Adventures Of Young Indiana Jones: Volume 3 - The Years Of Change, The|
Written by David Hillyer
May 12, 2008
Back in the late 1980’s when George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were getting ready to film the “last” of the original Indiana Jones movies, they came up with the idea of an educational TV series. The series would place a young Indiana Jones in historic situations with famous people and thereby teaching children a (fictionalized) version of history.
The series ran for only 2 seasons in 1992 and 1993. They also put together four TV movies from 1994 to 1996. While it did receive critical acclaim, winning several Emmy awards, it never really captured the ratings needed to sustain such an expensive production. They shot the series all over the world reportedly costing over $1.5 million per episode. Nowadays with shows like 24 being almost theatrical in production value and cost, that doesn’t seem like such an outlandish price to pay for a show. But the networks didn’t see it that way back then. Recently Lucasfilm blew the dust off the archives and started prepping for a new Indiana Jones movie, and in a thinly veiled marketing ploy started bringing out DVD box sets of the Young Indiana Jones TV series. From a marketing standpoint this will brilliant. It kept the “Indiana Jones” brand name out in front of the consumers while slowly getting ready for the big marketing blitz that we have now for the new movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
So now just before the movie hits the theater, we have the last of the Adventures of Young Indiana Jones box sets. The Adeventures of Young Indiana Jones:Volume 3 - The Years of Change includes seven movie length episodes and 31 documentaries about the situations and people encountered in the shows. Basically you get about an hour of documentaries for each episode.
Disc 1 contains chapter 16 of the Adventures of Young Indiana Jones. It takes place in 1917 in Northern Italy and Morocco. In “Tales of Innocence” we find Indy on assignment as a spy in Italy. He ends up competing with Ernest Hemingway for the love of an Italian girl. He then goes to Morocco as a French intelligence agent. The extras on this disc include documentaries on Ernest Hemingway, The French Foreign Legion, Edith Wharton, and Lowell Thomas.
Disc 2 is takes place around 1918 in Istanbul and Transylvania. You can roll your eyes now. Yes, they actually have Indy cross paths with Dracula. This episode feels a little out of place. It’s still entertaining, but probably not up to the adventure standards of other episodes. The extras include documentaries on the Ataturk Revolution, Halide Edib, the Ottoman Empire, and of course a ‘fact and fiction’ piece about Dracula.
The next disc takes place in 1919. Indy goes to Egypt, Java, and an island in the South Pacific. In “Treasure of the Peacock’s Eye” we see Indy and his sidekick Remy at the end of World War I. They find a map leading to the location of Alexander the Great’s diamond. Of course they have competition to find it and the chase begins. After some sneaking around, a few fights and chases they end up on an island with some stereotype natives where they get the chance to do some soul searching. This episode is a mixed bag… the first half is the Indiana Jones adventure we all like to see, but the second half on the island drags on and on without much of a point. The extras include documentaries on Bronislaw Malinowski, Anthropology, and New Guinea.
The fourth disc has Indy make a stop in Paris on his way back to Princeton in the USA. In this episode titled “The Winds of Change”, Indy gets a job translating in France where he ends up being involved in the treaty of Versailles. This episode is interesting because we begin to see signs of the Nazi uprising and thus Indy’s biggest enemy. The extras “Winds of Change” are included on disc 5 with six documentaries. The documentaries include The Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles, Woodrow Wilson, Gertrude Bell, Ho Chi Minh, Paul Robeson, and Robert Goddard.
Disc 6 has a highly rated episode called “The Mystery of the Blues”. I remember this being broadcast because it’s the only appearance of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in the entire series. His actual screen time is less than 10 minutes but a lot of people tuned in to see it. His appearance is kind of a bookend for the show. We find Indy in his 50’s and in trouble as usual. He rescued a sacred Native American artifact from some scoundrels and they want it back. So there’s a car chase in the snow and it’s very reminiscent of the movies. Eventually Indy ends up talking about his time in Chicago in 1920 and then we go to Sean Patrick Flannery’s version of Indiana Jones. Indy is working as a waiter in a hot Jazz restaurant. Along the way we meet Indy’s college nerd roommate… none other than Eliot Ness. Since Eliot Ness is there we of course have to meet Al Capone. This episode is a fun romp through the time period in Chicago and the cameo of Harrison Ford is a must-see. All the features for this episode are on disc 7 and include pieces on Jazz, Al Capone, Prohibition, Eliot Ness, Louis Armstrong, Ben Hecht, and Harlem’s Hellfighters of WWI.
In what are probably the least interesting shows of the series we find “Scandal of 1920” with Indy in New York City. He ends up working on Broadway while trying to get somewhere with the chorus girls. It’s kind of fun to watch but not up to the rest of the shows in this box set. This is probably the one episode where the documentaries are more interesting than the show. The extras include pieces on Tin Pan Alley, the Algonguin Round Table, and Broadway.
1920 was a pretty busy year for Indiana Jones. In the last episode of the set we find Indy in Hollywood working in the movies. He gets to meet John Ford, Irving Thalberg, and Erich von Stroheim. Again, this is an episode that is entertaining to watch but certainly not up to the standard of his other adventures. The extras on this disc include documentaries on Erich von Stroheim, the Men Who Built Hollywood, Irving Thalbert, and John Ford.
The last disc of the 10 disc set includes some interactive features. I have yet to find a DVD that really pulls this off well, but these are not too bad… if you dare to try it. The disc contains the usual InterActual player to run on your computer. This as usual is a dicey affair and keep your fingers crossed that it doesn’t mess up your desktop like it did on two of my computers. Why can’t someone write a player that works? If you do get it working, you can go to a DVD-ROM interactive timeline and read Indy’s journal and also read about the events taking place in his adventures. There is also a 60 minute video historical lecture by H.W. Brands titled “New Gods for Old”. Lastly, there is an interactive “hunting for treasure’ game for your PC.
The extras for The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones vol 3 are extensive, and educational. While there really isn’t anything about the production of the series, there are documentaries about the actual people Indy encounters. Indy had a full life! He went all over the world and much like Forrest Gump, seemed to cross paths with every major figure of the time period. It would have been nice to see more about the genesis of the series but the included documentaries are interesting and educational.
The picture quality holds up quite well. I was expecting to find a lot of dust of other problems but then I realized this is a Lucasfilm effort so the picture quality and noise level are certainly as good as anyone could expect from a 1990’s TV series.
Volume 3 of the Adventures of Young Indiana Jones is fun to watch. If you’re an Indiana Jones fan then this is an easy decision to buy. But those just looking for some easy entertainment for the kids might wait a bit for the price to come down. It is educational and the documentaries are worth watching. But at around $70 it is an investment.
One thing is sure, we cannot escape the Indiana Jones in the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull marketing machine. But would we really want to? Indiana Jones as a character is someone we can relate to and enjoy being around. He’s a fun character to watch on TV and in the movie theater. You never know, if these DVD’s and new movie do well enough, we may not have seen the last of Indiana Jones.