I recently borrowed from the library the three DVD sets of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, which consist of “movies” compiled from individual episodes of the early 1990s TV series, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. These chronicle the adventures of 9 and 10 year old Indy (Corey Carrier) when he accompanies his parents on his father’s world tour (set one); and 16-21-year old Indy (Sean Patrick Flanery) as he fights in World War I (first as a soldier in the Belgian army, later as an intelligence agent), and subsequently begins his studies in archaeology (sets one to three).

     Young Indy’s adventures were executive produced by George Lucas, and as was the case with his Star Wars films, Lucas has made some changes to the “Young Indy” canon, beyond simply putting two TV episodes together to form a movie. But I’ll get to that later.

     The adventures are entertaining in and of themselves, but these sets also include 94 documentaries covering art, biography, literature, general world events (some still going on today), and World War I specifically. In an interview at the end of the videotape releases of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, Lucas said he’s a great lover of history and that it’s important for young people to understand the humanities, of which history is a major part.

     “I think if young people see that people who have accomplished a lot are not much different from the way they are, it gives them a little more freedom to think outside the box and think they can do great things,” Lucas said.

     Lucas has his faults, but he deserves kudos for including those documentaries.

     Since these adventures have Indy interacting with historical people, he meets a lot of them, most before they became famous, but a few when they were already well known. Here’s a partial list:

     Alfred Adler

     George Balanchine

     Sidney Bechet

     Annie Besant

     Georges Braque

     Howard Carter

     Winston Churchill

     Edgar Degas

     Charles De Gaulle

     Thomas Edison

     Franz Ferdinand

     Sigmund Freud

     Robert Graves

     Mata Hari

     Ernest Hemingway

     Ho Chi Minh

     Carl Jung

     Emperor Karl I

     Nikos Kazantzakis

     Jiddu Krishnamurti

     T.E. Lawrence

     Charles Leadbeater

     Vladimir Lenin

     Bronislaw Malinowski

     Eliot Ness

     Sean O’Casey

     Sylvia Pankhurst

     George Patton

     Pablo Picasso

     Giacomo Puccini

     Manfred Von Richtofen

     Paul Robeson

     Norman Rockwell

     Theodore Roosevelt

     Frederick Selous

     Siegfried Sassoon

     Albert Schweitzer

     Princess Sophie

     Gertrude Stein

     Edward Stratemeyer

     Alice B. Toklas

     Leo Tolstoy

     Pancho Villa

     Paul Von Letow-Vorbek

     Erich Von Stroheim

     Woodrow Wilson

     William Butler Yeats

     Come on. He might have met some of these people, either while traveling with his parents as a kid, or during the war, but not all of them.

     Yes, the well-regarded mythologist Joseph Campbell met Krishnamurti, Ed Ricketts, John Steinbeck, Martha Graham and George Lucas (though it might be more proper to say that Lucas met Campbell); and dozens of people in metro Detroit either personally know (or knew) such individuals as Tim Allen, Kristen Bell, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Tom Selleck, Robin Williams, Earle Graser and Elmore Leonard, whether as classmates or co-workers, or “knew” one or more as the kid(s) who worked at the supermarket, fast food place, whatever. Myself, I went to high school with sportscaster Gus Johnson, was a year behind Mark Crilley, and have personally met Stan Lee, Julie Schwartz, Jack Kirby, Martin Nodell, Bob Hastings, and Harry Belafonte (and much less importantly, various politicians).

     But young Indy met dozens of famous or soon to be famous people. From all walks of life. That stretches credulity a bit.

     On the other hand, if those fictional encounters got people- especially kids- interested in history, then all the better.

     Now to some of the changes Lucas made. The original TV series featured the late George Hall as the eye patch-wearing 93-year-old “Old Indy” who appeared in “bookends” at the beginning and end of most episodes (Harrison Ford book-ended “The Mystery of the Blues”), and narrated episodes in flashback. But with these “movies”, Old Indy has been excised (except for his hand closing his journal during the end credits). That’s understandable. Such flashback scenes would only detract from the movie format. What bugs me (and is an insult to Hall, as far as I’m concerned), is that a book about Indiana Jones’ life that came out with the release of The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull made no mention of “Old Indy.” Nor is he even mentioned at either the official Indiana Jones or Young Indiana Jones websites.

     Of course Lucas changing things is nothing new. In Return of the Jedi (1983) the late Sebastian Shaw appears as Anakin Skywalker, both when Luke Skywalker removes Darth Vader’s mask and in the “Jedi ghosts” scene at the end of the movie. But then Lucas changed things in later DVD releases of that film, and now Shaw has been replaced in that last scene by Hayden Christensen, who played Anakin in the last two prequel movies.

     That, in many ways, is an insult to Shaw, who, for the record, was in his 80s when he made that movie, but looked like he was in his 60s. And that, in turn, created implications about Anakin that were far different from what we got in the prequel films. An Anakin Skywalker well into middle age who’d become Darth Vader some 20 years earlier is going to have a completely different back-story to an Anakin who accepted his Vaderization in his early 20s.

     But I digress. This blog entry’s about Indiana Jones, not the Star Wars films (but Han shot first!) Even allowing for the removal of “Old Indy” from the Young Indiana Jones “movies”, he should still have been part of the official record. Some people may argue that if we know Indy lives to old age, then there’d be no real suspense in the next film (if there is one). To that I’d say, A) does anyone expect that in a future film Indiana Jones would pull a Marian Crane and get killed off in the first reel? And B) there’s all kinds of suspense. We know Indy lived to at least 93 and lost (or at least injured) his right eye. How? When? What else might have happened to him?

     But maybe, as my friend and co-worker Cornelius Fortune says, Lucas will still release the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as originally aired.

     Meanwhile, those DVD sets are definitely worth a look. Especially for history buffs.


Copyright 2010 Patrick Keating


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