"RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK"
Story Conference Transcript
January 23, 1978 thru January 27, 1978
George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Larry Kasdan
G — We'll just talk general ideas, what the concept of it was. Then I'll get down to going specifically through the story. Then we will actually get to where we can start talking down scenes, in the end I want to end up with a list of scenes. And the way I work generally is I figure a code, a general measuring stick perameter. I can either come up with thirty scenes or sixty scenes depending on which scale you want to work on. A thirty scene thing means that each scene is going to be around four pages long. A sixty one means that every scene is going to run twenty pages long. (?) It depends on, part of it is the... (short gap in the tape) knock some of these out, and this doesn't work out the way we thought it would. You can move things around, but it generally gives you an idea, assuming that what we really want at the end of all this is a hundred and twenty page script, or less. But that's where we really want to go. Then we figure out vaguely what the pace of, how fast it's going to move and how we're going to do it. I have a tendency to work rather mathematically about all this stuff. I found it easier and it does lay things out. Especially a thing like this. The basic premise is that it's sort of a serialesque kind of movie. Meaning that there are certain things that have to continue to happen. It's also basically an action piece, for the most part. We want to keep things interspaced and at the same time build it. As I build this up, you'll see it's done vaguely by the numbers. Generally, the concept is a serial idea. Done like the Republic serials. As a thirties serial. Which is where a lot of stuff comes from anyway. One of the main ideas was to have, depending on whether it would be every ten minutes or every twenty minutes, a sort of a cliffhanger situation that we get our hero into. If it's every ten minutes we do it twelve times. I think that may be a little much. Six times is plenty.
S — And each cliffhanger is better than the one before.
G — That is the progression we have to do. It's hard to come up with. The trouble with cliff hangers is, you get somebody into something, you sort have to get them out in a plausible way. A believable way, anyway. That's another important concept of the movie — that it be totally believable. It's a spaghetti western, only it takes place in the thirties. Or it's James Bond and it takes place in the thirties. Except James Bond tends to get a little outrageous at times. We're going to take the unrealistic side of it off, and make it more like the Clint Eastwood westerns. The thing with this is, we want to make a very believable character. We want him to be extremely good at what he does, as is the Clint Eastwood character or the James Bond character. James Bond and the man with no name were very good at what they did. They were very, fast with a gun, they were very slick, they were very professional. They were Supermen.
S — Like Mifune.
G — Yes, like Mifune. He's a real professional. He's really good. And that is the key to the whole thing. That's something you don't see that much anymore.
S — And one of the things that really helped Mifune in all the Kurosawa movies is that he was always surrounded by really inept characters, real silly buffoons, which made him so much more majestic. If there are occasions where he comes up against, not the arch-villian, but the people around him shouldn't be the smartest...
G — Well, they shouldn't be buffoons. The one thing we're going to do is make a very good period piece, that is realistic and believable. A thirties movie in the, even in the Sam Spade genre. Even in the Maltese Falcon there were some pretty goofy characters, but they were all pretty real in their own bizarre way.
S — Elijah Cook.
G – Elijah Cook might not have been the brightest person in the world. In a way he was the buffoon of the piece, but at the same time he was very dangerous and he was very... They were strong characters. If we keep it that mode of believability...
S — It's just like you don't put Lee Van Cleef as an accomplice to... (garbled)
G — No, you put Eli Wallich. Did you see "The Good, The Bad And the Ugly"? The Eli Wallich character is a goofy character, but at the same time he's very dangerous and he's very funny and he's ... We can have that kind of thing. The main thing is for him to be a super hero in the best sense of the word, which is John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery tradition of a man who we can all look up to and say, "Now there's somebody who really knows his job. He's really good at what he does and he's a very dangerous person. But at the same time we're putting him in the kind of Bogart mold, like "Treasure of Sierra Madre" or...
S — Or even the Clark Gable thing we talked about.
G — Yeah, the Clark Gable mold. The fact that he is slightly scruffy. You don't know it until it happens. Now, several aspects that we've discussed before: The image of him which is the strongest image is the "Treasure Of Sierra Madre" outfit, which is the khaki pants, he's got the leather jacket, that sort of felt hat, and the pistol and holster with a World War One sort of flap over it. He's going into the jungle carrying his gun. The other thing we've added to him, which may be fun, is a bull whip. That's really his trade mark. That's really what he's good at. He has a pistol, and he's probably very good at that, but at the same time he happens to be very good with a bull whip. It's really more of a hobby than anything else. Maybe he came from Montana, someplace, and he... There are freaks who love bull whips. They just do it all the time. It's a device that hasn't been used in a long time.
S — You can knock somebody' s belt off and the guys pants fall down.
G — You can swing over things, you can...there are so many things you can do with it. I thought he carried it rolled up. It's like a Samurai sword. He carries it back there and you don't even notice it. That way it's not in the way or anything. It's just there whenever he wants it.
S — At some point in the movie he must use it to get a girl back who's walking out of the room. Wrap her up and she twirls as he pulls her back. She spins into his arms. You have to use it for more things than just saving himself.
G — We'll have to work that part out. In a way it's important that it be a dangerous weapon. It looks sort of like a snake that's coiled up behind him, and any time it strikes it's a real threat.
L — Except there has to be that moment when he's alone with a can of beer and he just whips it to him.
G — That's the sort of gung-ho side of the character, which is, if we make him sort of Super Samurai Warrior, meaning that he is Just incredibly good with a bull whip and incredibly good with a gun. He's a dead-eye shot. He's got the wrong kind of holster for a quick draw, but we can always have him be a semi... we're not going to use the quick draw aspects of it, but he should be very fast and very quick. Maybe even, this has to do with the other part of this character, but I was thinking of Kung-Fu, Karate. But I don't want to load him up too much. The reason I was doing this "is that his character is international. He's the guy who's been all around the world. He's a soldier of fortune. He is also... Well, this gets into that other side of his character, which is totally alien to that side we just talked about. Essentially, I think he is a, and this was the original character and it's an interesting juxtaposition. He is an archeologist and an anthropologist. A Ph.D. He's a doctor, he's a college professor. What happened is, he's also a sort of rough and tumble guy. But he got involved in going in and getting antiquities. Sort of searching out antiquities. And it became a very lucrative profession so he, rather than be an archeologist, he bacame sort of an outlaw archeologist. He really started being a grave robber, for hire, is what it really came down to. And the museums would hire him to steal things out of tombs and stuff. Or, locate them. In the archeology circles he knows everybody, so he's sort of like a private detective grave robber. A museum will give him an assignment... A bounty hunter.
