indiana jones and the last crusade – bye bye monkey king… we hardly knew ye

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was released on May 24, 1989 (but I didn’t see it until 1990), it’s the third film in the trilogy. Besides our regulars (Spielberg, Lucas and Ford), this time we get Indiana Jones’ father, played by Sean Connery. Taking place largely in 1938, it’s about the “Jones” boys searching for the fabled Holy Grail.

Before the more detailed summary, you’ve seen the other two movies in this trilogy right? Right!? Anyways… go check out what my friends Dr. Q at Craft Beer Tasters and Cody from Three B Zine have to say about this film, you can also read what we did for Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom.

Annnnnnnddddd we’re back! So the Last Crusade starts off with young Indiana Jones, no… not the tv series, but a supple River Phoenix, in 1912 Utah (Monument Valley). He stumbles across some thugs digging for a golden cross that belonged to Coronado. He’s spotted, and they give chase which ends up on  a circus train where he finds a bullwhip, chin scar, fedora, his fear of snakes, and magic. Indy makes his escape and winds up at home to his preoccupied father – who’s working on the Grail Diary. The authorities come around and are on the side of the thugs, the cross is returned to man in a Panama Hat.

Cut to: 1938, where Indy’s older and face to face with the man in the Panama Hat, on a ship, in the middle of a storm. The possession of Coronado’s cross switches ownership again, Indy’s out-manned, but fate is on his side and he manages to swashbuckle his way out of the now burning ship. He’s apparently the only survivor, as he sees the Panama Hat’s panama hat float by, and the ship’s name is… the Coronado.

We’re back to Indy teaching, and Marcus Brody walking in. Brody introduces Indy to Walter Donovan, who tells him that his father has vanished while searching for the Grail. Back at home, Indy has received the Grail diary (the same one his dad was working on in the flashback scene) all the way from Venice, Italy. Indy and Brody travel by map to Venice where they meet the lovely Austrian (which doesn’t really matter that she’s Austrian… but it totally does), Dr. Elsa Schneider. They make their way to a library and find an underground cave where the tomb of the First Crusade Knight is. Just then they’re thwarted by some unsavory fez’s. They have a boat chase through the water ways of Venice and learn that these fez’s are actually protecting the Grail, the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword. They learn that Jones senior is being held at Castle Brunwald.

It’s a dark and stormy night at the castle, and here we learn that Elsa and Donovan are in cahoots with the Nazis.
Cut to: Brody in Turkey, because the search for the Grail starts in Alexandretta, here we meet up with Sallah!

Back at the Castle we further learn that Elsa has “been with” both Indy and his father. So they escape in a comical manner involving fire and a revolving fireplace. Instead of going back on the trail for the Grail, Jones senior says that they have to go after the Grail Diary, because it has secrets written down in it. There’s another close call where Indy actually meets Adolf Hitler. They then steal a biplane via zeppelin and manage to fend of a Luftwaffe attack.

They then meet up with Sallah, all the while the Nazis are getting military support from a Sultan, because he wants a Roll-Royce Phantom II. There’s an attack on the combined military forces to get Brody out of the tank, the Brotherhood joins the fight.

Our heroes then catch up to the surviving Nazis who have already found the temple where the Grail is, but they can’t get past the booby-traps. So Donovan shoots Jones senior forcing Indy to survive the traps, get the Grail and use it to save his father. Using the information in the Diary he makes a leap of faith and encounters the last brother… the Grail Knight.

Elsa betrays Donovan by giving him a false cup to drink from, this sends him to be death as he decays right before our eyes. Indy then uses his knowledge and picks a cup, drinks, and is rewarded by having chosen wisely. He takes the Grail filled with water back to his father and cures him of the gunshot wound. Elsa tries to take the cup, but she takes it past the seal… which the Grail Knight warned her about, there’s an earthquake and she falls to her doom, our heroes escape as the Grail Knight waves forlorningly (is that a word?).  So Indiana Jones, Henry Jones senior, Sallah and Marcus Brody ride off in to the sunset.

The good; this is one fun ride. Spielberg said this was the most fun he had working on the Indiana Jones movies, and it certainly shows. The script and story are clever and balance the danger with the humor wonderfully. There isn’t a wasted scene here, everything sets up or pays off something else;

-The flashback brings us up to speed with who Indiana Jones is.

