I know this is a childish comparison to make, but does anyone else look at acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and totally see Toht from 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark?”
“Pitfall!” was quite the hit when Activision released it in 1982. (I’m a little unclear on what I’m reading about the relationship between Activision and Atari … it looks like the former was a group of defected employees who were then sued by latter, but who then inadvertently pioneered the third-party-developer arrangement for video games.)
“Pitfall!” hit the shelves the same year that the priceless “Raiders of the Lost Ark” galloped through theaters, which I’ll bet helped with the popularity of the jungle adventure game. But the game became a bestseller because of its own merits. Wikipedia informs me that its took a lot of innovation by its creator, David Crane, to get his newer, more advanced graphics stored and operable on a 4-kilobyte game.
And I could kinda see that, as a kid. “Pitfall!” was far sleeker and seemingly more complex than other Atari games my family had, like “Combat,” “Missile Command,” “Frogger” and “Donkey Kong.” And it was a lot of fun. See for yourself; you can play the original game for free right here at the Virtual Atari website. (Seriously, the people who set up that site did something really cool for the rest of us.)
When I sat down to write this, I actually got my memories of “Pitfall!” confused with a later, more advanced side-scrolling PC game called “Impossible Mission.” I played that in high school, and I loved it even more than “Pitfall!” The two games look pretty similar; I wonder if anyone else gets them confused.
By the way, does that kid in the pith helmet in the ad below look familiar to you? That’s because he’s none other than Jack Black, age 13.
Parker Brothers released this game in 1982. It was a hell of a lot more fun than it looks. The kid next door and I wore this thing out on my front porch.
I just wish I could find a better picture of it.
It would be both ironic and meta if my cache of 1980’s Indiana Jones merchandise was someday uncovered by a future archeologist.
I had this poster for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) when I was 11 or so. It was goddam gigantic. It took up nearly an entire wall in my room.
It wasn’t store bought; it came from a theater. My father used to do something that was pretty damned cool for any parent to do — he’d occasionally ask the manager of a movie theater to save their in-house advertising for my favorite movies. (I don’t know how things are done nowadays, but back then they’d just throw them out after using them.) Then my Dad would hand the guy $10 or $20 for one of these, or maybe the manager would just give it to him.
Sometimes that meant a truly industrial-size poster, like this one. Sometimes it meant one of those huge cardboard stand-up advertisments. (I could only have a couple of these at a time … I had a small room.)
I also had a cardboard stand-up for “Colors,” the 1988 film depicting Los Angeles gangs — but my older brother brought me that one. It had nearly life-size cutouts of Sean Penn and Robert Duvall, the movie’s police protagonists. I don’t know why the nerdiest kid in East Coast suburbia was so taken with a movie about inner-city West Coast gangs, but that movie meant a lot to me.
Come to think of it, a lot of people were talking about “Colors” back in the day. It was a big deal. It was considered pretty edgy at the time, the critics loved it, and I’m surprised I never heard about it again after the close of the decade. Its soundtrack had a damned good title track by Ice-T, too.
The poster below was my favorite, though. To this day, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is probably my favorite film of all time.
I was thrilled when these Indiana Jones action figures arrived for me under the Christmas tree in 1983. I loved “Raiders of the Lost Ark” more than I loved “Star Wars.” I was truly surprised, too — I didn’t even know that they existed.
Why was that, I wonder? Was Kenner just not advertising them much? The company sure wasn’t shy about advertising its “Star Wars” figures.
That very last figure you see is the German mechanic that Indy fought at the desert base, when he and Marion were trying to hijack that plane. (Dear God, was that one of the greatest movie scenes of all time.) Anyway, the German mechanic toy had a spring-activated arm for clobbering action, and he came with a little plastic wrench. Good times.
Guys, please do not view the solar eclipse tomorrow without the ISO-certified eclipse-viewing glasses. You could go blind.
Do not allow any children to view the eclipse without the special glasses. (Wouldn’t a lot of kids just ignore adults’ advice and watch an eclipse unprotected anyway, especially if their eyes don’t hurt when they first look at it? I was that kind of kid.)
Sunglasses are not a substitute. I’m a little confused by what I’ve read so far online about taking pictures, but I understand you should not be looking at the eclipse through a camera or a smartphone camera either.