S — If there were these Arabs who just discovered some great king's tomb, and you see the tomb being taken out. And there are about twenty or thirty Arabs heavily armed, and like five trucks and you realize...there's this one guy who's all painted, and he's one of the pall bearers who slips a thing into the back of the truck, gets behind the wheel and as the caravan is going to turn right, this one thing goes left. And the rest chase him, but he gets away.
G — The thing is, if there is an object of antiquity, that a museum knows about that may be missing, or they know it's somewhere. He can go like an archeologist, but it's like rather than doing research, he goes in to get the gold. He doesn't really go to find cheap artifacts, he goes to gather stuff. And the other thing is, if something was taken from a tomb, stolen and sort of in the underground, sometimes they may send him out to get it. Essentially he's a bounty hunter. He's a bounty hunter of antiquities is what it comes down to. If a museum says that there is this famous vase that we know exists, it was in this tomb at this time. It may still be there, but we doubt it. We think maybe it's on the underground market, or in a private collection. We'd like to have it. Actually it belongs to us. We're the National Museum of Cairo or something. He says okay and he tracks it down. If it's not in the thing, he finds it, finds out who's got it. And he swipes it back.
A lot of times it's sort of legal. All he has to do is get it. It's not like he steals things from collectors, and then gives them to other collectors. What he does is steal things from private collectors who have them illegally, and gives them back to the national museums and stuff. Or, being that his morality isn't all that good, he will go into the actual grave and steal it out of the country and give it to the museum. It's a sort of quasi-ethical side of that whole thing. The museum does commission somebody to go into the pyramids and you know, whatever they find, sort of get out without the Egyptian government knowing, because they were in the process of turmoil and nobody's going to know anyway and there's not going to be any official protest, so just do it. Anything that's quasi-legal, or amorphous, he'll do. He's not a totally corrupt person, where he'll steal. But if it's sort of fair game, then he comes in. As a result he's essentially an anthropologist and an archeologist. He is a professor. He knows antiquities. So nobody can pawn off a fake on him. He understands all that stuff. But he really got the adventure bug and and he just kept doing it. And it was good money. He gets a big commission on the stuff, a big bounty. So he just got into this crazy business. Now, on top of that, I have added, I thought it would be interesting to have him be a sort of expert in the occult, as an offshoot of the anthropoligical side of this thing. He has a tendency to get into situations where there are taboos, voodoos, things, especially when you start dealing with pyramids you get into all that. So he sort of studies it because he's gotten mixed up with it. A study of ancient religions and voodoo and all that kind of stuff. He's a guy who sort of checks out ghosts and psychic phenomenon in connection with the kind of things he does. He's a sort of archeological exorcist. When somebody has a haunted house, or a haunted temple, and nobody will go near it, he is the one who will go in there and do it, and he has dealt with... Assuming that he believes in the supernatural because he deals with it, he is the one they send into the haunted house. Like one of these haunted house professors who try and figure out why a house is haunted. He does that. He gets involved with sacred temples and curses and all that stuff. And actually some were real, he came across some real curses and stuff. He said hey, this is really interesting. A lot of the times they are hoaxes. And he can figure it out. This is just a general history of where he comes from. People will use the pharoahs or a curse, and something will ahppen. People will walk through this particular temple and they will die twenty-four hours later. Nobody knows why. The curse of Mabutu is on that place. Well, he looks at it and sees that there's a fissure in the thing and there's a deadly gas that's coming out of the ground. Because he's an intelligent professor, he knows his science and he can sort of deduce a hoax. There was a comic book a long time ago about a guy who did nothing but show up hoaxes. It was like Ripley's Believe It Or Not. They would send things to this guy. They would send him eight-legged dogs and stuff. It was like a TV show. If you couldn't figure out how the hoax was done then it would be on the show. It was all him trying to show these complicated ways that people come up with hoaxes. That was just a side light. When he confronts his antiquities and stuff, half the time he's dealing with hoaxes. Not only hoaxes in terms of taboos and things, but also hoaxes in terms of the antiquities. They send him out to get them, but they also send him out to deal with the supernatural.
L — Some of the hoaxes may have been set up by the natives.
G — Yeah. They may be an original native thing, or it might be some shyster in town who thinks he's going to pull a fast one on somebody, for various reasons. It's a millieu I've created for this guy that I think is interesting because it also makes him somewhat of a ghost chaser in his own way. I don't know actually how much of that aspect of it will fit into the script. It's something I've added to the character.
L — He's bound to run into those kind of things.
G — Yes. The thing is, if he is an intelligent sort of professor who has experience with the occult and that kind of thing, then he not only is not afraid to stand up against any man, but he's also not afraid to stand up against the unknown.
L — If he walks into a cave and he adds a yellow slash to a symbol, you don't have to say too much about how he found that out, you know.
G — We've established that he's a college professor. It doesn't have to be done in a strong way. It starts out in a museum. They just call him doctor this and doctor that. We can very easily make that transition, and very quickly establish that whole side of his character. In the story the ramifications of him as a ghost hunter have not been dealt with yet. But I put it in his character for use in some other way.
L — (I can't understand what he is saying here, something about a sword and a basket.) It seems like it would be nice if, once stripped of his bullwhip, left him weak, if we had to worry. Just a little worried about him being too…
G — That was what I thought. That's why I was sort of iffy about throwing it in. If we don't make him vulnerable…
S — What's he afraid of? He's got to be afraid of something.
G — If we don't make him vulnerable, he's got no problems. We'll shut that idea for now.
The other thing, which is like the Kung-Fu and the ghost thing, which given the plot and the way it's working, there's not really time to cope with it in an interesting way. It's a nice aspect of this thing, might be able to deal with it, might not. It's not really that important. It's the same thing with the Kung-Fu. We might be stacking too much into his character that is not necessary. Just the fact that he's good with a bullwhip is going to be fun enough. You could fill a script. In one way it's better to keep it clean.
S — As long as he has brains. He should be able to talk his way out of things.
L — I think that would be his first choice.
G — Right.
S — The guy should be a great gambler, too.
G — The thing of it is, I think it's good if we delineate a fairly clean personality so that it doesn't become too confused.
