Here’s a making-of book about the production of the coolest movie you might never see. Back in the early 1980s, when Raiders of the Lost Ark was still in theaters, a couple of kids (Eric Zala, 12, and Chris Strompolos, 11) decided to remake the movie, using a borrowed camera, a cast of friends, and as much realism and accuracy as they could muster. They figured they could do it during their summer vacation; it took seven summer vacations. This is a magnificent book. Eisenstock gives it a real let’s-put-on-a-show feel; fans of the recent movie Super 8 will note a definite similarity in tone, pacing, and sheer gosh-wow excitement. These guys weren’t just making a half-assed tribute to their favorite movie; this was supposed to be a shot-for-shot remake, using the actual script (obtained by sneaking into the movie and recording it on the sly), with music, sound effects, and visual effects (Eric set himself on fire to replicate the burning-bar scene). And think about some of the scenes they were trying to replicate: the escape from the snake-infested Well of Souls, the truck chase, a villain’s exploding head, melting faces, and the famous boulder sequence. Sure, there were compromises—a scene near the beginning replaced a biplane with a dinghy with an outboard motor (because who would give a couple of kids an actual biplane?)—but the thing is, they got the movie made. At a nearly catastrophic cost, to be sure—the account also chronicles the post-production meltdown of Eric and Chris’ friendship—but they did it. An amazing, one-of-a-kind book about a triumphant, one-of-a-kind film production.
This review originally appeared in Booklist, October 2012.