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The Adventures Of Young Indiana Jones
Volume 1

review by Zach B.

 

 

Running Time: 649 minutes

Starring: Sean Patrick Flannery

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $129.99

Features: Archaeology - Unearthing Our Past, Howard Carter and the Tomb Of Tutankhamun,  Colonel Lawrence's War - T.E. Lawrence and Arabia, From Slavery to Freedom, Theodore Roosevelt and The American Century, Ecology - Pulse of the Planet, American Dreams - Norman Rockwell & The Saturday Evening Post, Art Rebellion - The Making of The Modern, Edgar Degas - Reluctant Rebel, Barque + Picasso - A Collaboration^3, Giacomo Puccini - Music of the Heart, It's Opera!, The Archduke's Last Journey - End of an Era, Powder Keg - Europe 1900-1914,  Sigmund Freud - Exploring the Unconscious, Carl Jung and the Journey to Self Discovery, Psychology - Charting the Human Mind, Seeking Truth - The Life of Leo Tolstoy, Unquiet Voices - Russian Writers and the State,  Aristotle - Creating Foundations, Ancient Questions - Philosophy and Our Search for Meaning, Jiddu Krishnamurti - The Reluctant Messiah, Annie Besant - An Unlikely Rebel, Medicine in the Middle Kingdom, Eastern Spirituality - The Road to Enlightenment, Thomas Edison - Lighting Up the World, Invention and Innovation - What's Behind A Good Idea?, The Mystery of Edward Stratemeyer, Wanted: Dead or Alive - Pancho Villa and the American Invasion of Mexico, General John J. Pershing and His American Army, George S. Pattion - American Achilles, Easter Rising: The Poets' Rebellion, The Passions of William Butler Yeats, Sean O'Casey Vs. Ireland, Ireland - The Power of the Poets, Winston Churchill - The Lion's War, Demanding the Vote - The Pankhursts and British Suffrage, Fighting for the Vote: Women's Suffrage in America, Historical Lecture: The Promise of Progress
DVD-ROM: Interactive Timeline, Revolution Interactive Game

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Stereo 2.0, English Subtitles, Scenes, Twelve-Disc Set

Released: October 16th, 2007

 

 

All of the "episodes" in this first volume are presented 1.33:1 full screen, and it looks as if they've been cleaned up rather well. Other than some noise, a little shimmering, the occasional soft image and piece of dirt, these are pretty pristine transfers that look rather sharp and fresh. (If I didn't know any better, I'd swear that they weren't filmed in the early 1990s.) Detail is pretty good and fleshtones are appealing and accurate. Color saturation is pretty excellent as well, as there is no smearing and the variety of colors from the various foreign locales do pop out a bit (especially the exterior scenes - such as the yellows of Egypt and blue haze of late night London). Not always perfect looking, but pretty exceptional overall. 

 

Shockingly, "Young Indiana Jones" is given the Dolby Digital Stereo treatment in English - just as they aired on television years and years ago. I'm pretty stunned that Lucas didn't remix the series into Dolby Digital 5.1 - this show could have certainly benefited from it. I'm curious why Lucas left the sound alone, and didn't bring it into a more modern age... especially since some of the VHS releases of these episodes/movies apparently were mixed in Dolby Surround. Purists might be happy about this, unless this is the first of many double-dips of the show. (Come on, would that really surprise anyone?)

As you'd expect, the stereo tracks are a bit limited. They aren't bad, but nothing quite stands out and are even a bit uneven in how the elements are molded together. Dialogue is pretty clear, but is a bit on the soft side and even a little thin. The show's lovely musical score comes out pretty well, and the sounds effects - be it train and car rides, or fisticuffs - don't have much punch, and can even sound a bit hollow. Fidelity is also really low, and I did even hear a little bit of hissing in the background.

This is the only part of the set that really disappoints, and it's a bit of a shame. English subtitles are included if you need them.

 

Oh boy: Lucasfilm supposedly spent years prepping bonus material for this series, and they certainly went above and beyond their call of duty: this set is packed to the brim with short documentaries that give a tremendous amount of historical context to the episodes on this set. It's edutainment at its finest, and there's plenty to learn here and a lot of connections to make from the episodes.

Okay, disc one (deep breath): Archaeology - Unearthing Our Past (19:16) discusses the importance of archaeology, and techniques used to discover clues of the past. Howard Carter and the Tomb Of Tutankhamun (22:33) focuses on the man who made one of archaeology's biggest finds, and just what happened when he opened that tomb. Colonel Lawrence's War - T.E. Lawrence and Arabia (36:05) is an informative biography about the real life action hero, and how he made his mark on history in the Middle East (and who also happened to have an Oscar-winning movie made about him). To cap the first disc off, we have From Slavery to Freedom (30:07), a pretty intriguing look at the history of slavery through the centuries (right up until the 13th amendment), and all of its repercussions.

Moving onto the third disc, it exclusively features supplements tied to the adventure entitled "Passion For Life." To begin, there's Theodore Roosevelt and The American Century (30:51) which is a strong overview about the contributions of the famed President. Ecology - Pulse of the Planet (24:12) touches on a variety of nature and environment topics, while American Dreams - Norman Rockwell & The Saturday Evening Post (24:16) discusses the famed painter, his work for the renowned newspaper and his Four Freedoms paintings. Art Rebellion - The Making of The Modern (26:06) discusses the revolutionary painters from France, such as Manet and CÚzanne. Continuing with the art theme are Edgar Degas - Reluctant Rebel (22:53) and Barque + Picasso - A Collaboration^3 (23:14), which are fantastic biographies about the two world-famous artists.