L — Assume there's an archeologist who's spent years studying this, he might have some kind of awe and respect for virgin tombs. This guy has obviously gone past that into, "I can make a good living out of this." what's his stance on this? Does it bother him to go in and...
G — I think basically he's very cynical about the whole thing. Maybe he thinks that most archeologists are just full of shit, and that somebody's going to rip this stuff off anyway. Better that he rips it off and gets it to a museum where people, can study it, and rip it off right. That's the key also. He knows how to enter a tomb without destroying it. He knows what's important. He knows not to go in there like a bull in a china shop, and destroy half the stuff that's valuable.
S — He should have a mentor in this. Somebody you never see, but he refers to from time to time, somebody you want to see. The man who taught him everything. The man who gave him whatever power he has now. Maybe some supreme archeologist who's maybe ninety years old like Max Von Sydow, and is dying now. So you know it didn't start with this guy. There are other greater predecessors around of this sort.
L — Is it necessary that he really be trained?
G — It's not absolutely necessary. I just thought it would be amusing if people could call him a doctor.
S — I like that. The doctor with the bullwhip.
G — It's such an odd juxtaposition, especially going around. The first sequence is in the jungle and you see him in action. You see him going through the whole thing. And the next sequence after that you see him back in Washington or New York, back in the museum. Where he's in a totally academic thing, turning over this thing that he's got. Then in the rest of the movie you see him back in his bullwhip mode. You understand that there's more to him. Plus, it justifies later things that he... the fact that he's sort of an intelligent guy. Peter Falk is one way of looking at him, a Humphrey Bogart character. The fact that he's sort of scruffy and, not the right image, but...
S — Peter's too scruffy.
G — Yes. We'll figure a way of laying that out in his personality so it's easily identifiable.
S — Remember the movie "Soldier Of Fortune" with Clark Gable? There was a good deal of Rhett Butler in that character. The devil-may-care kind of guy who can handle situations. He's so damn glib he bluffs everybody around. People think that he's a push-over. He's challanged, and he always appears like a push-over. But in fact he's not. He likes to set himself up in these subordinate roles from time to time to get his way.
G — What I'm saying is, that character just would not fit in a college classroom or even as an archeologist. He's too much of a scruffy character to settle down. A playboy, or however you want to do it. He's too much of a wise-guy, maybe that's a better way to say it, to actually be a college professor. He really loves the stuff, but he bacame too cynical, he's too much of a wise guy to fit into an academic situation, or even an archeological situation. He's really too much of an adventurer at heart. He just loves it. So he obviously took this whole bent that was different because it's just more fun. He just can't settle down. It's a nice contrast. It's like the James Bond thing. Instead of being a martini drinking cultured kind of sophisticate, he's the sort of intellectual college professor James Bond. He's a superagent.
S — Clark Kent.
G — Yeah. It's that thing, which is fun. It's the same idea, only twisted around a little bit. A soldier of fortune in the thirties. And also, when you think of the thirties, you think of colleges as real institutions. That whole genre was much different than it is now. And also, soldier of fortune was a real genre.
S — His main adversaries will be the Germans?
G — Yeah, I think they should be. I've been trying to move him around the world a little bit to see if we can't get a little Oriental influence into it just for the fun of it. I may have fit it in. The fun thing is, he's a soldier of fortune, so we can move him into any sort of exotic thirties environment we want to.
S — Keep him out of the States. We don't want to do one shot in this country.
G — I have the second scene taking place in Washington. It's just interior museum. But at the same time we also want to keep it, budget-wise, and everything else. We don't want to have eight thousand screaming Chinese coming over the hill being straffed by Japanese zeroes, unless we can find some stock footage somewhere. We want to keep it on a fairly... I think generally, over all, I've tried to keep it on a very modest scale. A la the first James Bond. A la the first "Hang 'em High" thing. Where it is essentially a conflict between people and things. Obviously there is a lot of stuff going on, but there are certain big set pieces that are fun to play with. And if we can divide these set pieces so we can shot them sort of second unit, then we can have all that fun stuff in the period, and essentially it's a set piece. We'll just send a stock footage crew out to get certain things that we might be able to come up with without too much money just by sending a camera and crew and getting a shot here and there of various things that we want. The concept is that somehow we have to figure out a way of making this cheap, meaning six or seven million dollars.
S — One thing, there aren't any opticals, so right away that saves a lot of money.
G — And we want to spend our money on stunts. We want to have "Wind and the Lion" action. Spend it all on stunt guys falling off horses, rather than one crowd scene scene with sixteen thousand extras for one shot.
S — You can also steal that anywhere in the mideast.
G — Maybe we'll work something like that out. Even then, for production value and entertainment value, it's much better to have a terrific stunt than to have a scene with eight thousand extras. I don't think we need lots of crowds.
S — (garbled) You can always get that in some other countries. It's no problem.
G — It's all period. That's the problem.
S —In places like Bombay it doesn't make any difference.
G — Again, that's one of those stock footage things. You want to send an "A" camera man and a production manager over there, tell them to make a deal with some New Delhi film company to supply fifteen old cars and eight thousand extras and we'll pay them seven thousand dollars. You photograph the stuff and bring it back here. Or like Hong Kong, go to Run Run Shaw, say we want three shots like this. You gaff the whole thing and we'll pay you X number of dollars send. Send your cameraman, or a good second unit camera man whom you trust, and a production manager to handle it financially, and they do it, and you come back with dailies of an establishing shot with ten thousand extras.
S — You have a small smoke-filled room in Rome with your two actors.
G — I think we can hopefully sort that out. Part of it is the energy of making it reasonably low budget. It's also a test of the idea. If it's good, then we'll be okay. I think I will go down and describe, roughly, the plot. After we do that, we can go through scene by scene. Then we can start the long arduous process of saying, well this is what the first scene should be and we really want this scene, but how can we fit it in. and really get down to specifics. The film starts in the jungle. South America, someplace. We get one of these great scenes with the pack animals going up the mist-covered hills. Very exotic mist-filled jungles and mountains. There's a... We actually talked about it a little different from this, but you can correct me if I have gone off what we had talked about the last time. I'm going back, I think, to the original.
S — Where he goes into the cave?
G — This is where he goes into the cave. We had it where there's a couple native bearers, whatever, and sort of a couple of Mexican, well not Mexican... Let's put it...
S — They're like Mayan.
