The Adaptation Review by Pearly

By Pearly (From No Free

"I can hardly believe my eyes."

Back in 1982, school friends Jayson Lamb, Chris Strompolos, and Eric Zala hatched themselves a plan. They were all obsessed with Steven Spielberg's recent release, Indiana Jones "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981), so they thought: why not make a shot-for-shot remake? Why not, indeed. Seven years and at least one hospital visit later, they were finished. And what then? Well... nothing, really. The film was screened once in their home town, so that the participants could see how their efforts had paid off, and the three guy's mothers could freak out ever so slightly at the outrageous stuff their sons had been doing all this time, and then the film was chucked onto a shelf and promptly forgotten about for the next twenty years.

At which time, by a series of unusual events, it found its way to Spielberg himself, who watched it, loved it, and asked to be put into contact with the filmmakers themselves. And it was only at this point that the guys, now all grown-up-like and with proper jobs, realised that they were onto something. Of course, being that the original film is copyrighted, the distribution is darned near impossible, but due to Spielberg's interest in the project, the film has been allowed some limited screenings, only where one or more of the filmmakers is in attendance to speak about the film, and meaning that any screening gets itself the tagline: "This Will Most Likely Be Your Only Chance To Ever See This Film!".

What's amazing about the film is the absolute attention to detail that's gone into it, and the level of quality that the boys managed to achieve given their extraordinarily limited budget. The whole thing was shot on Beta Max, and it's now suffering the ravages of age. The sound levels are all over the place, and just like any home movie, you can tell the changes in shot purely based on the levels of background noise. The tracking on the visual sometimes loses it and rolls around vertically. But none of this stuff is the point. The point is that these guys have done, with their limited resources (and remembering that back in the eighties, resources for the average Joe were significantly more limited than they are nowadays), an absolutely gobsmackingly great job of this film.

When I heard that this was a shot-for-shot remake, I wondered how the guys could have pulled such a thing off. Less than a week before I saw the adaptation, I watched the original in preparation (a plan of attack I would recommend for anyone, so that none of the experience is lost whilst watching the adaptation), and sat wondering how the guys were going to be able to pull off some of the more adventurous shots in the film. And whilst it's true that some things were changed (the sea plane at the end of the first sequence is replaced by simply a motor boat, and the character of the monkey is lovingly recreated using Chris' dog, Snickers), as the film went on, it was amazing to see the number of shots that weren't compromised (plus, some of the changes were pretty hilarious, which just added another dimension to the film). It's testament to the boy's amazingly perfectionist personalities that they were able to pull this thing off.

There are times when the film drags a little, and you're just waiting for the next interesting bit, and there are sections where the audio is basically useless, but Raiders of the Lost Ark - The Adaptation has to be admired as a feat of gargantuan proportions. The bonus is, given the current limitations on distribution, upon watching it, you'll most likely also get to hear one of the boys (in my case, Chris Strompolos) speaking about their experiences making the film (lots of interesting info at this site, if you're up for a read), and this portion of the evening should also prove fascinating and mind boggling.

Truly an experience that'll have you shaking your head in disbelief for days afterward.