Raiders!: The Story Of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (Blu-ray Review)

Raiders SquareFrom Drafthouse Films and MVD Entertainment comes the release of Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack on August 16th.  After Steven Spielberg’s classic Raiders of the Lost Ark was released 35 years ago, three 11-year-old boys from Mississippi set out on what would become a 7-year-long labor of love and tribute to their favorite film: a faithful, shot-for-shot adaptation of the action adventure film.  They finished every scene…except one; the film’s explosive airplane set piece.  Over two decades later, the trio reunited with the original cast members from their childhood in order to complete their masterpiece in what IGN has dubbed “the Boyhood of fan movies.”  Featuring interviews with John Rhys-Davies, Eli Roth and more, Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is a critically acclaimed documentary from filmmakers Tim Skousen & Jeremy Coon.  Special features include more than four hours of bonus content such as dual audio commentary tracks (with Skousen & Coon, as well as film subjects Chris Strompolos & Eric Zala), deleted scenes from the documentary, outtakes from the Adaptation, Q&A footage from the Adaptation’s 2003 premiere at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX, a photo booklet featuring storyboard art from the Adaptation and a free HD digital copy of the film.

Film 1


Documentaries about films themselves should make you nostalgic for the film they’re covering, bringing back the sense of wonderment, joy and passion felt upon that very first viewing.  Starting from the jumping point of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made takes such passion for both the films subjects and the original Steven Spielberg film itself to a whole other level and the result is a poignant love letter for fans who simply love film.

The doc follows a trio of school friends, Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jason Lamb, who spent their entire childhoods remaking, shot for shot, their favorite film Raiders of the Lost Ark.  And even starting at the young age eleven they pull off amazing feats in their attempts to recreate the magic of Indy’s first adventure on no-budget – from running from the rolling cave rock (they made a few!) to the deadly truck chase.  (How they did it and didn’t get hurt is a true archeological mystery!)  Now some thirty years later the gang reunites to complete their Adaptation of Raiders by attempting to film the one piece they never finished – the missing airplane sequence.

Film 2

Seeing any and all VHS style bits from the tots efforts to recapture the spirit of Spielberg’s film is of course joyous and brings out the creative kid in all of us.  But what also seriously strikes a chord in this doc, thanks to smart filmmakers Tim Skousen & Jeremy Coon, is the almost Goonies like angle we get from those involved who used the experience as a way of escaping turbulent lives and issues at home.  It’s a rare, candid and unapologetically honest look at what made such an insane feat seem sane and it makes the ‘kids shooting a movie’ subject go that much deeper.  Plus like the fans regular and famous (there’s even narrator bits from Sallah himself John Rhys-Davies!) we’re rooting for these guys to finish their movie journey and attain the closure they so deserve.  Bottom line it’s a well-rounded story – an awesome achievement for any documentary.

You need not be an insane Raiders of the Lost Ark fan to appreciate this one (though if you’re not I truly feel sorry for you!), but any fan of the power of motion pictures will be pleased. With its rich tale of history, dedication and a love of film, this doc is one illustrious cinematic ark well worth opening.

Raiders video


Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail: What’s funny is the picture quality is decent even when showing the old VHS TV style footage the kids shot. Okay, that stuff is understandably a tad blurry and has those TV lines and the like, but it’s old footage folks. (The doc stuff looks great though!)

Depth: There’s pretty much interview solo stuff here so not much spacing to take note of.

Black Levels: This whole doc is pretty bright, though if you’re looking for more dark visuals the old VHS stuff has edge wear!

Color Reproduction: Colors are good – especially during the whole behind the scenes plane sequence.

Flesh Tones: Not especially sharp, fair.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Raiders Audio


Audio Formats(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 Surround, 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Good sound for a doc, but again you’re gonna get hiss on old footage film fans. (And yes, that’s part of the charm!)

Low Frequency Extension: Nothing notable – but high’s are more frequent than lows especially with kids making movies.

Surround Sound Presentation: Do you need surround with this one? It works here.

Dialogue Reproduction: Interviews are crisp and clean.

Raiders extras


Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made Blu-ray comes with both a DVD and Digital Copy of the film – PLUS a reversible cover with some amazing inside artwork AND a Photo Booklet that has artwork/storyboards from the kids adaptation – they chocked this baby full!  (Except the full Adaptation – hence the half star off!)

Audio Commentary

  • With Directors Tim Skousen & Jeremy Coon (Great stories about piecing this together!)
  • With Film Subjects Chris Strompolos & Eric Zala (Interesting to hear this one from their point of view!)

Deleted Scenes (SD, 32:29) – This section has stuff that reveals so much more!  From getting into Chris’s personal life via the Kickstarter campaign to tales of the guys sneaking into the theater to record the film it’s a hoot.  Best of the bunch – the extra info on the gal playing Marion and a former Marion!  (Wanted more Marion – got it!)

Outtakes From The Adaptation (SD, 19:33) – This is the closest fans will get to having an actual copy of the kid’s Adaptation and it’s pretty cool.  You get their behind the scenes hijinks and a big section on the whole truck chase sequence.

Q&A at Alamo Drafthouse Premiere of The Adaptation (SD, 40:43) – This one gets you in on the Premiere complete with initial reaction from the guys and a full post-show Q&A till the tapes runs out!

Trailers that include the Raiders! Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:08), 20,000 Days On Earth (SD, 2:15), A Band Called Death (SD, 2:12), The Final Member (SD, 2:02) and I Declare War (SD, 1:47).

Raiders Summary


If this one had included a disc of the actual Adaptation instead of a DVD copy it would have been a five-star affair.  But as is it’s still an amazing release – wonderful film, good sound and pic quality (when not in nostalgic VHS mode – but who cares?!), a cool double cover and enough extras to make even the icy cold Toht nervous.  A great set and a good buy…trust me!

Raiders bluray


I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

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