G — They're the third world local sleazos. Whether, they're Mexicans or Arabs or whatever.
S — They carry the boxes over their heads. They fall off cliffs.
G — The sleazos with the thin moustaches. Those are the peon laborers. And you have the two guys who are the local gaffers. Foremen, or whatever. The guys he hired. They speak English. The interpeters, or whatever. We're assuming at this point that when we come into it, the talk is like they're all sort of partners. He's a partner with these other two guys. He said, "Look, I'll cut you in on the stake. I'll pay you X number of dollars when I do this, if you do it." We'll they're not very trustworthy, Eli Wallich types. They're going up this hill and they come into a clearing and you see the temple across the way. All the natives get restless and start to split. One of the guys goes to him and says, "The natives are leaving. They're not going to go any further." It's the curse of that Buddha, or whatever. He says they can probably get there from here without them. So the three of us can do it. See if you can get a couple of them to carry on, to come along. They get about two or three guys to go with them. Our guy, the other two guys, and about three other guys, three other natives who are a little braver, they get. So they continue on into the jungle with the snakes and the spiders and the bugs and all that stuff, and they walk forward and all the natives are looking around. It's all sort of misty and primeval. King Kongish. The pressure builds and one of the natives cracks, throws down his thing and scurries off. He splits, and the other guys realize he's gone and they split. Pretty soon, when they get right to the clearing, right in front of the temple, it's just three guys. Along the way they lost the three natives. Also in the process of this, you understand that the two guys are plotting against the other guy. Not only is there the spooky danger of the curse, but you get a hint that these two guys are plotting against our hero. He gets up to the temples. They're nervous about the whole thing. And they sort of sit outside the clearing and they talk about the curse and about how dangerous it is, and how nobody had ever survived. We set up the whole thing, the perameters of going into that temple. They have a map, not a map but sort of a crude drawing. It has the interior-of the temple on it, that somebody else made. He brings it out at this time, they're saying that nobody has ever survived. He says that with this information we've got here, I think we'll be able to manage it. He says not to worry guys, it's gonna be okay. I think we can get in there. We have enough information here where I think I can deduce my way through it. They focus on the map as he's surveying the thing. One of the guys tries to kill him and take the map, shoot him in the back or whatever it was. That's when you first see him with the bullwhip. That's where the plot comes alive. When he says with this information, he thinks they can get in, they don't realize that you have to know how to interpet that information. He kills this one guy and the other guy sort of backs off and says he didn't have anything to do with it, he's crazy, and I knew he was a crook. And you knew they were in on it together, but the guy says, "It wasn't me. It wasn't me." So he and the other one guy go into the temple. You know the guy's going to shoot him in the back eventually. As they get into the temple you get into all these things, like there's this giant spider in there.
S — The thing is, they're walking and our hero goes into a shadow. When he comes out of the shadow there's two tarantulas on him. He doesn't notice them right away. He goes into another shadow, and he comes out with four tarantulas on him.
G — The other process of the thing is that the guy who is with him is beginning to freak out. He can't take it, so he gets to a point where he can't do it any more. He runs out and that's the last we ever see of him. We can use him as a foil to establish the pressure. It's getting crazy with the tarantulas and it's all very spooky. We get to a point in the tomb and we do this thing where there's like this light shaft coming down from inside the temple. It's sort of a very narrow shaft. The stone tunnel that he's in is about this wide and right in the middle is a very thin shaft of light coming down through a hole, a little beam. You see him look at it. We had him go through the wall. Actually we had it happen first...
S — What happen?
G — We had it first where he sees the light and he tosses a thing in it, a stick, and these giant spikes come out, and go...
S — When the spikes come out and go like that, there should be remains, skeletal remains skewered on some of them, of victims that have been there before. It's kind of like one of those rides at DisneyLand.
G — So he tests it first, and we know...
L — Why are we letting the second sleazo get away? Why can't we sacrifice him to the temple.
G — We can. I just did it as building the pressure, but we can keep him in. We'll follow it through, and then we'll see where you want to dispose of him.
L — If the hero tells him to stick with him, and the guy in his panic makes that fatal one step sideways, you can build the terror.
G — The idea of having him in there in the first place was to use him as a foil for things like where he starts to walk into that light and the guy tells him to wait, don't go through there. Then he throws the stick and it all goes clang. Anyway, they have to go through this beam of light, they have to go up against the wall and sort of get around it. If anything brushes up against that light... It's great because you can use it like this, across your... It's all dark and you can see the light just just creeping right along the edge of the thing there. You don't how much it would take to actually set it off. (demonstrates)
L — And you've got to do the cliche where they're walking along this ledge just this wide and it just goes into balckness. And he takes a rock and he drops it, and you don't hear anything. So they keep going, and about twenty seconds later you hear it hit.
G — The idea was there would be around three things, real neat-o things, like these giant stones that jump together, spikes that fly out, the precipice thing. Another one would be a sort of giant stone trap door, I don't know quite how to describe it.
S — There could be like wall mashers, stones could mash...
G — We had the one with the spikes, another one was the trap door. It really isn't the better of the things. The best one is the shaft of light.
S — I would just love to see the guys walking in and there's a whole pile of skeletons, but they're like cardboard, completely flattened, really completely flat. They know that something around here is going to squish them. They don't know what's causing it, but something if they walk the wrong way is going to come out and make them pancakes. The piece should be like a real, horror ride, like a DisneyLand ride. Once you're committed to going into that cave, there's seismic rumblings all the time and there's stalagmites and things going drip, drip. It's going to really be a sound experience going through that cave. There's nothing more terrifying than skeletons.
G — There's also things like spiders, snakes. It's very dark, and all you have to do is cut to a snake slithering across the ground, and he's walking through. You never know when a snake's going to be curled up on his leg. As he walks through the dark there's tarantulas all around him. That kind of stuff. You don't know what's going to happen.
S — This is the first scene in the movie. This scene should get at least four major screams. The audience won't trust anyone after that. They won't trust the film.
G — There's also the thing you can do which is your famous "Jaws", or what I call the hand on the shoulder trick, which is not only skeletons, but we can have skeletons that aren't that old, they just have drawn skin all over them, that are lurking in the shadows.
S — Falling into their arms. A skeleton comes out of the cobwebs, and just embraces the guy. The guy eases him to the ground.
G — At the more tense moments in that whole thing. We'll work on that more specifically. Anyway, he goes through a series of really spooky scarey things.
