So here we are again with a third collection of episodes from The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles television series. This final series is called Years Of Change. Most of the episodes and features deal with the span of years between the World Wars. The 20’s were indeed an inventive time when people like Thomas Edison were at their peak. Peace was at hand, and no one really knew for how little time it would last. Most people had extra money and life was one big party. From our 21st Century hindsight, we know it was all doomed to come crashing down before the decade ended, but for most people at that moment life was good. Indy gets himself in some rather unlikely positions in this set. I can’t imagine him getting involved in a film production, but there it is. This set completes the trilogy of releases, and you now have every Young Indy adventure filmed. This is also the set you’ve been waiting for, as it features Harrison Ford’s single appearance in the show as Indy at 50 years old. It’s a bookend type of appearance, but it sure is nice to see old Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones for what we expected back then was the final time.
Like most folks I was skeptical. Could Indy be played by anyone other than Harrison Ford? What about those pesky network budgets and censors? As the series played out, I made another discovery. Indiana Jones was now an American icon. He was our James Bond, and just as 007 had survived many incarnations, so too could Indy. As long as the actor remained faithful to the part and the production lived up to tradition, Indy could live far beyond Harrison Ford. As
A couple of things you need to know about this set. First the name change. The original series was called The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. The reason this set is not a traditional season set is because it does not present episodes in the order they were aired. The reason for the name change is that this is not exactly the old television series either. Each film in the set is made up of two episodes from the series blended into one new interwoven adventure. This was done some time ago when this material was first released on VHS years ago. The format takes a little getting used to, but the edits are carefully done and, for the most part, these newer versions run pretty smoothly.
Indy is played by Sean Patrick Flannery, who doesn’t have the same flare River Phoenix had as a young Indy in The Last Crusade. He’s not always as assertive as we’ve come to expect from our Indy, but he does manage to get himself into a lot of jams. This series ends up involving Indy in many historical events that, while it stretches credibility beyond belief, offers some very interesting backdrops for adventure. The series was shot in locations all over the globe, from Africa to Europe and here in the
Each episode of the series is presented in its original broadcast full frame format. I would have loved to see these things wide, and sources tell me they were filmed in such a way that wide presentations are entirely possible. For now we have these versions, and except for the format, they are rather nice presentations just the same. Colors are vivid when need be and appropriately subdued when called for. There is at times some grain that is easily forgiven. Black levels are rather nice, particularly for television transfers. I could find no significant print flaws or compression artifact. Bit rates almost never fall below a solid 5 mbps. Now, the bonus features are a different story. Some of this footage goes back to the beginning of the 20th century and is by necessity quite rough in every aspect. Take the “better to have rough footage than nothing at all” attitude here, and you’ll be fine.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track here is pretty much a utility effort. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it never really shines. The Indy overtures come through fine but with none of the largesse and brilliance an Indy adventure deserves. Dialog is clear and easy to understand, and frankly, I think that was the only intent with this release. Likely the VHS mixes were used, so anything more was not originally considered. Consider this typical 1990’s broadcast quality. Nothing more. Nothing less.
All I can say is WOW! This 10 disc set continues the tradition of the previous two; it is packed with stuff. If it were packed any tighter it would likely explode on the shelves. The documentaries are newly created pieces just for this release. The discs are a bit more orderly in this set, as each contains a film and the appropriate features. I like this system better, and it’s very convenient.
I will break down each disc for you and talk about this wealth of extras in some detail.
Episode: Tales Of Innocence: This film combines the episodes Northern Italy 1918 and
Unhealed Wounds – The Life Of Ernest Hemingway: Hemingway’s life was one of adventure and often controversy. This 35 minute bio is one of the longest features in the entire collection. It takes a candid look at his life and the demons that appeared to populate it. His work often spoke of war and heroism, a life Hemingway attempted to live out himself. From his obsession with bullfighting to his own internal struggles leading to his suicide, the piece covers it all.
The French Foreign Legion – The World’s Most Legendary Fighting Force: Two centuries of myth and legend have shrouded the reality of the French Foreign Legion. This 28 minute feature attempts to separate the fact from the fiction. Actual members of the unit talk about their experiences. Is the reality an even more interesting story? This feature attempts to show just that.
The Secret Life Of Edith Wharton: Lily Bart was in search of a wealthy husband but ended up instead alone and finally dead in a boarding house. The story has almost the ring of authenticity behind it, but it was all the creation of Edith Wharton. She captivated her readers with highly sensationalized stories, often from the pages of high society. Her characters were almost instantly recognizable from that elite class. This 30 minute feature looks at her work and examines the highs and lows of her life from her public torrid affair with Morton Fullerton to her in-the-trenches reports from
Episode: Masks Of Evil: This film combines the episodes Transylvania 1918 and
For The People, Despite The People – The Ataturk Revolution: At the end of World War I the
The Greedy Heart Of Halide Edib: The writer Halide Edib chronicled and participated in the transformation of
The Ottoman Empire – A World Of Difference: This 33 minute feature takes a look at the 600 year history of the
Dracula – Fact And Fiction: As the title implies, this 25 minute feature looks at the myths and facts surrounding Dracula. The piece spends much of the time intercutting images of the likes of Bela Lugosi with wood carvings and other images of the original Vlad, The Impaler. Vlad was zealous Christian defender who fought the Muslims of the
Episode: Treasure Of The Peacock’s Eye: This episode was not a combination of others, but rather had the same name in both formats. This episode is much more like the Harrison Ford feature films. Indy is in search of a legendary diamond believed to once be owned by Alexander The Great. Indy is racing against a one-eyed pursuer and even gets caught by cannibals. Can anyone say lunch?