Disc five has features relevant to "The Perils Of Cupid." Giacomo Puccini - Music of the Heart (25:34) is about the famed opera composer and his masterwork, "La Bohme," and It's Opera! (29:01) is about the nuances of the musical art form. The Archduke's Last Journey - End of an Era (20:56) focuses on the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand which led to start of World War I, and Powder Keg - Europe 1900-1914 (26:06) is about the political happenings on that continent during the early 20th century and their significance. Sigmund Freud - Exploring the Unconscious (21:56) and Carl Jung and the Journey to Self Discovery (19:30) are biographies about the famed psychoanalysts and their methods. Topping it off is Psychology - Charting the Human Mind (26:33), which is kind-of a mini-history on psychology, and its functions in influencing our minds.

The "Travels With Father" disc has a few supplements. First on deck is Seeking Truth - The Life of Leo Tolstoy (31:15), which looks at the life of the famous writer. Going hand-in-hand with that is Unquiet Voices - Russian Writers and the State (26:00), which focuses on Tolstoy's intellectual contemporaries and the context of their written work. On the philosophical side, there's Aristotle - Creating Foundations (21:37), which focuses on the revolutionary philosopher and his beliefs; and Ancient Questions - Philosophy and Our Search for Meaning (23:52), a kinda heady history and analysis of philosophical principles and how human think.

"Journey Of Radiance" has four relevant extras. Jiddu Krishnamurti - The Reluctant Messiah (26:49) is a biography about the famed Indian thinker and the unique path he took; Annie Besant - An Unlikely Rebel (26:56) is about the labor protestor; Medicine in the Middle Kingdom (26:49) focuses on traditional Chinese medicine and there's also Eastern Spirituality - The Road to Enlightenment (29:06), about religion traditions in eastern countries.

"Spring Break Adventure" is given its own disc of supplements. Thomas Edison - Lighting Up the World (26:52) is about the genius inventor and his inventions, and leading in from that is Invention and Innovation - What's Behind A Good Idea? (22:54), which is about the nature of invention, failed inventions as well as more of Edison's developments. The Mystery of Edward Stratemeyer (26:15) is a fun biography about the famed children's author behind The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Wanted: Dead or Alive - Pancho Villa and the American Invasion of Mexico (28:09) is about the Mexican revolutionary, and his impact on American history. Rounding this disc out are biographical pieces on two famous generals: General John J. Pershing and His American Army (28:26) and George S. Pattion - American Achilles (29:34).

"Love's Sweet Song" has the most supplements. Easter Rising: The Poets' Rebellion (25:54) is about the 1916 revolution in Ireland and the reasons behind the fight for independence. The Passions of William Butler Yeats (27:43) is a biography on the renowed poet; while Sean O'Casey Vs. Ireland (25:18) is about the controversial dramatist and the ruckus he caused with one of his satirist plays. The Ireland theme tops out with Ireland - The Power of the Poets (26:53), which gives background on recent Irish history (mainly, the civil war) and how Irish poetry has inspired and united people.

Moving onto England, Winston Churchill - The Lion's War (33:47) is a biography about the famed British Prime Minister. Finally, there's two pieces on suffrage: Demanding the Vote - The Pankhursts and British Suffrage (27:06) and Fighting for the Vote: Women's Suffrage in America (31:28). Both are great watches, and it's interesting to compare and contrast how women fought for the right to vote in two different countries and the waves they made in history.

Finally... disc 12, the final disc. There's only one video-based supplement here: the 41 minute, 27 second Historical Lecture: The Promise of Progress. In a way, this piece condenses the hours and hours of material that came before it: it uses a lot of footage and stills from the previous documentaries, as some lecturer drones on and on about the importance of progress, as well as the impact some major historical figures (many from this set's documentaries) and how these intertwined with important movements (also from this set's documentaries). Sure, it makes a lot of good points, but nothing that you probably don't know or can't infer based on the topics and the course that history has taken. The lecturer's loud tone gets grating quickly, but in fairness, I suppose this just ties everything together. Just call this the Cliffs Notes version of all the extra features on this set.

There's also two DVD-ROM features: the Interactive Timeline and Revolution Interactive Game. Unfortunately though, I couldn't get them to work on my Mac.

Phew... that's a lot of material. And the pieces here are all quite wonderful, and make for some really entertaining history lessons for all ages. (I imagine that this is an ideal set for schools and colleges to buy for the extras alone.) Yet here is my one qualm with this set: there is not a single piece on the actual making of the show. How does this series fit in context with the Indiana Jones movies? Why was Lucas so insistent on making a series focusing on the character as a youngster? New retrospective interviews with cast and crew? Some vintage behind-the-scenes footage? Reflections on some of the material included here? Or is the good stuff being saved for something else? (Like some giant Indy box once the fourth film is released on home video?) I guess we'll have to wait and see. (Fingers crossed.)

 

Even though it is a bit of a disappointment that there isn't anything on the making of the episodes themselves (not even a single retrospective featurette?), this is a pretty astounding set - this package has loads of supplementary material that is packed with meaty, relevant history lessons. Education may not sound like fun to some of you, but I found a majority of these small documentaries to be well made, informative and quite entertaining (though chances are you might know a lot about some of these subjects).

But given how long it took for this set to make it to shelves, I was really surprised Lucasfilm didn't give the episodes (err, "movies") 5.1 mixes. Also, even though it was Lucas' intent from years and years ago, I still question how logical it is to edit the episodes into films - it messes with the show's original continuity (not to mention that it draws ire from completists).

Like many (or everyone), I still prefer the actual, action-packed Indy movies as opposed to the younger Jones seeing history come to life before his eyes in an educational TV series. But this set is still a great investment if you're a fan of the show - or even for history buffs, who just want a bunch of mini-documentaries about the people and events that shaped the world, particuarly in the 19th and 20th centuries.