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Help Support Features Articles Raiders of the Lost Drafts: Chapter 2
Raiders of the Lost Drafts
by Bellosh - posted in 2000

Chapter 2

The arrival of Lawrence Kasdan as screenwriter for Raiders of the Lost Ark completed the core creative team behind the film. Well, almost; Tom Selleck had yet to be cast as ‘Indiana Smith’, soon to become Jones. Kasdan finessed the ideas that Lucas and Spielberg presented to him. Until his involvement Raiders existed only as various action set pieces, a story concept (the search for the Ark of the Covenant) a rough idea of who the villains were (Nazis) and the three main characters (Indy, Marion, Belloq). Finally, Lucas wanted the hero to be an archaeology professor, adventurer, and playboy.

Kasdan’s first big contribution was to trim these three separate sides of Indy’s character down to two. Indy the college lecturer is to Indy the adventurer what Clark Kent is to Superman. Having a third side to his character would be unnecessary and confusing; it would be like Superman having two secret identities. But Lucas was keen on Indy the playboy – wish fulfillment for him, perhaps? He made Kasdan write a version of the scene where Marcus Brody comes to Indy’s house and finds Indy, in a tuxedo, entertaining a glamorous blonde. The scene was never shot, although Indy gets to wear a tuxedo in Temple of Doom. In fact, the final version of Indiana Jones in the films becomes a wry would-be playboy – he’s never quite as successful with women as he’d like to be.

Kasdan took the material generated from the 1978 story conferences between himself, Lucas and Spielberg, and began to create the plot that would become Raiders. He brought more influences to the project. Whereas Raiders had begun as a homage to Saturday matinee serials, it became more influenced by the great comedy-adventure films of the Forties and Fifties, such as Too Hot To Handle, starring Clark Gable, The Crimson Pirate, with Burt Lancaster, and, well, anything with Errol Flynn in it. For the scenes between Indy and Marion, Kasdan took as his model the quick fire repartee between male and female protagonists in the films of Howard Hawks, such as His Girl Friday, or John Huston’s The African Queen (which would be a major influence on Chris Columbus’s discarded Indy 3 script... of which more in a couple of weeks!).

Raiders' Flying Wing
concept sketch.

By his third draft of Raiders of the Lost Ark, dated August 1979, the script is on it’s way to becoming the film we know – only more so; it reads like two films, containing action sequences that were later to appear in Temple of Doom. The film’s structure is similar to the final version, except that in between Marshall College and Nepal Indy stops off at Shanghai. It’s a familiar, yet strange, parallel universe version of Raiders, where lines from one character are assigned to another, characters have different names, and the finale is the opening of the Ark. . .followed by a mine car chase? And at this point Raiders encounters the last of its cinematic influences – the Spielberg disaster 1941. The third draft of Raiders, if filmed in its entirety, would have been three hours long and doubled the cost of the production. But no studio would ever have allowed it to go over budget, given that 1941, Spielberg’s previous film, was an expensive commercial (and critical) flop. As Spielberg says in an interview on the recently released box set of the trilogy, he was ‘slashing set pieces’ everywhere in an attempt to keep the budget down. It’s lucky for the film that he had to do this, because it led to a far leaner and meaner structure, and a better film. Spielberg and Lucas got so much into the habit of cutting things that the famous Indy-shoots-Cairo-Swordsman gag was improvised partly to save two days of location shooting while Lucas broke two engines off the production model of the Flying Wing – saving $250,000 dollars! The original model, and production drawings all show it with four. And for the Tanis digs, Spielberg wanted 2,000 extras. He got 400.

It’s fun to see how the third (1979) draft of Raiders of the Lost Ark differs from the final version. It begins like the film we know, in South America, only our first sight of Indy is rather strange – he wears a ‘weird feather’ in his hat. We discover that around it’s point is rolled his half of the parchment map of the Chachapoyan Temple’s floor plan. Barranca still tries to kill Indy, but instead of just taking the gun from his hand using the whip, Indy first makes him discharge it in the dirt – using the whip – then somehow spins Barranca around so that the gun is against his body and giving ‘one more short jerk on the whip’, makes the gun fire into Barranca, killing him. Wow. The rest of the sequence proceeds as in the film, except that the Temple of the Chachapoyan Warriors contains an extra obstacle – a chamber where the ceiling is triggered to collapse by vines used as tripwires. Previous victims lie ‘one on top of another, all squashed flat as cardboard’. Indy advises Satipo laconically ‘Try not to touch the vines’.

Back at the university, there are two small but significant differences between the draft scene and the one in the movie. The telegram about Tanis is still there, but as well as mentioning Abner Ravenwood the cable also mentions ‘General Tengtu Hok, Shanghai’, in connection with the Headpiece to the Staff of Ra. The Headpiece, in this draft, is in two pieces; Abner (or Marion) has one half, the General has the other. Thus the plot in this draft branches off into a Shanghai episode, which would later reappear, in a different form, in Temple of Doom. The scene with the Army intelligence men also gives us a further chilling motive for Hitler’s interest in the Ark; Indy says ‘It’s said that the Lost Ark will be recovered at the time of the coming of the True Messiah’.

