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Why is it that people generally tend to look down their noses when movie studios remake films, yet it’s perfectly accepted whenever film fans do the same thing? The internet is filled with homemade homages and amateurs aping the films they love most, free of corporate cynicism and greed (Oh, maybe that’s why we like those more...) But not even the internet can stand up to Mississippi natives Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala, who spent 7 years of their 1980s adolescent lives filming a shot-for-shot remake of Steven Spielberg’s classic Raiders of the Lost Ark. The full story behind this massive (and massively impressive) undertaking is detailed in Alan Eisenstock’s book Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, which producer Jeremy Coon (Napoleon Dynamite) has optioned for not just one but two upcoming projects.
Before we go any further, you can watch the entire film-- yes, all hour and forty minutes of it-- below. The Internet is an amazing place.
Strompolos and Zala, who became friends in elementary school and are currently in their 40s, have signed off on their life rights, and with Coon, they’ll be co-producing a documentary about the making of the film itself. And then there will also be a narrative feature culled from this story, and Deadline points out that yes, that makes it a movie about making another movie that’s a remake of another one. So it’ll kind of be like Garth Jennings’ Son of Rambow, I suppose. More so than something with a weak story like Be Kind Rewind hopefully. There may be some haggling with the original film’s producers George Lucas and Spielberg himself. After seeing the film himself, Spielberg told Strompolos and Zala that he loved it, so maybe it won’t be so difficult a task.
Coon was at a film festival when got a chance to view the "remake," which was first shot on Betamax before the need to switch to VHS. He went into the project on a down note due to legal troubles with Fox due to lost profits from Napoleon Dynamite, which is currently ongoing. But the experience left him overwhelmed with positivity.
“I thought the movie was an urban myth but when I saw it, from a filmmaker perspective it was more inspiring than any movie I’d ever seen,” Coon told Deadline. “These kids had done something ridiculous and impossible and the last time I had the experience of a movie being made because it was sheer fun was when I’d seen Kill Bill. I went in feeling cynical but there was no cynicism in these kids. They did the movie because they loved it. It had its premiere and then sat on a shelf.”
He goes on to talk about some of the more troublesome stunts the boys attempted, one involving Zala getting construction plaster hardened to his face while trying to recreate Bellog’s face-melting scene. I cannot wait to see that, as well as the new films coming out. If anyone ever does something similar with Crystal Skull, though, I'd rather not know about it.
If you don't have time to watch the whole thing above, clips from the movie can be seen in the video below, in the trailer for the book, which was published last October.