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

Starring: 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!

Win Passes to the Kansas City Premiere of a Rare “Raiders of the Lost Ark” Fan Double Feature

Fans of our “Behind the Mikes” podcast know that it’s recorded every week at our favorite place, the Alamo Drafthouse in Kansas City. MediaMikes has teamed up with Drafthouse Films to give one lucky reader and guest the opportunity to attend an amazing double feature celebrating the 35th Anniversary of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

“Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made” brings stars Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala to Kansas City on their Raiders: Follow Your Dreams Tour for a special advance showing of the documentary followed by a rarely-shown screening of their legendary shot-for-shot adaptation of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Eric and Chris, two of the filmmakers behind the adaptation, will be present for a Q&A during the double feature.

To enter the contest all you have to do is let us know below which actor you think should succeed Harrison Ford on screen as Indiana Jones. One random entry will be chosen on Monday, June 27 and that winner notified by email. Good luck!

When: Thursday, June 30th, 2016
Where: Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet 1400 Main Street, Kansas City, MO 64105

Initially played just for family and friends, a VHS tape of RAIDERS: THE ADAPTATION made it into the hands of director Eli Roth, who played it publicly for the first time at the Alamo Drafthouse during Harry Knowles’ Butt-Numb-A-Thon movie marathon in 2002. After a rapturous reception from the audience, the adaptation later went on to have official Austin and Los Angeles premieres and has even be seen by Steven Spielberg, who called it “an inspiration.”

The documentary RAIDERS! THE STORY OF THE GREATEST FAN FILM EVER MADE tracks how the film made it in front of an audience, and the filmmakers modern day struggles to complete one final elaborate and expensive sequence. It also follows the lives of the boys who created the fan film, how the rediscovery of the adaptation affected their adult lives, and their memories of fashioning a love letter to their favorite film with little money, expertise, or adult supervision.

Ticket information: Tickets to the RAIDERS! Double Feature of both the documentary and adaptation can be purchased here for $12:

Official Site
Side-by-Side Trailer