-ending search for the Holy Grail, which promises immortality to whoever drinks from it.
The elder Dr Jones has compiled the ultimate reference guide – his personal diary – and the Nazis are willing to steal, kidnap, or kill to have it.
Only Henry and Indy know the diary’s location, and since it’s the only way to get his father out of the Nazis’ hands, Indy mounts yet another quest.
Once again, director Steven Spielberg and executive producer George Lucas set out to top themselves with a non-stop parade of stunts and chases, involving boats, motorcycles, zeppelins, dogfighters, horses, tanks and more.
Yet another lady love came on the scene – this one with the shadiest background yet – and the elder Dr Jones finally revealed the truth behind the name “Indiana”.
Connery is superb and he and Ford have excellent chemistry between them as their quest takes them through rat-infested underground tombs, a castle in Austria crawling with Nazis, exploding sewers, snake pits, and even a face-to-face encounter with Hitler himself.
The story, locations and supporting cast are also first-rate and maintain a good pace.
Obviously some of the reasons why many believe this to be the finest of the three films.
Shot in Spain, Italy and Jordan, and at Elstree Studios in Britain, the movie boasts a formidable array of sets and props, including no fewer than 7,000 rats and a replica World War I tank which cost over $150,000 to build.
Prof. Henry Jones
Dr Elsa Schneider
Billy J. Mitchell