Indy hightails it to Shanghai to extract the Headpiece segment from General Hok, a Chinese warlord aligned with the Japanese. With the help of two CIA agents Indy breaks into Hok’s private palace, where he is attacked by a couple of Samurai warriors. At the same time Hok is taking tea with three Germans. Indy kills the two samurai (throttling one of them with his whip!) and steals the Headpiece half from a glass display case in Hok’s private museum, but Hok and the German’s hear the fight and come running. The scene ends much as the Shanghai nightclub scene in Temple of Doom ended, with Indy escaping behind a giant rolling gong while Hok fires crazily at him with a sub-machine gun (we later hear from Belloq that the General had a copy of the Headpiece half, which he gives to the Nazis). Indy then flies to Nepal, with a ‘trenchcoated European spy’ in tow, but in a Hitchcockian touch all the other [passengers on the plane, including a little old lady, parachute off, (while Indy is asleep) leaving him in the crashing plane. Needless to say he wakes up and uses a life raft to. . .you get the picture. Except this time the life raft slides to a halt, not in India, but just outside the front door of the Raven bar!

The scene in the Raven bar between Indy and Marion is different in this draft to the actual film, but not because it was rewritten – it was filmed but much of it was cut. Whatever Lucasfilm does to mark the twentieth anniversary of Raiders we’ll be certain to see it next year, either as part of a special edition theatrical release, dvd, video, or most likely all three. In the cut scene Marion explains that after Abner died she went to work in the Raven, ‘and I wasn’t the bartender’. Then the owner of the bar went crazy and as he was dragged away screaming said that the place was all hers for life. As Marion says, ‘Can you imagine a more evil curse?’. While it may have slowed down the pace of the action, George Lucas is known to like this scene, and to favor restoring it to the original. We’ll see.

Toht during Raven bar
fight storyboard sketch.

The next significant difference between the draft script and Raiders comes in the Well of Souls, although before this there are several smaller changes. Toht is called Belzig and has a bright light shining out of his right eye socket instead of an eye; this original idea got as far as the storyboard stage before being dropped, perhaps for being a little too far-fetched. Belloq is called Emile, rather than Renee. And Sallah is ‘a small man’! As Indy and Sallah work on extracting the Ark from the stone chest Sallah reaches out to touch the Ark, but Indy cries ‘Don’t touch it! Never touch it!’ He is recalling the words of the old scholar who translated the Headpiece markings, that to touch the Ark or look into it means death. In the completed film Indy and Sallah never touch the Ark, but carry it gingerly on poles. Meanwhile the scenes between Belloq and Marion demonstrate a real attraction between them. Marion is not just ‘playing along’ in the hope of escaping. The ‘comedy’ business with the wine bottle, knife and coat hanger were all added later, on set, by Spielberg. The remainder of the draft continues as in the film, except that the truck chase has yet to feature Indy being dragged underneath it – he simple gets onto the truck, drives the Nazis off the road, and escapes.

The scene between Indy and Marion on the Bantu Wind is more serious, sexy and mature than the one in the final cut. But then, Indy wasn’t dragged under the truck in this draft, and is therefore in better shape for seducing Marion. The stuff with the mirror in Raiders is all Spielberg. As everyone knows, Indy lashes himself to the u-boat periscope and hitches a lift to the Nazi secret base. This scene is another candidate for a Raiders special edition, although it’s possible that not all of it was filmed.

The climax of the draft is very different from the final film. The spectacular supernatural climax we know evolved out of hints in the script, and the input of many people, including ILM staff. The draft betrays its origins by setting the climax in a very James Bondian location. The submarine pen leads to another vast underground cavern a mine, munitions store and command center. Here the Ark is opened within a white silk tent, described as the ‘Tabernacle’. There is no walk through the island, and no altar. Indy still grabs a bazooka from a munitions store and levels it at the Ark, but rather than losing an argument with Belloq, he is wrestled to the ground by three Nazis, and taken outside to be executed. The three Nazis include a character called Shliemann, later to become Dietrich in the film. Before they can kill him Belloq opens the Ark and meets God: ‘If a death’s-head can smile and look satisfied that is how Belloq’s incandescent face would be described. . .this event is accompanied by a sound like no other. A sound so intense and so odd and so haunting that the suggestible among us might imagine it were the whisper of God’. As climactic as it sounds, this is not the end of the film. The remainder of the draft is probably the weirdest part for a fan of the finished film to read. In the chaos Indy escapes, rescues Marion, and then they get the Ark into a mine car, before heading off, pursued by two cars full of Thugees. . .err, two cars full of Nazis. Meanwhile the Nazi caverns catch fire, eventually being destroyed when the munitions dump explodes. A huge ball of flame races up the tunnel behind the Nazis, incinerating them. Indy and Marion fly straight out of the mine opening, down a slope, and crash into a Nazi launch disguised as Greek fishing boat (!) while the Nazi command center and half the island explodes behind them. . .and our heroes sail away. As improbable as all this sounds, it does at least answer the question of how the hell Indy and Marion got off the island with the Ark. However, it is not difficult to see why it was cut; it removes the focus of the climax from the Ark, and would have been hugely expensive to film. And in the end this chase and the destruction of the Nazi’s island base (which is highly reminiscent of the climax to Dr. No), is more James Bond than Indiana Jones.

Raiders of the Lost Ark survived the Budget-Restrictions of Doom, turning them to it’s own advantage. However, in his next adventure, Indiana Jones would face even deadlier enemies – accusations of gratuitous violence and cultural imperialism. Will Indy survive? How can he defend himself? And what is the Secret of the Bullwhip? Find out in the next gripping installment of Raiders of the Lost Drafts!!

Continue to Chapter 3 >>


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