S — What we're just doing here, really, is designing a ride at DisneyLand.
G — They get into the main throne room and this guy can either be with him or not. Or we've killed him off. There's a temple figure, idol, whatever. I thought at one time it would be just a little teeny idol, rather than this giant thing. Voodoo, whatever. If the idol is really small, it's spookier. Like one of those voodoo dolls where you're saying this must have some sort of very strange... So you can almost believe the curse on the thing. We'd had a thing where there was an eye and he tried to pry the eye out and it set off... He had to get the eye out without doing... It's the same thing with the little figure. There's this little figure sitting on a pedestal, or in a niche. First of all, when he gets in the room, it's semi-lit from above. It's got sort of a sky light. The center of the thing is this sort of shaft that runs all the way down so there's sunlight.
S — We'll get (garbled) to photograph this movie.
G — So you can sort of see what's going on. At that time we're afraid of sunlight and those kind of things. It's also the kind of thing where he moves in there very carefully. He moves in and he studies it. It's almost like a karate or a tai-chi exercise. It's very... You see him in a very strange, if the guy is still with him, he says to him, "You wait here. Only I can get through this. He studies the whole thing. You see him go through this very elaborate thing, one of it may be the thing where he holds out a little feathery thing and it floats down and gets caught in an air shaft. So he knows there's an air shaft and he goes under it.
S — He knows it's a trap.
G — All these sort of silent things that are in there. I know what one of those thinge was, it was poison sticks that were put into the walls. If you spring something, it shoots out. They're all over the place. He sees one, he does one — twing. Then he looks around and the whole room is a sort of honeycomb.
S — That's a great idea.
G — There's just holes everywhere. Each one is attached to a... They don't have to be big spears, they're like arrows.
S — More like little projectiles.
G — Yeah, little darts. It has to be big enough to be something. The idea is that one goes out and he looks at the hole, then he looks up and realizes that the whole place is perforated with them. It goes off with air currents, like if an air current is broken, or some kind of thing. We don't have to fully understand, all the mystery of light shafts, air shafts, little things that are sort of there that he could trip...
S — Maybe he brings his bandana up over his nose so his breath doesn't get out.
G — The idea is he does an elaborate thing to lift this thing off. Obviously there's some sort of weighted trap thing there, too. Then he turns and trips something. Whether he steps into a light thing, or however we do it… Or whether it was the weight of the thing, a sort of delayed thing. Take one step and turn, then all of a sudden you hear the... Then we cut to a little insert of sand going... starting to fill up something. He hears it and, I have one of two choices. One, he just runs like hell to try and get out of the room before the whatever it is... Or, but then I've got all these things. I want it to be action. He hears the stuff and runs and as he runs out of the thing, that's when the big stone goes... But we can work that out, make it a little more specific about what exactly the trap is. But whatever it is, he tips the thing off. You think he's got it, and right when you think he's got it and he's starting his way back, he's tripped something. Some kind of a delayed thing. And you hear some giant mechanism at work inside the thing that's going to have this awesome thing that will chrush the entire temple or something. In the process of this, one way or another, we will have to kill the other guy off or send him fleeing, screaming into the night. We can do anything to him. It will be easy to get rid of him if you want. In the end he gets it and comes out of the temple into sunlight and looks and he's got the thing, and we cut to Washington, D.C.
S — You know what it could be. I have a great idea. He hears the sand... When he goes into the cave, it's not straight. The whole thing is on an incline on the way in. He hears this, grabs the thing, comes to a corridor. There is a sixty-five foot boulder that's form-fitted to only roll down the corridor coming right at him. And it's a race. He gets to outrun the boulder. It then comes to rest and blocks the entance of the cave. Nobody will ever come in again. This boulder is the size of a house.
G — It mashes the partner.
S — Right. The guy can't run fast enough.
G — It's all that kind of thing, stone. Ancient gyrations of things that are so fun. It's really sort of "Land of the Pharoahs" stuff. Giant crazy traps that were set so long ago to keep people from getting in there. The idea is to keep it as a fast... 'Cause in the end all it is is a teaser. The next scene is in Washington. He's delivering the idol to the museum. It's your basic exposition scene, where the guy says thanks and we sort of understand what this guy does for a living. He gets his money from the museum. You understand a little more about him as a professor and all that other bullshit. It also really sets up the fact that he's a bounty hunter and he works for museums. In that scene they set up, "Somebody here wants to see you." "Who is it?" The curator of the museum is also a good friend of his, maybe not the mentor, but he's like an old museum curator. He says, "This is important. I've got a big job for you now. Well, I don't have a big job for you, but this man wants to talk to you about something. You should take it." So they go down into this office in the museum, and there's this intelligence guy. Army Intelligence. A couple of them are waiting for him. This is where we get the big assignment scene, with the blackboard. This is where they explain about the ark. I'm not sure what's it's called, the Ark of the Covenent or something. It's the Ark that carried the...
END OF TAPE ONE, SIDE A
This Ark, in front of the Armies of Israel, made them invincible. Everything in front of them was destroyed. It was the most powerful thing.
S — You know what would be interesting to do, George? (can't understand, something about great murals of the Ark)
G — We have one of these. "In Search of the Lost Ark" things. I think also, you've been describing this to people as a science fiction flim, which is good.
S — I have not.
G — It's in Rolling Stone. Anyway, the idea is you explain the Ark and the power it held, and the fact that they have been searching. There's a history of it. This is, again, where the research comes in. Phil knew more about this than I did, and his notes are very sketchy. This is the part that he laid out. I didn't quite understand it all, but I do have information on it. It's very easy to follow it. What it is, there's this Ark, a famous Ark with a legend that the Israeli armies would carry it in front of them and they were invincible. The other thing is, which I have more research on, is that Adolph Hitler, 1936 or whatever, was a fanatic for this kind of stuff, occult craziness. We have another book where he was looking for the spear that killed Jesus, which was in a museum in Czechoslovakia. Well, he was a fanatic for finding this sort of occult stuff. He really was, and he searched the museums all over the world. He had his agents go in to get these things to make him all powerful. So we can tie that in. The idea is that he was looking for this spear, which was a very famous thing. He stole it from the Czechs and took it to a museum in Berlin and right now it's... It's supposed to have occult powers. We'll Just say that Hitler has been trying to find this, which is history, and he's also trying to find this Ark. Obviously, what he wants to do is... He thinks that if he gets this Ark, his Armies will be invincible, and he will declare war on the world.
