25 Years Ago: “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” Released

indiana jones and the last crusade

On May 24th, 1989 Paramount Pictures and Lucasfilm released the 3rd installment in the Indiana Jones franchise: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford are in top form in what can be considered one of the best outings for Indy, this film is more in keeping with the original’s sense of adventure, mystery and mythology. Spielberg himself has admitted that ‘Temple of Doom’, released 5 years earlier, was too dark and depressing, ‘Crusade’ lightens the theme while creating the same sense of danger and escapism.

Dr. Jones receives a mysterious package from his estranged father, Henry Jones, the contents are just as bizarre as their origins. Indy soon discovers that his father has disappeared while on assignment in Italy, an assignment to find the Holy Grail, the cup Jesus is said to have used during the last supper. His adventure begins in Italy where he is soon met by his father’s assistant, the lovely Elsa, but soon sends them on a worldwind adventure that sees the Jones family fighting Nazi’s, Holy Warriors and meeting knights from the middle ages!

Production

Principal photography began on May 16, 1988 in the Tabernas Desert in Spain’s Almería province. Spielberg originally had planned the chase to be a short sequence shot over two days, but he drew up storyboards to make the scene an action-packed centerpiece. Thinking he would not surpass the truck chase from Raiders of the Lost Ark (because the truck was much faster than the tank), he felt this sequence should be more story-based and needed to show Indiana and Henry helping each other. He later said he had more fun storyboarding the sequence than filming it.

Filming for the castle interiors took place from June 5 to 10, 1988 at Elstree Studios, England. On June 16 Lawrence Hall, London was used for the airport interiors. Filming returned to Elstree the next day to capture the motorcycle escape, continuing at the studio for interior scenes until July 18. One day was spent at North Weald Airfield on June 29 to film Indiana leaving for Venice. Ford and Connery acted much of the Zeppelin table conversation without trousers on because of the overheated set.

Filming resumed two days later at Elstree, where Spielberg swiftly filmed the library, Portuguese freighter, and catacombs sequences. The steamship fight in the prologue’s 1938 portion was filmed in three days on a sixty-by-forty-feet deck built on gimbals at Elstree. A dozen dump tanks—each holding three hundred imperial gallons (360 U.S. gallons; 3000 lb.) of water—were used in the scene. Henry’s house was filmed at Mill Hill, London. Indiana and Kazim’s fight in Venice in front of a ship’s propeller was filmed in a water tank at Elstree. Spielberg used a long focus lens to make it appear the actors were closer to the propeller than they really were.

The second unit filmed part of the prologue’s 1912 segment from August 29 to September 3. The main unit began two days later with the circus train sequence at Alamosa, Colorado. They filmed at Pagosa Springs on September 7, and then at Cortez on September 10. From September 14 to 16, filming of Indiana falling into the train carriages took place in Los Angeles. The production then moved to Utah’s Arches National Park to shoot more of the opening. A house near the park was used for the Jones family home. The production had intended to film at Mesa Verde National Park, but Native American representatives had religious objections to its use. When Spielberg and editor Michael Kahn viewed a rough cut of the film in late 1988, they felt it suffered from a lack of action. The motorcycle chase was shot during post-production at Mount Tamalpais and Fairfax near Skywalker Ranch. The closing shot of Indiana, Henry, Sallah and Brody riding into the sunset was filmed in Texas in early 1989.

Fun Facts

For the scene at the Nazi rally in Berlin (where Indy confronts Elsa and steals back the diary), Steven Spielberg had all the extras who did the “Sieg Heil” arm salute also put their other arms behind their backs and cross their fingers.

Steven Spielberg’s favorite of the first three “Indiana Jones” films.

In the scene where Indy has to choose which cup is the grail, he picks the right one by saying “That’s the cup of a carpenter”. It is said in the Bible that Jesus – like his mortal father Joseph – was a carpenter. Interestingly, as a struggling actor Harrison Ford used a book on carpentry from the library to start doing odd jobs and earn a living. He was working on George Lucas’ house.

Most of the uniforms worn by the Nazis in the Berlin book burning scene are authentic WW2 uniforms and not costumes. A cache of old uniforms was found in Germany and obtained by costume designer Anthony Powell to be used in the film.

Harrison Ford cut his chin in a car accident in Northern California when he was about 20. In the movie, this cut is explained by young Indiana Jones cutting his chin with a whip.

When George Lucas met with Steven Spielberg to discuss a third Indiana Jones movie, he wanted to have it set in a haunted mansion. Spielberg had just finished Poltergeist (1982) and decided that he wanted to do something different. Lucas then came up with the idea of the Holy Grail and Spielberg added the idea of a father/son sub-story.

When Dr Jones Sr. scares the “seagulls” to fly up and stop the plane, they are in fact pigeons, and not seagulls, as seagulls are not trainable. If you look closely you can also see that there are a number of ‘cut out’ seagulls in the sand, which do not move as the others do.

During the Castle Brunwald rescue, Dr. Jones Sr. expresses dismay at Indy inadvertently bringing the diary into enemy hands saying that he “should have mailed it to The Marx Brothers”. Harpo Marx revealed in his autobiography that he once really had to smuggle a journal of important documents out of Russia to keep them from falling into enemy hands.

Harrison Ford nominated River Phoenix to play him as a teenager. When describing how he prepared for playing the role, Phoenix explained that he didn’t really base his portrayal on the Indiana Jones character, but on Harrison Ford. So he observed Ford out of character before acting his part.

Henry Jones senior was, according to backstory material written but not presented in the film, born in the 1860s, and was a Scottish university professor before emigrating to Utah, where Indy was born. He was roughly 75 years old in 1938. Sean Connery was only 58 at the time of filming (and only 12 years older than Harrison Ford), hence the beard and general “old man” attire his character wears. Indy impersonating a Scottish lord at Castle Brunwald was a nod to this unspoken backstory.

Details

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Produced by Robert Watts & George Lucas
Screenplay by Jeffrey Boam (Tom Stoppard)
Story by George Lucas & Menno Meyjes
Starring Harrison Ford
Music by John Williams
Cinematography Douglas Slocombe
Editing by Michael Kahn
Studio Lucasfilm
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date: May 24, 1989
Running time 127 minutes
Budget $48 million
Box office $474,171,806

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