I don’t know why this whole thing has me acting like such a mother hen on the Internet, seriously. But here we are.
If your eyes aren’t protected, MARION, DON’T LOOK AT IT.
Does anyone else think that the “Alien: Covenant” ship logo looks a hell of a lot like the sculpted top of “Raiders'” Ark of the Covenant?!
Am I just realizing something everyone else has already noticed? I’m not known for being the first guy to notice important details …
Or maybe both are based on the same ancient Hebrew art or something?
[UPDATE:] Okay, various smart people on Facebook are informing me that while the Bible doesn’t contain illustrations, it does contain a detailed textual description of the top of the ark. So both movies took their cue from Exodus: 25. (Thanks, Lisa L.)
Whatever. I’m still counting this as my own “Sherlock” moment.
No, I’m not talking about the Marvel Comics adaptation of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981); I’ve written about that separately here at the blog. This was a regular ongoing comic book title between January 1983 and March 1986.
And every issue of it was a mind-boggling pleasure for a fourth grader whose favorite hero was Indiana Jones. I remember issues one and two waiting for me after school one day, displayed upright on the kitchen table. My Dad had picked them up for me. (He was constantly trying to help me with a problem that had plagued my childhood — I simply never owned enough comic books.) These were a departure from the “Sgt. Rock” comics that my father usually bought for me, but damn if they weren’t a thousand times better. I was stunned by the very concept of them. “Raiders” was a … COMIC BOOK now!?
Of course the plots were derivative of the film. Ninety percent of the places Indy went, an ancient artifact or temple held a terrifying secret, often unleashing a power that could control or destroy the world. And only Indy’s superior knowledge of archeology — or just his sheer pluck — would allow him to employ it to vanquish the bad guys. [Spoiler warning for “Raiders,” by the way.] The writing was damn good, as far as I can remember. And we got to see Marion, Sallah, Marcus Brody and even Captain Katanga again.
You see that cover where Indy is on the wing of a plane? That bad guy just might be one of the Hovitos … I can’t remember well enough to be sure. At one point this adversary steals Indy’s whip and tries to use it against him. (It doesn’t turn out well for him.) In fact …I think it was the scene you see on the cover. I’m not sure why the artist depicted a grappling hook instead. I remember the villain’s line being, “It would be fitting for such a man to die by the sting of his own weapon.” I have no idea why I remember that dialogue after 35 years (and little else about the issue). The mind is a funny thing.
All of the covers were damn cool. I happen to love that final one you see at the bottom. That was Indy’s adventure at Stonehenge. But the first two covers you see are the ones that I would eventually like to get framed, someday after fame brings me opulence — those were the ones waiting for me on the kitchen table that day in 1981.
The Internet is utterly resplendent with Star Wars toys websites. Good Lord. If you are not part of that subculture, you’d be surprised at the research and exactitude displayed by these collectors in cataloging their wish lists. These people track the obscure variations of 70’s and 80’s action figures with the same precision as a linguist researching ancient Etruscan dialects. If you don’t believe me, just google “double-telescoping lightsaber.”
I have no comparable expertise. But I can tell you what I loved as a boy. These two playsets were my favorites, and both might strike someone as odd choices.
The first was the Jawas’ “Droid Factory.” I call it an odd choice because I have never heard another child speak of it. (And the kids absolutely did talk about their Star Wars toys if they were especially prized products. If you received The “Millennium Falcon” or the “Slave-I” for Christmas, you proclaimed that news gleefully at the bus stop immediately after vacation.) I certainly never had heard of it or placed it on my list for Santa.
But the “Droid Factory” was fun as hell. It combined the magic of the Star Wars universe with some of the creativity of Tinker Toys. Look at the pieces below. You could make R2-D2 (or his evil twin) or other droids, including a four-legged bot that could carry a Jawa. You could kinda make something that looked like the Mars Rover. That black thingamajiggy could give you a satellite or a radar droid. And they all had their own specific placement in the factory, to nourish the obsessive compulsive disorder in all of us.
Some other kids somewhere must have liked it, however. After the arrival of “Return of the Jedi” in 1983, the very same toy was released again — only this time it was colored gray, and was marketed as “The Jabba the Hutt Dungeon.”