S — Which we know he does anyway.
G — Right. But that isn't the thing. He thinks once he gets this Ark he will be invincible, although he may do it anyway. But that's why our hero comes in. He's going to do it anyway, but if he gets this Ark there will be no stopping him. So they're doing it semi to prevent the war, which is sort of helpless. They're not really going after the Ark for its supernatural powers. The Army isn't. The Army just wants to keep it away from Hitler. They're afraid if Hitler gets it, he'll just declare war that much faster, and that will give him sort of a... There can be some interesting discussion here about the kind of stuff that Hitler does, and about the history of the Ark. We set up that our agents have intercepted information that the Nazis have found the Ark, or that they know something about the ark. It has been located, or something. What they want him to do is get it before the Nazis do.
L — What does he know about it so far?
G — He doesn't know anything about it. He can know a little bit. "Yeah, I've heard of it." We make it so he's not completely ignorant of the situation. He knows more about the Ark than he does about the Hitler aspects of it. We can play that scene rather then one guy just explaining the situation. We can play it where he's sort of explaining some of it to the Army officer or something. Or maybe he knows more about it than the Army guy does. Maybe the Army officer is misinformed about some things. We can set it up so it works as a good scene. Because essentially the scene is "This is your mission."
L — Maybe the fact that he knows more about it than they do is the turning point of the scene. He sort of talks himself into the job.
G — One of the things of his character is that he is very skeptical, very cynical. In the beginning he is reluctant. "The Germans haven't found it, for Chirst's sake. Those guys are running all over the world being crazy. That's a real myth." He sort of doesn't believe it. It's like a wild goose chase. He isn't even sure it exists. The thing of it is that in the end they convince him to do it because they say this Professor Erich Von Daniken, or whatever, this German version of himself is the one who found it. Or the other possibility is they sent a messgae to get that guy to come. We want to get a German arch-rival involved in it. We thought at one point he would be the Donald Pleasence character, or whatever. The other idea was maybe making him something like Chinese, not German. Make him an ally of the Germans. So we can readily identify him. When you have all these Germans, you know which one he is immediately. So he would be different from all the other bad guys. Also, it wouldn't be so much of a coincidence that his arch-rival is a German, and happens to be a Nazi like all the others. His arch-rival is really a top smuggler, diamond dealer, antiquity... He's the corrupt version of our guy. He's the one who really goes in and rapes the temples and steals all that stuff and sends it off to private collectors, and takes antiquities and breaks them into small pieces and sells each piece for the price of the original. He's a real corrupt guy. Maybe he's the head of hiw own museum or something. He's sort of legitimate, only he's a real corrupt person, and our guys knows that. That guy is also very intelligent, he's like Moriarity. If he thinks the Ark is there, then there must be something to it. "I don't care shit about the Germans, buy by God. I'll stop him from getting it." So it becomes a personal grudge thing.
S — It has to be, because there's nothing in it for our hero. They're not going to give him any more money, and they're certainly not going to give him the house he's always wanted to build. He might be very cynical about it until they tell him who might have it. When that name comes up, his ears perk, and a whole change comes over him. You realize that this thing goes way back with this grudge.
G — They offer him money in the first place, but he's still skeptical. They offer him a lot of money. "That's only if I get it, and I'm nog going to get it. It's just a wild goose chase. There's not enough in it for me." Maybe they add a little bit more money, or they give him a guarantee, whether he finds it or not. Or something just to find out what the Germans know. "Then I'm just a spy. I'm not a spy. I'm an archeologist. Why don't you just send one of your guys over there to do that?" They say their guys don't know an Ark from a bathtub. Then they tell him about the other guy. If he sent the message, then it must be true. Or better yet, there was a German archeologist who he doesn't know who sent the message to bring in the other guy. Then he says, "Okay, I'll do it. I'm not going to let him get involved."
L — It seems like they have a very personal grudge between them.
G — Right. That's the whole thing. It's a very old grudge. That's his main competition, when he goes into a temple or something, either that guy has been there first and ravaged it, or that guy and his sleazy henchmen try and kill him. We can assume that those henchmen in the beginning may have been working for the other guy. If those guys had successfully murdered our guy in the first scene, and gotten what they were looking for, they probably would have sold it to the other guy because he's probably the largest fence in the world for that kind of junk.
L — Rather than Just a professional animosity—
G — Obviously he's stolen stuff from this guy, and the guy has tried to have him killed a couple of times.
L — That would be part of the game. You know that as soon as you get hold of something, that's only half of it. Getting it back is the other part. I don't know, a girl, a family, a child, something in the past that would make it a step over the line from being a professional rivalry. Some sorrow in our guy, who is very cool and you never see it.
G — I don't want to get it too much on a vengence thing, but at the same time, I think we can tighten it. I don't want it to stand out that the only reason he's doing this is because he really hates this guy. The nice about it being a more professional grudge is that then you can have a great confrontation later. If one guy wins fair and square, they respect each other as archeologists and as opponents. So it doesn't become that if he ever gets that guy he's going to kill him. If it's a real personal thing like he killed his wife and raped his sister, then as soon as they meet up, he'd just kill the guy. And it would have been an all-consuming thing thing. This way they hate each other, they have tried to kill each other and all that stuff, so it's sort of a friendly animosity. They respect each other and sooner or leter one of them is going to kill the other. It's Moriarity and Sherlock Holmes. One of those things where they're constantly going back and forth with each other.
S — I think he should be German because there's something nonviolent about the Oriental villian. Certainly he can use kindo (?) and be good with swords and everything, but there's something a little more ominous about a real German. I mean an older German, not a young Aryan. Like the way Max Von Sydow was in "Three Days of the Condor." That sort of danger lurking about him. A brilliant murderer.
G — He could be French or Italian… No. Italians are too crazy. He could be an Arab. One of those weasel-faced, thin-moustached Arab professors.
S — Like Omar Shariff. I can't thing of many Arabs who are actors.
G — It's the Sidney Greenstreet character. I just think if he's not German, then it makes it less of a coincidence.
S — Sidney Greenstreet is the type of villian who, if you pulled a gun on him says, "You disappoint me."
G — Well, he could be Chinese, or whatever. He's not a real killer or anything. He's just the one who's behind everything. He wouldn't shoot anybody, but he wouldn't hesitate for a second to say, "Shoot him."
