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Young Indiana Jones 3.10 – Chicago, 1920 (part two)

Because Indiana Jones has to meet everybody, here he is at the funeral of Big Jim Colosimo. From left to right, that’s Indy’s old pal Ernest Hemingway, played again by Jay Underwood, along with Ben Hecht, Al Capone, and Eliot Ness. At this stage in his time in Chicago, Capone is going by the name Al Brown and nobody yet suspects that he might possibly have been the gunman who carried out the hit on Colosimo.

Our son enjoyed the second half of Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues far more than the first. Indy, Hemingway, and Ness team up to solve Colosimo’s murder, and run afoul of another Chicago gangster, Dion O’Bannion, while also finding the local cops to be completely corrupt and in the pocket of the mob. No wonder Ness would end up forming the Untouchables about ten years later.

The story’s huge fun and it features a terrific sequence where our heroes bumble their way out of a warehouse with vital evidence while avoiding about ten thousand bullets, ending with wrecked cars and crates of illegal hooch spilled everywhere. It’s played for laughs and our son howled all the way through it.

The story ends with a far, far too short bookend back in 1950 as Harrison Ford’s Indy finishes his story and uses his newfound saxophone to get out of trouble. It sure could have used another minute or so with Indy telling his friend a few more details of what became of the players, and confirming that Colosimo’s murder is officially unsolved to this day, but it’s hard to complain when Indy gets to exit the scene to his familiar theme tune!

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Young Indiana Jones 3.9 – Chicago, 1920 (part one)

I can tell you exactly where I was on March 13, 1993, when The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles started its third season on ABC. Like millions of other people, I was stranded by a massive winter storm. ABC had given the show its biggest publicity blitz yet for its new Saturday night home, hoping that bringing Harrison Ford in for a couple of “bookend” scenes set in Wyoming, 1950 would get audiences interested.

Then the snowstorm hit, and everybody was stuck at home, and ratings were massive. 18.2 million people tuned in. They lost half the audience the next week, because the ice had melted and Harrison Ford wasn’t in it. And as for me, I didn’t see it for several days. I was stuck at my parents’ house without any power. I had to ask somebody to tape it for me.

The first half of Jule Selbo’s Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues is a slow and entertaining introduction to jazz and gospel. Jeffrey Wright, who later played Felix opposite Daniel Craig’s James Bond, plays Sidney Bechet, who befriends Indy and helps him stop being a gushing jazz fanboy and learn how to play soprano sax. Not much else happens in this hour. The music drove our son bonkers. He hasn’t learned to appreciate much music, and certainly not this. I thought it was all quite wonderful myself. There will be some gunplay in the next hour, he’ll be relieved to learn.

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Young Indiana Jones 3.6 – South Pacific, 1919

There is so much to love about the second half of “Treasure of the Peacock’s Eye.” It gets the rollercoaster treasure hunt over and done with surprisingly quickly, and our son absolutely loved it when our heroes get chased off one island and escape with their lives. It then settles into a long, almost meditative groove as this kid we’ve been watching becomes Indiana Jones. It’s a fantastic performance by Sean Patrick Flanery.

I feel this is a good companion piece to the “Congo” story, where Indy met Albert Schweitzer. I like the way that Indy occasionally meets these thoughtful father figures who quietly show him the love and the heart that his own father never did. Here, Indy and Remy spend a few days in the company of a tribe in the South Seas, and go with them on an important cultural exchange to another island. There, they meet Bronislaw Malinowski, the father of participant observation anthropology, who is living with the second tribe. Malinowski is played by Tom Courtenay, who has a huge part in Indy’s life. He’s the one who simply and logically convinces Indy it’s time to go home and pursue his own dreams at last.

Remy doesn’t take this very well. They have another clue to the location of the diamond, and Remy is perfectly content to spend the rest of his life searching for it. This brings their story to a bittersweet end. But that’s not quite the last we’ll see or hear of the Peacock’s Eye…

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Young Indiana Jones 3.5 – Egypt & Java, 1918-19

The “Treasure of the Peacock’s Eye” TV movie, which was shown in 1995 on the old Family Channel, answers the question of what Indiana Jones did for the six months between the Armistice in November 1918 and the Paris peace talks the following May. Reunited with Remy in the closing days of the war, they pull a treasure map off the body of a traitor right as the “stop shooting each other” whistles are blown, and then gallivant off in search of a whacking huge diamond.

