Monday, October 12, 2015

Young Fears 12: Raiders of the Lost Ark

Each October I like to run a series of Halloween-themed posts on this blog. All this month, I'll be telling anecdotes about things which frightened me while growing up.

There are some films which I can't quite recall the circumstances of my first viewing because I had previously seen them within my mind's eye. My parents bought several book & tape albums when I was young and this included a read-along storybook of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I didn't find anywhere near as interesting as the storybooks for Star Wars and the Empire Strikes Back (which, as my family members love to relate, I would repeat verbatim from memory as a toddler), but it was a good enough story. I didn't realize then that Raiders of the Lost Ark was... well, meant for older viewers. I know that I missed many of the jokes as a child because they simply went over my head; I was surprised to later discover just how funny Raiders can be.

But something the book & tape did not prepare me for was the climax. The recording does describe some of what happened when the Ark was opened, but for some unaccountable reason, they neglected to mention the melting & exploding heads. They did, however, retain those unearthly chirping noises on the tape's soundtrack. I recall watching the film on my family's VCR and being shocked at the gore; then I paused, rewound and dragged in my brothers so they could see it too.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a film I had to grow into - it simply didn't capture my imagination the way spaceships and robots did. And I do kind of admire that gory climax, if only because at some point Steven Spielberg seemed to revolt against his own filmography. I miss that crazy kid who loved playing with mirrors and dry ice machines.

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