-The build up to who Indiana Jones’ father is… other than it being a great reveal, it’s an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy (if you will). Since Indy homages James Bond in Temple of Doom, and in the character’s inception he was thought of as a Bond type. So to have Sean Connery play the father of Indiana Jones… it’s just sublime.
-Elsa being the love interest, then the bad guy… which leads up to the “joke” that both father and son have been with the same woman.
-Denholm Elliott as Marcus Broody. The build up to Brody being comic relief is amazing. We’ve only seen him in Raiders, and in act 1, then in the act 2 his scenes are well placed to be a complete fish out of water in Turkey.

On to the characters/actors;
Alison Doody… perfect as the femme fatale/love interest, but ultimately the femme fatale. Dr. Schneider as a shape-shifting character is great, and she’s not bad to look at either.

Julian Glover as Donovan – we have a great villain here and he’s another shape-shifting villain at that, he could’ve been the red herring, but he gets the plot going and stays involved.
You may also know Glover when he’s portrayed General Veers and Grand Maester Pycelle.

The Grail Knight – there were three brothers… that always reminded me of me and my brothers, cause there are three of us. There’s just something about the actor, the make up and the whole deal with the scenes with him in it. This was around the same time I started reading up on the Arthurian legend, so to see this live action knight related to that tale was a treat.
There’s just something solemn and simple about him waiting there for years and years, and then he just waves to Indy at the end. The scenes with him have always stuck with me for reasons I can’t fathom or explain…

The boobytraps, I mean wow… what film has done boobytraps this clever let alone three? You just have to see them.

Sean Connery as Henry Jones sr… perfectly casted, and from a writing standpoint, superbly developed. He stands his own against our protagonist. You watch the movie and you just see and feel it.

Having Sean Connery in this film is another… bonding (see what I did there?)… moment for me and my parents. I came for Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, and they came for Sean Connery. They love the James Bond movies, so for us to get Han Solo and James Bond in one movie was truly family time in the truest sense possible.

John Williams’ score here is wonderful as always. I bet you’ve never even paid attention to it huh? That’s because it’s that good, it manages to be grand, yet subtle, triumphant, yet somber all with the change of a note. The score blends so well with the film. This film also won the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing.

I could go on an on about this film, but we gotta stop somewheres.

The bad; why does Indy take off from New York this time? I thought he was teaching at a college in San Francisco?

One of the early versions of this film being tossed around was entitled Indiana Jones and the Monkey King, which had Indy trouncing around Scotland and then finding the Fountain of Youth in Africa… ummm, yeah.

There’s no monkey in this movie…

Overall, so much fun. This is a great way to close the trilogy out.

I’d pair a viewing of this film with Dad’s Root Beer. It’s an good ole American root beer that originated in Chicago circa 1937.

Dad’s was brought to us by Ely Klapman and Barney Berns, in a basement, which was the garage of the time, cause the Kaiser had taken garage. Dad’s earn a loyal following after it was granted its trademark on February 14, 1939, it was famous throughout the midwest, and by the late 1940s was one of the most consumed root beet brand through out the US. AND… it was the first product to use the six pack format.

In 2012 Dad’s Root Beer celebrated its 75th anniversary. And prior to that, the company headquarters was relocated to Jasper… Indiana in 2007. Coincidence???

Dad’s will keep the kid in us all satisfied as our eyes are glued to the tube… err, HD flat screen. Drink it and remember a time when you went to the movies not because you wanted to see the latest flick, but because your dad reached for your hand and you trusted that a good time was ahead of you.

I cannot recommend this movie enough. When we drove through Monument Valley back in 2009, we couldn’t help but think of The Last Crusade, not Back to the Future III, or any number of other westerns, but The Last Crusade.

Here are some photos we snapped while driving through;

This film delivers from the word go! We weren’t a big theatre-going family growing up, but we did rent tapes, so the first glimpses I got of this movie was on VHS sometime in 1990, it was playing in a garage at a party of a celebrant whom I can’t recall. But what I do remember crowding around that small TV set, specifically the boat chase scene through the Venice waterways.
Then we got the VHS tapes for ourselves and I would watch them over and over again.

The third act is super super satisfying, unlike Raiders, Indy is particularly active in the climax of the third act, so it fixed that for me.  Also mirroring Raiders we get the Nazis as the bad guys again and a Judeo-Christian artifact at the core of the plot, with a bad guy’s face withering away to nothing.

If you haven’t by now… do yourself a favor, watch The Last Crusade again, and remember how movies took us places and made us root for the hero and stood alone as a singular movie. Cause in the end, isn’t it about spending time with our dads?

Fade out-



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