Jule Selbo’s story is a real delight. It’s one crazy problem after another, with Adrian Edmondson playing it straight as a one-eyed villain named Zyke who’s also on the trail of the diamond. Zyke has several other fortune hunters financing his quest, and when he turns up dead in Batavia, with something important missing from his hotel room, Indy and Remy have several dangerous suspects. They’re all on a steamship bound for the South China Sea…

Our son was really pleased with this one, because it’s almost non-stop intrigue and translations and working out the meanings of ancient Greek clues that lead treasure hunters to remote Indonesian temples filled with monkeys and snakes. It starts with explosions in the trenches and it’s got a pair of terrific brawls before ending with our heroes chasing after their treasure, which some pirates have unknowingly swiped. Our kid didn’t even mind the cute flirting between Indy and guest star Jayne Ashbourne, who might be the only production letdown in this great story. Her acting is just fine, but she looks remarkably 1995 for a character who’s supposed to be around in 1919.

And speaking of acting, a round of applause for Sean Patrick Flanery for his work in this one. I’ve always enjoyed watching him in this show, but the note-perfect impersonation of Harrison Ford he pulls off here is amazing. The way he speaks more quietly, muttering a little as he stops blinking while he figures out some old translation… he still needs some courses and some instruction to go along with his field work – I don’t think he’s actually met Abner Ravenwood quite yet – but those character scenes in the Hotel du Nil, with his “Henri Defense” identity discarded and back to being Henry Jones Junior, are just fabulous.

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Young Indiana Jones 1.6 – Florence, 1908

It amazes me just how much they spent on this program. This time out, it’s not just all the costumes and the extras and the copious amount of location filming around Florence and Pisa, including a trip to the Leaning Tower, but there’s a production of the opera La Boheme as well as rehearsals for Madame Butterfly, and the fellow who wrote them became one of our son’s most hated TV villains.

Make no mistake, he didn’t like anything about this story of a romance that, mercifully, doesn’t blossom. But Giacomo Puccini, played by French actor Georges Corraface, had our son absolutely fuming. With Indy’s dad off to a conference in Rome, his mother gets swept off her feet by Puccini while Indy stays mostly oblivious and Miss Seymour worries about the right thing to do for somebody in her place. At last, Indy spots his mother having lunch with Puccini in a cafe and our son was off the sofa like a rocket, shaking his fist right in the TV screen. “I HATE him,” he growled. “He should LEAVE HER ALONE!”

Production-wise, Young Indy, particularly the 1908-1910 segments, was a truncated mess produced in a nonsensical order, but this segment was badly overdue. Indy’s mother and father are badly underused in the first episodes. We needed to see more of this family unit and see what makes them tick and love each other. We really could have used more time before Puccini got thrown in like a grenade. It ends well – at the very least it ends before Anna crosses a very bad line – but there isn’t a passing line in any of the Harrison Ford movies where Indy grumbles that he hates Madame Butterfly, and this episode makes you kind of wish there was.

I was mentioning how Matthew Jacobs wrote the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie, where Madame Butterfly is a curious little plot point, but amusingly, this wasn’t actually one of Jacobs’ Young Indy segments. Jule Selbo wrote it, and Mike Newell, who made the film Enchanted April shortly before this, was the director. Phyllida Law has a small role as the owner of the large house where the Jones family is staying. But for all this talent and money spent on it, the episode was only shown in a few European countries, and not in the United States. Bootleg tapes did the rounds for a while, but most people never had the chance to see this until the DVD came out in 2007. And as far as our boy is concerned, nobody should have seen this, ever. There was “way, way, way (x 14) too much romance in that,” he said. And the bad kind, too!

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Young Indiana Jones 1.2 – Tangiers, 1908

After Lucas and his team decided to turn the completed hour-long TV episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles into films for home video, they reassembled the cast to put together a few more parts. The Tangiers segment of the first movie is one of these. It was made several years after the Egypt segment. Corey Carrier was about eleven years old when they shot the Egypt part in 1991. He was perhaps eighteen when they shot the Tangiers story.

It’s a remarkably grim hour. Indy and his friend Omar get kidnapped by slavers in Morocco, and they don’t sugarcoat it much. There isn’t anything an eight year-old kid can do to get out of this situation, and Indy hasn’t learned to be a resourceful hero-in-training yet. Fortunately, help is on the way, but this is mainly an hour to note that slavery was still common in Morocco in the early 20th Century. Omar is himself a slave, something else to note with some sobriety.

The episode was written by Jule Selbo, who had previously written five hours of the broadcast Young Indy, and I noted two guest stars I’d seen before, Kevin McNally and Rowena Cooper. Cooper had played the pathetic Mrs. Weldon in the 1987 TV adaptation of Have His Carcase and has such a lovely and distinctive voice that I think I’d recognize her with my eyes closed.

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