Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

| August 16, 2016

I’ve become fascinated with this particular type of documentary; it’s a film that tells the story of a film that was a nightmare to get made, often resulting in the film never being finished.  You don’t often get to hear these stories, but a few of these have come across my radar in recent memory ever since I first saw Lost in La Mancha, which chronicled Terry Gilliam’s failed attempt to make a Don Quixote movie with Johnny Depp.  More recently I’ve seen Lost Souls, which is the incredible story behind the Marlon Brando Island of Dr. Moreau movie; The Death of Superman Lives, which is about Tim Burton’s failed attempt to make a Superman movie in the 90s; and of course Heart of Darkness, which is about Francis Ford Coppola nearly going insane trying to make Apocalypse Now.  All of these movies are great and I highly recommend them.

So, when I first saw the preview for Raiders! at my local Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, I was extremely excited to go check out this story about a group of teenagers making a shot for shot remake of Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark over the course of 7 years in the 1980s.  High school friends and aspiring filmmakers Chris Strompolis and Eric Zala get it in their heads to remake Raiders of the Lost Ark just to see if they can, teaming up with another guy at their high school, Jayson Lamb, who has a really imaginative knack for cheap special effects and the three began devoting their every spare moment to this project.

The documentary jumps between two separate storylines.  The first tells the story of Chris, Eric, and Jayson as teens working on the film, crawling under trucks, setting fire to their parents’ house, roping all of their friends and siblings into playing bit rolls throughout the film.  The other half of the film is about Chris and Eric today, working to complete the one scene they didn’t have the means to shoot when they were kids: the scene where Indiana Jones fights a gigantic bald Nazi amidst a spinning airplane.  The guys drop every cent they can into the shoot, raise money from donors, and almost get fired from their jobs due to the Lost in La Mancha level bad luck they encounter.

Along the way, the guys grow up, let their egos get in the way of the project, and are ultimately rescued by director Eli Roth (Hostel).  It’s a really uplifting story when Roth comes across a mythical copy of the guys’ remake and convinces a local film festival that features rare and unique finds like this to show it.  And like most audiences who have had the chance to see The Raiders Adaptation as they call it, it creates this amazing sensation where you’re not so much rooting for Indiana Jones to find the ark and defeat the Nazis, but rather rooting for these kids to pull off this incredibly ambitious endeavor.

Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is now available on Blu-ray and DVD from Drafthouse Films and MVD Entertainment. Special features on the BD/DVD combo pack include:
-Dual audio commentaries with directors Skousen & Coon and subjects Chris Strompolos & Eric Zala
-Deleted scenes from the documentary
-Outtakes from the Adaptation
-A Q&A from the 2003 premiere of the Adaptation at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX
-Trailers
-Plus, reversible cover art featuring the Mondo poster by Justin Santora, a booklet featuring Adaptation storyboards by Eric Zala, and a free digital copy!

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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