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Author: Chip_douglas from Rijswijk, ZH, Netherlands
19 May 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom both had hour long documentaries broadcast on television (not available on DVD mind you) and The Last Crusade had a short Behind the Scenes Look. But while does were merely tools in the marketing process, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (or 'Genre' as it was titled on call-sheets and clapper-boards) is the first Indy movie to receive the no hold barred DVD making of treatment. These Production Diaries, introduced by producer Frank Marschall, are the main attraction on Disc 2 of the similarly numbered DVD set and they are split in 6 segments.

Shooting Begins: New Mexico. June 18, 2007 was the first day of shooting. Cast and crew head off to New Mexico to film the first scene, which also happens to be the first one in the picture: the teenyboppers cruising in their hotrod. Spielberg threatens to quit the movie and let somebody younger direct. Producer Kathleen Kennedy offers the services of George Lucas. They all gather for a glass of champagne and Steve & George take off for a ride in the period car. Most of this stuff was available on line on the official site. However the footage covering Harrison Ford's first day is all new. Lucas thought it would be nice to have Indy 'pulled out of storage' as it were (actually the trunk of a car) instead of the usual romantic way of introducing him. Ray Winstone explains how his character Mac has switched sides so many times, he's forgotten which one he's on (you have to hear his version to get the gist of it). Also covered is the much lamented 'Doom Town' sequence. Note that the house Indy runs into twice is # 138...

Back to School: New Haven, Connecticut. Yale University is transformed into Marschall College, of which Frank Marschall claims to be the dean. Steven explains to the extra's playing students that they are the first real American students in the Indy pictures since the previous three films were shot mostly in England. He doesn't mention he doesn't feel like traveling too far from home when he doesn't have to anymore. While Indy's costume was based on Bogey in Sierra Madre, Shia LaBeouf's is a complete copy of Brando's Wild One duds. Shia talks about getting close to the 'stunties', one of whom we see doubling LaBeouf with a mannequin filling in for Ford on the motorcycle.

Welcome to the Jungle: Hilo, Hawaii. Shooting in Hawaii began July 11, 2007. Steven praises the location managers for being unsung heroes. Denis L. Mike Fantasia (great name) says the road they ended up using was very close to shooting on a back-lot. However, DoP Janusz Kaminski is convinced the jungle has it in for him. Karen Allen reminds us of her complaints about her skimpy outfit during the snake pit scenes from Raiders by mentioning how nice it was to be the most accurately dressed cast member this time around. Shia mentions how hard it is for him to maintain character during a sword-fight and there are some nice shots of him practicing his hand to hand combat with Cate Blanchett's stunt double.

On-Set Action. This piece is split up into several parts of it's own. The warehouse comes first. Notice that old man Harrison really does do an impressive amount of wire-work and stunts. His main opponent, Cirque Du Soleil trapeze catcher Igor Jijikine even calls Ford 'a tough cookie'. Indy's home was filmed on stage 29 at Universal studios (this stuff is also straight out of one of the web-based featurettes) while Arnie's Diner (named after papa Spielberg) was staged on the Paramount lot. We take a little detour from the cemetery set to the prop department where the shiny chrome sarcophagus's were mummified at the last moment. On the indoor jungle set John Hurt explains a bit about his Ben Gunn inspired character and make-up artist Kelvin R. Trahan says it goes against his every instinct to make somebody look dirty and ugly instead of beautiful. There's also more fun to be had with Shia as we see him being much more afraid of handing the 13 feet olive python for the quick sand scene than his on-screen Daddio.

Exploring Akator. This part of the movie usually gets the most complaints. But once more it turns out that the bulk of the special effects were indeed performed practically on set: the moving obelisks with sand pouring down, the disappearing staircase, even the extremely elaborate sliding door was right there in front of the actors. Another oft heard complaint is that there are too many characters following Indy around (5) but when looking back at the previous films, the number of Jones' companions simply increase by one in each installment. So my guess is that if they ever get down to doing another one, it is likely the finale will feature Mutt, his parents, his girl, Sallah and Dean Stanforth.

Wrapping up! George Lucas returns to the set on one of the last days of shooting for another glass of champagne as the cast and crew celebrate Indy and Marion's spring wedding. Karen Allen calls herself a 'wedding-virgin' because she's never been a bride on screen before. However, the very last shot involving Indy and Mutt was still to come: on October 11, 2007 their arrival at the Peru Airport. Although they were only seen in a wide shot and had no lines, there was a special reason for Harrison to attend: he lend some advice in picking out the right airplane. So you see, hobbies can be useful in real life too!

8 out of 10

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