« Inspired Shows | Main | Strike a Pose »

Kids Make the Darndest Movies

It's become a sort of legend among fanboys and film geeks alike: in 1982, three 12-year-old boys saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, loved it (of course), and spent their next seven summers filming a shot-for-shot remake in their backyards, remaking Spielberg's $26 million blockbuster with their allowances. In 1989, the 100-minute Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, complete with rolling boulder, live snakes, and red-hot flames, was completed, screened once—and then left on a shelf, forgotten.


Until recently. Earlier this year, Wired published a feature story about the boys' adventures in filmmaking. Since a rediscovery of the tape in 2003, the film has screened at festivals, and Ain't It Cool News' Harry Knowles, horror director Eli Roth, and even Steven Spielberg himself are among its fans. And producer Scott Rudin has purchased the intellectual property rights to the boys' childhood, with Daniel Clowes (Ghost World) writing the script about the trio's years-long summer "hobby."


From Wired:

There were setbacks. Zala nearly suffocated while making a plaster cast of his head. In removing it, doctors at the hospital plucked both his eyebrows off. (Lesson learned: use papier-mâché, not cement plaster.) With no monkey available to play Marion's mascot, the teens were forced to cast Snickers, a beagle-terrier mix, instead. The crew transformed Boy Scout uniforms into Nazi costumes and suburban Mississippi woods into the Amazonian rainforests, and spent four years creating a giant boulder to chase Indy.

Raiders_adaptation_2 All of Raiders: The Adaptation's effects were done in camera -- no digital touch-ups here. The film, shot on VHS, is grainy and at times nearly inaudible, but the cast and crew's unadulterated love for the source material is crystal clear.

"Being a kid, you don't know what you can't do, which is helpful when you are trying make a $26 million film on your allowance," Zala said. "(Kids') motivations are the purest, and they aren't unduly swayed by commercial considerations or a Teamsters strike or even the mortgage. It's about the love of the story."

The Village Voice says:

Filled with ingenious contraptions and overweening jerry-rigs, The Adaptation remakes Raiders on less than 1/2,000th of Paramount's original $20 million budget, conjuring exotic locales out of cardboard sets in parents' basements, casting tweens in Boy Scout uniforms as Nazi bad guys, and rolling a gigantic hand-crafted boulder through the family garage to create the film's signature scene. Nothing short of slapdash spectacular, The Adaptation is indie (or Indy?) filmmaking taken to its greatest and most sublimely ridiculous extreme.

And Sarah Hepola wrote for the Austin Chronicle:

This is not ‘cute’ or ‘impressive considering their age’ – it is a genuine virtuoso work. The film is a crowd-pleaser, turning all the Raiders action... into a new and genuinely startling viewing experience. How will they do this next scene? How can they pull that stunt off? And don’t forget that these kids are literally growing up in front of the camera. Voices deepen, hairstyles change, the hero grows stubble, the heroine grows breasts. Though writers abuse this phrase…it’s like nothing you’ve seen before.

Watch the trailer:

This weekend, Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation is back at Anthology Film Archives in NYC.  The Village Voice reports,  "filmmakers Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos—now all grown up—will be on hand to take questions. (Hint: Ask them about the time they set Zala’s basement on fire.) For those who want to compare and contrast, there will be a screening of Spielberg’s original on Saturday and Sunday."

-- Daniel Lehman

Dig This


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Kids Make the Darndest Movies:


The comments to this entry are closed.