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Thursday, August 07, 2014

Fishing In the Discount Bin - The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Treasure of the Peacock's Eye

Here we are again with Fishing in the Discount Bin, where I watch a movie I own and blog about it, because I really don't have much of a life.  Before I wrap up my journey through the Indiana Jones franchise, I thought I'd take a quick look at The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles with Treasure of the Peacock's Eye.  This pops up in my notes at November 2, 2013.

The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Treasure of the Peakcock's Eye VHS cover

Well, before I close the book on my journey through the world of Indiana Jones, I figured this would be a good time to do another installment of "Crap I Still Own on VHS" and take a look at an often overlooked chapter of the Indiana Jones mythology, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

As the story goes, as interest in Indiana Jones grew, more and more people started asking George Lucas about Indy's background.  So, Lucas started writing up a bit of a history for Indiana Jones.  Also being a bit of a history buff, Lucas realized that Indy would have been in his teens and early 20s when a lot of historical figures from the turn of the century were quite literally shaping the world.  So Lucas got this idea for a TV show that would have had young Indy traveling the world, being witness to these century-shaping historical events, and meeting the historical figures involved.  And thus, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was born. 

Sadly, though, the premise caught a lot of people off guard and it left people cold.  Rather than the high adventure of the films, they were treated with costume drama.  They wanted Indiana Jones...they got Forrest Gump. I mean, Lucas has even said his ultimate goal for the series was that it was to be used as a classroom resource. 

I remember watching a few episodes when it premiered in 1992, but not really being taken by it.  I seem to remember not ever knowing when it was on...it was one of those TV shows that got moved around the schedule a lot.  I watched the first episode...I watched a couple in between.  And of course, I watched the one where they got Harrison Ford to reprise Indiana Jones and serve as narrator for one episode.  That was one of the interesting things about the show.  Each one started and ended with a 90-year old Indy in the present day, and he'd tell someone a story of his childhood.  So, yeah.  Young Indy was Forrest Gump, and Old Indy was Grandpa Simpson.  "But the important thing was I was wearing an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time." 

But sadly, those Old Indy segments were lost int he special-editioning.  Yup, not even this series was free of Lucas's desire to re-edit and tinker with his projects.  When Lucas prepped the series for release to VHS in 1999, he shot some new linking footage, and had all 44 episodes re-edited into a series of 22 TV movies.  All the Old Indy stuff got relegated to the Lucasfilm archives. 

And that's how I got my VHS copy of the episode Treasure of the Peacock's Eye.  1999 was also when the Indiana Jones trilogy got its "One Last Time" release on VHS.  I got it for Christmas that year, and most releases of the box set of the Indiana Jones trilogy came bundled with Treasure of the Peacock's Eye as a bonus.  I think I only watched it twice and remembered why The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles never caught my attention.

It opens in the literal final hour of World War I, as Indy and his friend and sidekick Remy are dispatched to bring an soldier who's being accused of aiding the enemy.  They find the soldier dying on the front line, and with the soldier's dying words, they find a treasure map hidden in his boot.  Once they get home to London, they see the map leads to the Peacock's Eye, a giant diamond that once belonged to Alexander the Great.  Remy talks Indy into going off on one last adventure before they settle into civilian life, and soon, Remy and Indy are off to Egypt, to study some of Alexander the Great's artifacts in a museum there to determine the location of the Peacock's Eye.  Once they arrive, and with a little assistance from famed archeologist Howard Carter (guy who discovered King Tut's tomb [thank you Wikipedia]) and author E.M. Forster, they're off to India to find the Peacock's Eye!

I can see why this was included in the set, to whet people's appetites for Young Indy.  This is an episode that tries to be most like the movies, with intrigue, mysterious eye-patched strangers, a femme fatale, a pirate queen, and all other high adventure tropes.  In fact, in the intro filmed for this VHS tape, Lucas says his intent with this episode was to take a break from the costume drama and give young Indy "a taste of the life ahead of him." 

But, as I said, this is two episodes of a TV show strung together, so the second half is more typical of a Young Indy episode.  Once our heroes get the diamond -- or, rather, the strong box that contains it -- they find themselves stranded on an island in the South Pacific.  They are rescued and taken in by one of the tribes of natives there, but the customs of the natives are strange to our heroes.  Eventually, the natives take our heroes to famed anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, who's there studying these native tribes.  After some soul-searching conversations with Malinowski, Indy realizes that his heart really isn't in this treasure hunt, and what Indy really wants to do is head home, go back to school, and fulfill his dream of being an archeologist.    Remy finally gets the strong box open and finds it doesn't contain the diamond...but another map to the diamond's true resting place.  With different dreams and goals, Indy and Remy part ways, and Indy heads home. 

And my final assessment to this Young Indy adventure is "Meh."  The interesting thing is George Lucas wound up using this series as a test bed for a lot of the technology that went into making the Star Wars prequels.  A lot of the staff cut their teeth here, too, particularly producer Rick McCallum.  And Sean Patrick Flannery as the  young Indy must have gone to the same acting school as Hayden Christensen as they have a similar...wooden quality to them. 

Yeah...that's the best word to sum this up.  Meh. 

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