My second favorite set was the far more recognizable “Jabba the Hutt Action Playset.” That WAS a well known toy and I absolutely BEGGED for it when I was in the fourth grade.
It might seem like an odd choice, though, because … it was a pretty static toy. Neither Jabba the Hutt or Salacious Crumb (yes, that actually was the smaller character’s name) actually moved around much in the movie, having been controlled only by contemporary animatronics or puppetry. Their toys didn’t move much either — only Jabba’s arms could be manipulated, and those only a inch or so up and down. There wasn’t much that you could do with them.
Jabba’s shallow plastic throne could be opened up to double as … the rancor pit, if memory serves. And that didn’t make much sense, because that awful trapdoor in the movie was located in front of him. He didn’t wiggle away his massive heft, invite the wayward to try his throne out, and then spring a booby trap on them, right? Whatever.
But any 80’s kid who owned Jabba could tell you that the real fun was consigning all of your other action figures to be marshaled forth before Jabba, in his “court.” There, they could be questioned, sentenced, whatever. (The good guys always got away.) It was so much fun that all sorts of waylaid action figures found themselves before Jabba — even those from other universes. My “Raiders of the Lost Ark” action figures occasionally wound up in Jabba’s court, for example. (For reasons I can’t remember, Indiana Jones and the “Arab Swordsman” formed a temporary alliance from time to time.)
These were fun toys. If I ever have the wealth and time enough to pursue toy collecting, I’m going to find these again.
I was chatting the other day with author and blogger “Porter Girl,” about what I call the “80’s ‘Raiders’ TV ripoffs.” And that’s … probably an unjustly harsh term coming from me, because I absolutely loved both shows in question when they were on the air in 1982.
I’m talking about “Tales of the Gold Monkey” and “Bring ‘Em Back Alive,” which both aired for only a single season. (“Bring ‘Em Back Alive” had the misfortune of airing opposite “The A-Team,” a show I never liked but which was a LITTLE popular among my peer group of 10-year-olds.)
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” had hit theaters a year prior. Countless adults will tell you today that the “Star Wars” movies were part of their childhood, and that’s true for me too. But “Raiders” was a far larger part, and today it is still tied with “Vanilla Sky” (2001) for my favorite movie of all time. And if you’ve ever read this blog before, then you know that I watch a lot of movies.
So I was thrilled when two shows appeared that were so much LIKE “Raiders.” Both were sort of … “Raiders” Lite. (I think what a lot of people fail to realize is that the sometimes grim inaugural 1981 movie was unambiguously aimed at adults, while the sequels were geared toward the younger set.)
And, to be fair, each show stood on its own. “Tales” was set in the Pacific in 1938, and followed cargo plane pilot Jake Cutter (played by Stephen Collins). He and his near-sentient, one-eyed dog, “Jack,” adventured among all manner of period players: Nazi spies, American spies, Imperial Japanese officers, et alia. (I think that both “Tales” and “Raiders” misled an entire generation about the degree of gunfights and swordplay connected with certain careers.)
The show’s title derives from the adventure in its pilot episode; Jake and company face a mysterious island in which giant, vicious were-monkey cryptids protect a golden monkey statue. (Think of the evil primates in “Congo” (1995).) I explained to my friend that I thought this was maybe inspired by the Hovitos’ gold idol in the opening of “Raiders.” Quite honestly? I remember that pilot episode being pretty scary for a kid, and it was unusually dark for early 80’s primetime show.
“Bring ‘Em Back Alive,” while also developed to capitalize on “Raiders'” popularity, was actually based on a real person. Bruce Boxleitner’s “Frank Buck” was based on the very real Frank Buck, a famous big game trapper in the 1930’s. He wrote a book entitled “Bring ‘Em Back Alive,” and the film treatment followed in 1932.
I’m surprised that anyone even remembers “Tales” or “Bring ‘Em.” I don’t ever remember meeting another fourth grader who talked about either show. It was always about “The A-Team” in the lunch room, and the “DID YOU SEE WHEN THAT GUY SHOT THAT GUY?!” But Blog Correspondent Pete Harrison chimed in immediately when I posted about “Tales” on Facebook, and there are people in the blogosphere who fondly remember them too.
If you do recall them with a smile, as I do, I think they’re both available on DVD.