One of critic Gene Siskel’s measurements for the success of a film was a question: “Is the movie that I am watching as interesting as a documentary of the same actors having lunch together?” For Crusade, it’s a definitive yes. Unbeknownst of the time frame in regards to the creation of the quote, you could very well consider it was an established critique mechanism in regards to Last Crusade… except that he gave it thumbs down. Oh well.
So, if we’ve learned anything, no method is fool proof, and criticism remains an educated guess as if it were anything else. From this perspective, Crusade is as good, if not better than, the titular Raiders of the Lost Ark. Distance undoubtedly plays a role, time factoring in to provide some nostalgia, but also the ability to look at the series in whole form. The wonder pouring from Raiders’ facade is no less dim, but in the lens of perspective, Crusade does it better because of Sean Connery and Harrison Ford.
It’s not even a matter of envisioning them at lunch – they have lunch, right inside a Nazi blimp after Ford’s Indiana Jones doubles as a ticket taker. He’s serious about his tickets.
Their conversation is interesting because the audience knows what Jones can do, and is aware of his ability to work as a protector. The argument goes that Crusade shadows Raiders, and it does. Replace the Ark with the Holy Grail, this films end-all-be-all treasure, plop Connery in the place of Marion, create some astonishing action set pieces (the best being here in a lavish tank chase) and the formula is set.
That works though for a reason. Few scenes are needed to bulk up overly animated voodoo worshipers who make kids chip rocks for reasons never explained. Crusade deals with the instantly defiant Nazi, a despicable horde of nonsensical Hitler followers who deserve whatever is coming to them. All that’s needed is a face, and that’s provided by General Vogel (Michael Byrne). The rest? It’s all father and son.
Crusade makes it personable. Indy Sr. is a dedicated lad meant to discover the Grail he’s searched for his entire life. It’s a search for justification more than a relic, and justification in all this family does. Obsession doesn’t cover it. All the while, Indy Jr. tries to rekindle the remotest of fires in this relationship, awkwardly as a school boy trying to impress a father who always looks the other way.
Crusade also has a traditionalist side too, with the Paramount logo fading into a mountain-esque object, flashing into an action scene (here giving a glimpse of Jones’ early run-in with a relic hunter), and then into the classroom to divulge the location of the next world wonder. Temple of Doom missed the school. It’s amazing how much that matters.
Remastered – not restored – is this AVC encoded presentation. Crusade brings with a familiar and dim layer of sharpening, enough to be a bother in the realms of miniscule halos and tiny aliasing. Many will find these levels imperceptible, although they exist. In terms of impact on the image, Crusade doesn’t play victim compared to its predecessor. Only a handful of wide shots show any degradation due to the manipulation. Sharpness typically feels natural, freeing this source from any abhorrent desecration.
Paramount’s suitable compression scheme handles a grain structure that receives a bump in the transfer process. That’s more or less where the sharpening is most noticeable, but to its credit, most will find that it still textures the image naturally. With room to spare, it holds like grain too, spiking only when faced with a tough situation amidst hazy backgrounds. The smoky interior of the dirigible is the prime example of this disc’s worst case scenario, and all that does is prove competency.
Venice locations sparkle on this disc, with a contrast and saturation that proves brilliant when it comes into view. That’s not to say the River Phoenix-intro is any less impressive on those terms, but Venice has a density and depth that is instantly appealing in this transfer. It’s as if Crusade opens its doors suddenly and allows the full breadth of its cinematography to be taken in. Stained glass windows are shockingly beautiful, enough to contend with the best color choices of Disney animation. Bold seems too lenient an adjective.
Black levels are called into service early as Indy meets yet another possible fate around water during an immense sea storm, and satisfactory is a solid fit. Times will come where Crusade fades, a vintage, decades old style of creaky photography desperate to maintain a sense of darkness while avoiding a loss of fidelity. Temptation veers towards the transfer side to “fix” the issue, and that hasn’t been done, probably for the better of the source material. Shadow detail is excellent.
Crusade’s score, another one of those elements that arguably makes this third entry the top of the franchise, bleeds into the surrounds better than the prior entries. With increasing technology in audio potential through the ’80s, it seems as if the benefit is all here. Williams’ score grips the surrounds naturally, while horns wail into the stereos convincingly. The live recording quality is completely beautiful.
Of course, there are other elements to balance, from horses stampeding to whips cracking, and tank shells passing over the heads of the actors. It’s all perfection. Dialogue carries no faults in its fidelity, and holds up amongst the high-end action. Crusade’s wildest scenes are all evidence of how grand this mix makes the film, especially the accidental fire in the Nazi lair. It swells and captures the feeling of being surrounded by flames as Jr. and Sr. make their moves to safety.
LFE elements reside naturally in the mix, hammering what are sure to be shaking walls when explosions, collisions, or shells are fired. Punches are more solid than overdone, a change of pace welcomed in a mix that feels more in tune with what’s happening on the screen. Crusade exits on two things: An earthquake ready and willing to hoist itself up as top class audio work, and a “riding into the sunset” score cue that is beautiful to lead into the credits.
Last Crusade comes packaged with the series, leaving the bonus features on a later disc. Contained here are two trailers by their lonesome. The score reflects that.