Film Review: “RAIDERS!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made”

raiders-posterStarring: Chris Strompolis and Eric Zala
Directed by: Tim Skousen and Jeremy Coon
Not Rated
Running time: 1 hour 39 mins
Drafthouse Films

Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars

Film Review by Mike Smith

In 1978 my high school guidance counselor, Dr. Robert McGinnis, persuaded the local Air Force recruiter to provide me with a 16mm camera and 10,000 feet of film for my senior photography project. I was crazy about a certain fish movie so I used that material to remake scenes from “Jaws,” featuring Fred Yoder as Quint, Todd Norris as Hooper and yours truly as Chief Brody. I got an A.

Four years later, two 11-year old boys did me one better, taking seven years to film a shot-by-shot remake of another classic Steven Spielberg film, “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” After seven summer vacations spent filming, Chris Strompolis (who played Indy) and Eric Zala (who directed) had completed everything except the explosive plane scene (the one where Indy fights the big Nazi, who later gets caught in the blades of a propeller). A quarter-century later, the two reunite in the hopes of filming that final scene. And the adventure begins.

Told with the same exuberance as the filmmakers being profiled, “RAIDERS!” shares the backstory of the production, including footage both from the film and behind the scenes. As the youngsters have their fun, they do so with the blessings of their parents, who have been assured that they have an adult guardian with a knowledge of film guiding them. Unbeknownst to them the guardian’s knowledge comes from his brief time as a zombie while working on George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead.” It’s only when another parent watches a scene where a child is set on fire (the director sprinkled a little gasoline on his back) that the folks begin to get concerned.

The film floats back and forth, giving us insight into the original production and watching as the filmmakers prepare to film their unfinished scene. Things get sticky when, during the shooting, the weather decides not to cooperate, putting Zala’s full-time job in jeopardy. “Use these two days wisely,” Zala’s boss tells him over the phone after the director begged for two more days off from work. Zala knows the consequences that will befall him if he isn’t back to work, but he also knows he can’t go back without having accomplished his mission. Indiana Jones would be proud!

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