S — If that's the case, then he has to have a real rotten...
G — He has to be a real slimy villian, a great villian.
S — Charlie Chan, a villianous Charlie Chan.
G — One of those real great characters.
S — A six foot three inch Oriental.
G — It has to be very realistic, a sort of urbane, very exotic guy, who would run the Shang Hai Museum. He would also be an international dope smuggler and have connections all over the world. He could be selling off Ming treasures. He's a real pirate. He's not a Nazi, he's a mercenary. He's for hire.
S — He's going to be surrounded by all sorts of brown shirts, Swastikas on the arm.
G — Right. He's working for the Nazis. They hired him because they found evidence of this thing, but they don't know how to go about it. They're not going to hire our guy, so the other great guy in the world who does this sort of thing is this other guy. There's the great American western guy, and then there's the bad underworld guy. They have this problem of deciphering this sort of hieroglyphic they came up with this to help them find where the Ark is.
S — After this exposition scene, when he's on an airplane going somewhere, the engines start missing. Right away there's sabotage. It's got to be the kind of movie where you expect the dull spots, but suddenly it gets very exciting when you least expect it. It's as if the moment he gets the assignment, they already know way across the ocean. They already have forces out to get him.
G — They know that the only guy who would ever come up against them would be this guy.
S — It really goes fast.
G — Just to move along, essentially he ends up in Cairo or some exotic middle-east area, which is where most of it takes place. In the desert, Jordan, Israel, that area. He's given the name of a man who knows about the situation, an agent. He goes into this very sleazy Casablance type club and makes contact with this agent. The agent is a girl. This part was also sort of Phil's. I wasn't completely crazy about it, but I'll continue in the way we had done it. She's sort of a Marlene Dietrich tavern singer spy. A German lady singer. She's really a double agent. She knows what the Nazis are doing, and where they are. He gets mixed up-with her. She wants him to make her his partner. They sort of have an affair right away. She knows everything. She wants to get cut in on his percentage. She's sort of a mercenary. She hates the Germans, but at the same time, this is her chance to get out of here, out of this hole. She sort of double crosses the Army. "Look, I'm not going to give you anything unless you cut me in on this. There's a lot of money in this one. I can smell it." He cuts her in on it. They're sort of working together, but they don't really. He can't trust her very much. They're the love story aspect of it. She's sort of a back streets girl. She's having an affair or something with one of the officers, that's how she gets her information. She tells him that there's a digging. That they're out there in the desert and they have found the opening to a temple, and they think this ark is in there. This middle part, part of it is to develop this relationship. This is where a lot of the sabotage...
People are trying to kill him as soon as he arrives, or maybe even before he arrives, on the airplane. As soon as he gets there, there are knives coming out of walls, all these slimy characters are following him, all that stuff that happens in those places in the thirties. He's poisoned and all kinds of things. He is trying to make contact with some other Arab guys who are going to help him. He tried to look up an old friend in the area and get some information, and he's trying to get information from this girl. Finally she gives it to him, about where the Germans are. We had thought of giving him another piece of information, a MacGuffin, that he could take with him to try to analyze. This whole section is him sneaking around exotic stuff where he's constantly being... He beats up German agents once in a while, and we sort of establish the German agent. That's just for a couple scenes where we set the relationship with the girl, the tension, some fights in rooms with lots of boxes. They're trapped in store rooms and stuff where he's trying to make contact with his friend. He goes out in the desert and... I'm not really telling this part right. He gets this piece of information that he needs. He goes out and sees the Germans, disguised as Arabs. He realizes... He's piecing this puzzle together, trying to find the temple. They have not found the temple, they're just excavating around here. He realizes the temple is like a quarter of a mile east of where they are. He goes and he finds it. It's in the desert, and he digs down and finds a little tiny bit of ruin. So he searches around until he finds something like a post or column. He digs into the sand, a couple of Arabs are with him. There's a stone thing that he opens up, there's a hole into the ground. He goes down in there and it's the temple. He finds it and he finds the lost Ark. He's recovering it. There's a lot of tension because we have established that everybody is trying to kill him. People are following him all over the place. He knows that about a quarter mile east are about fifty Germans, with disguised tanks and guns. They have all kinds of junk over there. So he's working right under their noses. The idea in the middle sequence was to create sort of a race, tension, who's going to find the Ark first situation. If he pieces the puzzle together first, he gets the Ark. He starts to get the Ark out of the thing, and he comes up out of the hole, and all the Germans are there. He's caught. They take the Ark. Then they beat the shit out of him. He does some fancy stuff, but they throw him back down the hole. We actually have the girl going off with the Germans. We don't know what her situation is, but we don't taint her. But when the Germans show up, she immediately goes off with the side that's winning. He gets throws back in the hole, and they close the tomb up and leave him there to die. Then they take the thing back to their camp. Then he sort of tries to get away when she comes back and lets him out. Them we realize that she was really... She just didn't want to get thrown in the hole with him. Didn't think that would do any good. It's night and they sneak off to the camp. They go into a tent and start to steal the Ark, start to take it to a truck. He's pretending that he's one of the Germans, although he's wearing his regular stuff. Most of the Germans don't know who he is. They get caught. They're also with another Arab side kick, who also got thrown back in the thing. A little comic relief. They pretend like they're supposed to be carrying it, then they put it on a truck. One guy says a little German, like he's one of them. There are German civilians and German soldiers. The guys who have driven up are new guys. Their truck comes up and they get out. They meet him coming toward them. "Oh, good. You have come to meet us." Just as they're putting the ark on the truck, the old guard comes up. They best up some guards as they're discovered. It's too late and they sort of sneak off. The trucks take off into the night. He has to do something fast. Our guy goes back into camp, jumps on a horse, and starts chasing after them. "Wait here. I'll get that damn thing back." The truck is racing along in the desert, and he races along with the horse. He jumps on the truck. We had him shoot the tires on the back truck, and it sort of skids and goes off the road. Then he sort of turns and goes up a hill and comes down the other side, and the other truck is there, and stopped. So we had him get rid of the back truck. Then he comes up alongside the other truck. It's one of those canvas Warner Bros, trucks from the thirties. He races alongside the one with the Ark in it. He jumps onto the cab and has a fight.
