Raiders of the Lost Ark

John Williams

" Indy with the whip and hat, Johnny as the raider of the musical ark "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the collector's edition

Call a classic that John Williams has scored is not that easy. Call a classic that has Harrison Ford in the leading role is even harder, but call a classic that has Harrison Ford playing an adventurous world traveller is not that difficult. Every one will answer Indiana Jones, but they will undoubtedly mean Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first and definitely the most popular Indiana Jones movie of the four. Williams had already scored Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind with great effect for Steven Spielberg and he did this again with Raiders of the Lost Ark, one of the most intense, interesting, thrilling, sensational and gripping scores I have ever heard of John Williams.

Indiana Jones of course offers everything you would expect for such an adventurous movie, a dazzling main theme, a beautiful love theme, a bad villain theme and most interestingly the powerful Ark theme. This all combined makes for 70 minutes of pure exciting film music.

The score was released somewhat complete by Silva Screen Records but through the expanded releases of Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade, they couldn't leave Raiders of the Lost Ark untouched. 3 brief bonus cues were added to give the real die hards some taste of limited bonus material. But quite frankly, they don't add much to an already wonderful release on disc.

The score doesn't start with the Raiders March which is a welcome fact to be sure. It starts ominously instead with "In the Jungle", continuing with some atonality in "The Idol Temple", before leaping in the orchestral energetic "Escape from the Temple".

The pizzicato and the rousing main theme are both delivered in "Flight from Peru" and show how well Williams can build to something staggering. And then the first of 3 bonus tracks is heard. In "Washington's Men / Indy's Home" we hear a soft mysterious vocal version of the Ark theme intertwined with Indy's theme, giving you a taste of the things to come. And the ark theme is also heard alongside Marion's theme in "A Thought for Marion / To Nepal". And the dark ominous manner of "The Medallion" gives the Ark theme a twisted variation making it even becoming partly Darth Vader's theme. I never noticed this before.

The soaring majesty of Marion's theme over "Flight to Cairo" gets me every time and "The Basket Game" is another playful highlight throwing in playful interludes, brief fanfares and pizzicato dances. In short classic Williams fun.

But no one can forget the short brilliance during the memorable moments in the movie. The dawn sequence, the unravelling of the Map Room is what it is all about. "The Map Room: Dawn" has staggering build up and choral majesty where Williams shows the true strength of his Ark theme. However here you especially notice that it all appears to be a little faster than on the original soundtrack. Nonetheless the Ark theme receives a returning stunning version during "The Miracle of the Ark".

Still the oddest thing has yet to come, namely "Desert Chase". A fantastic piece of brassy delight, toying around with the Indy theme and Nazi theme in perfect harmony and you miss some 50 seconds of music that are mysteriously disappeared from the radar. Considering there was plenty of room on the disc and considering what an important track this simply is, one can wonder what the ... happened here. Again the quality of the entire piece doesn't let you wander off too much, but still?

Delivering us 3 short but somewhat unmemorable extra bonus cues, and omitting the Raiders March at the beginning of this disc, this expanded release brings us 1 minute more of music if you want to compare it with the Silva Screen release. This is not a criticism considering we already heard what we had to hear from this release. So it is nice to see there was still an effort done to give us something. But the criticism for the abruptly separation of various tracks, the slightly added pace of the score and the mere edited "Desert Chase" are important criticisms. Similar problems, different hiccups appear in the other 2 albums as well and show that even an almighty complete box is not without its tiny flaws. However none of that matters when Raiders of the Lost Ark shows you its mighty potential, something that remains to stand the highest on my list when all is said and done.


1. In the Jungle (4.11)
2. The Idol Temple (3.54)
3. Escape from the Temple (1.31)
4. Flight from Peru (2.21) Excellent track
5. Washington's Men * / Indy's Home * (1.03)
6. A Thought for Marion / To Nepal (2.10)
7. The Medallion (2.52)
8. Flight to Cairo (1.28)
9. The Basket Game (5.01) Excellent track
10. Bad Dates * (1.11)
11. The Map Room: Dawn (3.49) Excellent track
12. Reunion in the Tent / Searching for the Well (3.59)
13. The Well of the Souls (5.26)
14. Indy Rides the Statue * (1.07)
15. The Fist Fight / The Flying Wing (4.34) Excellent track
16. Desert Chase (7.31) Excellent track
17. Marion's Theme / The Crate (2.07)
18. The German Sub (1.21)
19. Ride to the Nazi Hideout (3.17)
20. Indy Follows the Ark (1.38)
21. The Miracle of the Ark (6.05) Excellent track
22. Washington Ending & Raiders March (6.51) Excellent track

* Previously Unreleased

Total Length: 74.17
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 52 votes - average 4.8/5)

Released by

Concord CRE-31000 (regular release 2008)

Conducted by

John Williams

Orchestrations by

Herbert W. Spencer

Performed by

The London Symphony Orchestra