Wednesday, May 07, 2008
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, Volume Three: The Years of Change
Written by Musgo Del Jefe
The title of this DVD, like the collection itself, is long and tells many stories - The Adventures Of Young Indiana Jones - The Complete Volume Three: The Years Of Change. The first volume, The Early Years told the stories of a younger, innocent teenaged Indy. The stories highlighted his innocence. The second volume, The War Years played off the innocence of Indy and his generation with the cold realities of World War I. Story after story focused on the humanity inside the inhumanity of the war. Our character, Indy, survives relatively intact despite the brutality surrounding him. This last volume completes the series with seven "episodes" on nine discs and a tenth bonus disc. But how do you focus a series dealing with the post-WWI Jazz Age when we viewers know what Nazi-based adventures are yet to come in the feature films?
You can't talk about this ten-disc set without talking about the extras. In fact, with over 15 hours of special features, they dominate this collection. There are 30 different documentaries to accompany the different episodes. I'm reinforcing my opinion from Volume Two that the documentaries should be watched before each episode. Knowing the context of the times and the people that Indy comes in contact with, helps give depth to most of the superficial scripts. These documentaries are not the typical "Behind The Scenes" documentaries seen on most discs. Many of these included in this collection are ripe for the High School or College classroom. I find the biographical documentaries to be the most rewarding. This collection's best being on Ernest Hemingway, Erich von Stroheim, Louis Armstrong, and Edith Wharton.
The First World War is essentially over and continues for only the first two episodes. The intrigue of that war and what destruction it wrought on a whole generation still make it the most interesting backdrop for these Indiana Jones stories. The first one, "Tales Of Innocence" is a simple tale and maybe my favorite in this collection. The two stories - Indy and Ernest Hemingway falling in love with the same woman and Indy and Edith Wharton developing a forbidden attraction to each other while Indy searches for a traitor - are light on the surface but that belies a hidden depth. These unrequited loves hint at what will become the post-war "Lost Generation." After what Indy has seen in the War, what meaning will there be in life? And how does he truly give his heart when he's seen so much death and destruction?
The other World War I episode, "Masks Of Evil" transitions us to the adventurous Indy. In it, Indy finds himself in Transylvania up against Vlad The Impaler (Dracula) and his undead army. What better way to end the war stories but with the nightmare that even the dead will come back to fight. Ultimately this is a lighter story that will lead us directly into the treasure-hunting Indy that we've come to love in the feature films. The next episode, "Treasure Of The Peacock's Eye" is right out of the serial tradition. Here, at the end of the war, we see Indy set off on a quest for Alexander The Great's treasured "Eye Of The Peacock." The adventure will take him from London to Alexandria to the South Seas with lots of great swordplay in-between. As he heads back to America at the end of this episode, the die is set for all of his future treasure-hunting adventures.
Indy will encounter more adventures back in America. He'll meet with Louis Armstrong (a couple times), Ho Chi Minh, Lawrence Of Arabia, and Al Capone and Eliot Ness. He deal with racism, gangsters, Twenties Hollywood, and the Jazz Age. But these adventures seem to lack the life-altering adventures of the War. In "Scandal Of 1920" we have Indy working on a musical and in love trouble again. In "Hollywood Follies," Indy is working on the movies of Erich von Stroheim and John Ford and eventually solving a murder. These are fun stories that play out more like traditional TV dramas.
By the end of "Hollywood Follies", you feel like the character is being throttled. These last couple adventures seem determined to place Indy back in 1920's society but they've forgotten about "The Adventures . . . " part of the title. As fictional stories within historical events, there has never been a show as well done as this one. The documentaries included on these discs are worthy of their own release and any viewer would be well served to watch them. But they overwhelm the actual product. The documentary on Ernest Hemingway is my favorite in the collection because it delves into the dark secrets of the man's past. The episode is not informed by that characterization. He becomes merely a stock player - a love rival for Indy who happens to be a writer. Taking away the dramatic background of the First World War brings these problems out in the open. This collection includes episodes that lack the overall focus seen in the previous two collections. But it's still a rich, worthy addition to any library.