S — We're going to have a great fight in the truck. They're hitting each other as the truck goes over these mountainous roads. They beat on each other until the road gets rough, and they help each other make the turns. Then they go on hitting each other. The Germans who are traveling with the Ark in the back hear the scuffle. They look through the window and they have to go along the side to get into the cab. So our hero takes the truck and just peels them off by scrapping the truck against the cliff wall. There are five Germans, and he scrapes them off and five more climb on. A couple of them are climbing over the top. They're all trying "to get him.
G — We have our first suspense thing in the temple. Then there was another one in that craziness that happens when he gets trapped, and then there's this one. This is one of the real action ones. He gets rid of the Germans and gets control of the truck. He has told his Arab friend to get back to town, Cairo or whatever. In the part where he's searching around for information, we realize he has a couple of friends there. He's sort of well-known. He's obviously been there a lot before. He has sort of an underground there. He has told the guy to get back to town and tell Sabud that he'll need to get out right away. He'll need a ship or a plane. AS he's going in to town he's passed by a couple of German motorcycle guys. They suddenly point and yell at him. They turn around and start going after him. There's a car chase through the village.
S — Scattering chickens.
G — Little kids running across the street, and the streets are only this wide, and the truck is that wide. That kind of stuff.
S — Clothes on clothes lines are trailing after the truck. It's "Bullet" through the streets of Cairo, its poorer section. After being chased by two motorcycle guys with side cars, who are firing on him, they can't do a lot because there's no war going on in town. They're all strangers in this country. They crash into walls and all those kinds of things.
He finally goes into a garage — zip, clang, close the doors. His friends are there. They pull it out and this is the first time we see the Ark, except we don't really see It. It's in a big packing crate, sort of a coffin or something. Can we see it?" "No. No. I have to get this out of here now. What arrangements have you made?" "I couldn't get you a plane, but I got you on a boat." The boat is a tramp steamer, a pirate ship, a Chinese tramp steamer with guns.
S — The sheet metal folds down, the canvas comes up, and there are three inch deck guns.
G — Our guy gets on the ship and then he realizes they are a bunch of Chinese Pirates. He sees the guns. "We don't ask any questions. We're reliable." His friend tells him that this guy is really trustworthy. He's a pirate and everyhting, but he's really good. He'll get them out of there and he hates Nazis as much as they do. So our guy says okay. As the ship starts to steam out of the bay, the Nazis are coming down the docks in trucks and cars. The ship just gets away from the dock. The Germans are standing there as the ship pulls out to sea. The captain tells our hero that he must have really done something to make the Nazis hate him. They talk and become friends, sort of. "we should have you in London in five hours, or whatever." "Fine. That's great. I'm going to get a little shut eye. It's been a hard day. Wake me when we pass Gibralter." He goes to bed. Fade out. Fade in. He wakes up, and the ship has stopped. He rushes upstairs. "What's going on?" "We've stopped." "I know we've stopped. What's going on?" "Look." He looks out and there's a ring of Wolf Pack German U-Boats around the ship. "Shit." They're starting to come aboard. The Chinese refuse to fire on them. The Germans would sink the ship. The Germans come aboard and start looking around and they ask the Chinese (garbled) They take the Ark and row it out to one of the submarines, and the Germans start to depart. We see our hero swimming, catching onto one of the submarines, the one with the Ark in it. The submarine starts taking off, our guy yanks himself up, runs across and gets up into the tower. The submarine starts to sink. It never goes below periscope depth. We see him sort of hang onto the periscope. There's a scene with the. Germans inside. "Achtung!" They go to the Greek Islands. Doors open into one island, and the ship goes, in this typical German submarine base under the island. He gets off before it goes in. They take the ark down into a thing... He has had a run in with this professor in the running around sequence in Cairo with the girl.
L — Didn't he see him at the tomb?
G — Yes. Both times. So he is at this base and they take teh Ark and take it into this... There's a thing about the Ark, I don't know what it is, something about where they set up sheets and stuff in a certain way. This is again Phil's information. They had to set up various interlocking tents, according to the legend. In this giant cavern they set up these tents, a maze of nylon stuff. So he sneaks in there past the guards, past all this stuff, and goes into the thing. The bad Nazi and the professor, our nemesis... There's this vicious Nazi General who is the sort of sidekick killer, Mr. Skull and Cross Bones. They are both in there, and he's anxious to have the Ark opened. The professor is a little leery about the whole thing. "We have to be careful. We should deliver it to Hitler before we play around with it." "No. No. I have to know." They uncrate it. This is the part that's left to interpetation. My feeling was that maybe it was a little unbelievable. Our hero gets into the room. They catch him. There's a fight. He's being led away. He gets away with a little trouble, and hides. The guys now open the crate up. They open it and just as they open it, this lightening bolt or electrical charge... The whole thing becomes like kinetic energy, with lightening arcs. It's very quick. Like a lightening rod, it attracts static electricity. The two guys get fried. At this point our guy is sort of helpless. The tent bursts on fire. All the guards turn around and look. In this confusion is when he takes the opportunity and splits.
L — Who gets fried?
G – The professor and the Captain. All the Nazis are yelling about putting the fire out. They put it out. Our guy is hidden during all this, but he can see it. Now we cut to smoldering ruins. Our guy sneaks in there and gets the Ark and hustles out with it. This is more or less the end of the movie.
S — There's no confrontation now with the arch-rival.
G — The confrontation takes place just before that. They're starting to unpack the whole thing when he shows up. Then they have their confrontation. They get into their fight. Our hero is beaten up, subdued. "I have the last laugh on you. Send him to the sharks." They're leading him away and you think that in the end the bad guys have won. Our hero is being led out to be killed, and they're going to open up the Ark. When they open it up this electric stuff happens and fries them. Our guy gets away. Now we cut to the smoldering ruins. The Ark has been pulled off to one side. We see our guy grab the ark and sneak off. Cut to Washington. Our guy is getting congratulated. The end, sort of, is that he takes the Ark... It's crated up, no one even looks at it. They crate it up put it in an Army warehouse somewhere. That's how it ends, very bureaucratic. The feeling is that the Ark is the real thing, that it really is a very powerful thing.
S — Supernatural.
G — It's sitting down in the government warehouse. The bureaucracy is the big winner in the film. In the specific scenes, it works out that he gets beat and shit happens to him in the process. Obviously there has to be some kind of scene with him in Washington.
S — Headlines — "Hitler Invades Poland"... Without the Ark.