Bronislaw Malinowski – God Professor: Malinowski was a Polish anthropologist who pioneered and coined the term Participant Observation. He went deep into the wilds of
Anthropology – Looking At The Human Condition: The piece starts out with a modern anthropologist studying the culture of low riders in the urban streets of the
Episode: The Winds Of Change: This film combines the episodes
The Best Intentions – The
Woodrow Wilson – American Ideologue: When
Ho Chi Minh – The Price Of Freedom: In many ways The United States served as a role model for Ho Chi Minh, who was fighting for
Paul Robeson – Scandalize My Name: James Earl Jones opens this 32 minute feature by describing the first time he heard Robeson sing and speak. It was a bit interesting to hear a man so famous himself for a deep voice describe an identical one in Robeson. Robeson was labeled a communist in an effort to discredit him, a label he unfortunately refused to deny. He used his fame as an actor and singer to attempt to redefine roles most frequently given to blacks in the day. The piece is a candid examination of a man and the troubled times he existed in.
Robert Goddard – Mr. Rocket Science: There’s no mystery why the NASA Washington D.C. facility where they experiment with cutting edge rocket technology is called the
Episode: Mystery Of The Blues: This episode was not a combination of others, but rather had the same name in both formats. This is the episode that featured Harrison Ford as older Indy telling the story. This one also has it all. It’s the 1920’s and it’s
Jazz – The Rhythms Of Freedom: Jazz music is a particularly American form of music. It has its roots, as did the Blues, in slavery years as a way of slaves uplifting their spirits. This 32 minute feature looks at the roots of jazz and covers some of the greatest in the field with wonderful vintage clips.
Al “Scarface” Capone – The Original Gangster: While his bloody reign over
On The Trail Of Eliot Ness: Every villain has a nemesis to bring him to justice. Lex Luthor had Superman, and Moriarity had Sherlock Holmes. In the real world Al Capone had Eliot Ness and his team of Untouchables. Most of us have images of Robert Stack or Kevin Costner, depending upon your age. The real man appears very unassuming in this 29 minute feature. He was known as a rare honest man in law enforcement circles. He was given a task the FBI wouldn’t take because
Louis Armstrong – Ambassador Of Jazz: No one has ever rivaled Armstrong’s trademark voice and trumpet. Many have certainly tried, but Armstrong was one of a kind. The best part about this 32 minute tribute is the wealth of vintage sights and sounds.
Ben Hecht – The Shakespeare Of
Episode: Scandal Of 1920: This episode was not a combination of others, but rather had the same name in both formats. Indy gets to work for George Gershwin, where he deals with actor’s demands, plenty of women, and perhaps someone looking to make a killing…literally.
Tin Pan Ally – The Soundtrack Of
The Wonderful Nonsense – The Algonquin Table: What started as a lark and prank became a ten year tradition. For a decade invited friends would gather for lunch and create witty observations on life around them. The result might well be the birth of American comedy.
Eric von Stroheim – The Profligate Genius: The era of silent films was the playground for von Stroheim. He was a self indulgent director who didn’t care what he had to do or who he had to mow over to get his vision on film. Hired and fired by all of the major film studios, von Stroheim is the controversial subject of this 33 minute feature.
The Rise Of The Moguls – The Men Who Built
Irving Thalberg –
The Work Of John Ford: John Ford could create realism on a screen like no one before or since. His production of The Grapes Of Wrath is still considered one of the most vividly real depictions ever made. His goal was to move the everyman and give him characters and stories they could not only understand but could relate to. His audience recognized the characters and circumstances from their own lives.
Historical Lecture – New Goals For Old: Life between the wars is the subject of this just over an hour lecture. Much of the footage is repeated from the other features, and it can get quite dry.
There are some interactive timelines and a game, but again I had a lot of trouble getting them to work on two different PC’s. On one the DVD-ROM elements froze up my system more than once. Frankly, none of this stuff seems worth the trouble. You get plenty of value from the documentaries and episodes.
After 3 generous collections, the Young Indiana Jones Adventures come to a close. It’s fitting to get this finally complete collection in your hands just as a new chapter in the Indiana Jones story is about to begin. Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull is likely the most eagerly awaited film of the last couple of years. Until then, you can get yourself primed by watching these final stories along with some incredible historical documentaries. This collection of nearly 100 features might just be the most complete historical record yet released on DVD. These stories aren’t often the high flying adventure the films have been, but they are well written and executed. Still, it’s important that there was significant effort to bring us exotic locations and a little of the whip-cracking adventure we’ve come to expect. You can have tons of scripts, but remember, “It’s not what’s on the page that counts. It’s what’s up there on the screen.”