Both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had both achieved massive success by the 1980’s, Lucas with Star Wars, and Spielberg with Jaws and Close Encounters. After planning on collaborating on an adventure film at some point in the future, Raiders of the Lost Ark came along in 1981. Successful enough to spawn three sequels (all very good ones), the film remains one of the favourites of adventure films.
Given that John Williams had provided the music for all of Spielberg’s previous films and two of Lucas’ Star Wars films (with four more to come in later years), there couldn’t possibly be any question of anybody else scoring Raiders of the Lost Ark (or the sequels). Like his music for Jaws, Star Wars, and Superman beforehand, Williams’ theme for the Indiana Jones films would become one of the most famous in cinema history. The fact that the score was not one of the film’s five Academy Award wins remains one of the biggest injustices as far back as the awards go, and alone proves that the Oscars are a worthless popularity contest with utterly no value whatsoever. Vangelis (who didn’t even attend the ceremony) won for his score to Chariots of Fire, which had a nice enough main theme but was otherwise dreadful (not to mention wholly inappropriate for the film), and Chariots of Fire beat out Raiders for the Best Picture award as well. Williams would finally win his fourth Oscar the following year for what is arguably his greatest score, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, but quite honestly, he should have had four consecutive wins for the first four years of the 80’s alone.
Of course, it’s the famous Raiders March that everybody knows the score for. The score opens with music of a dark, menacing fashion as the main character makes his way through the jungle in search of an ancient Peruvian temple that contains a golden idol. The mood of the music continues through the second cue, “The Idol Temple”, and then all hell breaks loose in “Escape from the Temple” as Indy avoids numerous booby traps to get out of the place alive.
It’s in the next cue, “Flight from Peru”, where we hear the famous title theme for the first time, heard in heroic fashion as the plane flies off into the sunset. The theme reoccurs several times throughout the score, most notably in “The German Sub”, where it is given its finest rendition.
There are two other primary themes for the score, the first of which is for the character of Marion, the second for the lost ark. “A Thought for Marion/To Nepal” both themes, opening with the first of them performed by a solo woodwind and gentle strings. At the 18 second mark, the theme for the ark appears . Like the Raiders march, both themes appear later in the score, with Marion’s theme heard in its first fully fledged performance in “Flight to Cairo” as she and Indy join forces.
Cues like “The Basket Game”, “The Fist Fight”, and especially “Desert Chase” show Williams’ writing for action at its very best. “The Basket Game” is a frantic yet comedic piece, culminating in an abrasive performance of Marion’s theme as Indy believes her dead. “The Fist Fight” is a terrific action piece as the hero battles a hefty Nazi solidier (played by Pat Roach, who is the only actor other than Harrison Ford to appear in all three of the original Indy films), who ends up getting shredded by an airplane propeller. The seven and a half minute long tour de force that is “Desert Chase” is easily one of Williams’ finest action pieces , and it accompanies what is unquestionably one of the finest action sequences ever filmed.
“The Map Room: Dawn” is easily amongst Williams’ finest compositions, and is where the theme for the ark receives its finest treatment in a fantastic choral performance which is slowly built up throughout the piece. Two more great performances follow in “Indy Follows the Ark” and especially “The Miracle of the Ark”, where the orchestra gives the piece a performance of incredible power. The album concludes with a concert arrangement of the Raiders march and Marion’s theme.
This is a score with so many remarkable and memorable moments that describing them all would be a waste of time. I think I’ve made my point though – this is one of the finest adventure scores ever written, a classic in every way, and John Williams at his very best. No collection of the maestro’s works would be complete without this.
1. In the Jungle (4:13)
2. The Idol Temple (3:56)
3. Escape from the Temple (1:34)
4. Flight from Peru (2:24)
5. Washington Men/Indy’s Home (1:06)
6. A Thought for Marion/To Nepal (2:12)
7. The Medallion (2:55)
8. Flight to Cairo (1:30)
9. The Basket Game (5:02)
10. Bad Dates (1:14)
11. The Map Room: Dawn (3:53)
12. Reunion in the Tent/Searching for the Well (4:02)
13. The Well of the Souls (5:28)
14. Indy Rides the Statue (1:09)
15. The Fist Fight/The Flying Wing (4:37)
16. Desert Chase (7:33)
17. Marion’s Theme/The Crate (2:10)
18. The German Sub (1:23)
19. Ride to the Nazi Hideout (3:20)
20. Indy Follows the Ark (1:40)
21. The Miracle of the Ark (6:07)
22. Washington Ending & Raiders March (6:52)
Total: 73 minutes
Music Composed, Conducted and Produced by John Williams
Orchestrations by Herbert Spencer
Performed by The London Symphony Orchestra
Academy Award for Best Original Score (nominated)
BAFTA Award for Best Music (nominated)
Grammy Award (won)
Score was purchased as MP3 download – no digital liner notes included.
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