Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation (NR)

Action/Adventure 112 May 30, 2003
By Robert Wilonsky
For years Eric Zala, Chris Strompolos, and Jayson Lamb's legendary re-creation of Raiders of the Lost Ark existed only as an urban legend, the Loch Ness Monster of cinema. Stories circulated that there was indeed a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders, made by and starring 12-year-old kids who became men during seven years' worth of shooting in their hometown of Biloxi, Mississippi. But few ever saw the movie -- till 2003, at least, when it debuted in Texas over three days' worth of festivities. Since then it's crawled tentatively through the underground-film circuit, drawing fans and fetishists who couldn't believe what they saw: a no-budget redo of Steven Spielberg's homage to Saturday-morning cliffhangers, with Strompolos donning the famous fedora as the trio staged a startlingly authentic and almost heartbreakingly sincere version of their favorite film. Does it look exactly like the original? Of course not; it was made by boys shooting in a basement, after all, on a lunch-money budget that forced them to use salvaged dead vehicles and other spare parts. But it was impressive enough that Spielberg himself sent the boys a mash note some years back, mazel-toving them for doing the seemingly impossible: making a backyard version of a blockbuster, with only their affections for Raiders as their guide. "I saw and appreciated the vast amounts of imagination and originality you put into your film," Spielberg wrote the raiders of Raiders, and he's absolutely right: For a film that sets out to imitate, it winds up merely inspiring.
Eric Zala Chris Strompolos

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