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Young Indiana Jones 2.15 – Palestine, 1917

In 1987, Simon Wincer directed a film called The Lighthorsemen, about the Australian mounted infantry pulling a stunning surprise at the Battle of Beersheba in October 1917 and suddenly switching to cavalry tactics before the Turkish artillery could react. The Turks couldn’t lower their cannons quickly enough and the Australians stormed their trenches.

So five years later, when Lucas was putting together writers and directors and concepts for The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, once Wincer was hired, it was a natural idea to put Indy behind the lines in Beersheeba so that Wincer could reshoot the core battle with new actors while also bringing in lots of footage from his earlier film. The result is an episode that looks like it cost several million more dollars to make than it really did. It’s absolutely seamless.

And speaking of reshoots, the original one-hour episode, which, like the last one we watched, was never shown in the United States, then underwent yet another change before making its way to home video. Writer Frank Darabont and Wincer went back to the drawing board and seriously beefed up their original story. Between expanded footage from The Lighthorsemen and new material with Indy getting to know some of the frustrated Aussie soldiers waiting for their chance to be sent into action, the original forty-five minutes or so is bulked up by an additional half-hour to make the movie version, Daredevils of the Desert. And it’s a corker. After the two comedy episodes and the two political ones, our son was badly in need of something completely thrilling, and this totally satisfied him.

The Palestine installment has always been one that genre fans had been interested in watching because of its stellar cast. It not only features future James Bond Daniel Craig, as seen in the top photo, but also the sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, as a British general, as seen in the second one. There’s also Catherine Zeta Jones as another intelligence operative, Julian Firth as the colonel who we met in the German East Africa two-parter, and Douglas Henshall as the second actor to play TE Lawrence. We’ll see Henshall again in one of the later episodes.

One other note: if you enjoy fistfights in movies, Sean Patrick Flanery, Daniel Craig, and their stunt doubles have an absolutely amazing one in the climax of this story. If I might quibble, I think the sound effects people kind of turned the volume of their impacts a little too loud, because it sounds like they’re hitting each other with enough force to break granite into dust, but that aside, the brawl is just wild, an absolutely desperate struggle between two men using anything they can lay their hands on to pummel the other. My eyes popped out of my head.

Actually, you remember the beginning of Casino Royale when Bond was going after that French bloke who does parkour and Daniel Craig just charges straight through a wall? When they were casting the role, the Bond people probably looked at this fight and concluded Craig was their man. It’s that wild.

That’s the end of the second Young Indiana Jones collection, so we’ll take a short break to keep things fresh. We’ll start on the third box set in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned!

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Young Indiana Jones 2.6 – German East Africa, 1916 (part two)

This is such a fun story! “The Phantom Train of Doom” might just be the best of all the Young Indy adventures. There are still some very good ones coming up, but this just runs rings around almost every other story that they made. It’s just a classic Indiana Jones adventure, with our hero getting caught up in escalating nonsense and a story that requires fast thinking, improvisation, and, of course, a blatant disregard for the laws of physics.

It follows the first part of the story quite closely, with all of the same cast. The “Old and the Bold” gang returns to the British lines and are immediately given a new assignment: to kidnap a German colonel. They agree to escort Indy and Remy back to the Belgian lines with a formal explanation for their absence and an apology from the British general. They just don’t tell Indy and Remy about their new mission. Everything that can possibly go wrong does, hilariously, and before long, Indy, Remy, and their prisoner are making their way across the veldt on foot.

The colonel is played by Tom Bell, who I remember seeing in Prime Suspect as DS Otley. I spent all of the nineties hoping that when Doctor Who ever did get resurrected, they’d cast Bell as the Master. There’s a parallel universe where he enjoyed some good scraps with Paul McGann’s Doctor, I’m sure.

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Young Indiana Jones 2.5 – German East Africa, 1916 (part one)

This one’s absolutely delightful. We all chuckled our way through the whole thing. Indy and Remy have been transferred to Africa, but because neither of them can read train timetables all that well, they end up hopelessly lost, at least three hundred miles from their unit in Victoria, and bump into a “battalion” of in-the-way old codgers and geezers played by character actors like Freddie Jones and Ronald Fraser.

They call themselves the 25th Frontiersman Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, and before he knows what’s hit him, the summers that Indy spent shoveling coal on a New Jersey train, and his fluent German, have him “volunteering” for an oddball mission to track down a mysterious German train with a massive cannon mounted on a flatbed car. The British general who’s asked for the group’s help promises to send a nice commendation to Indy and Remy’s commander, if they can ever get out of this mess…

This two-part story was first shown on ABC in the summer of 1993 under the title “The Phantom Train of Doom,” which is a silly and pulpy name, but this is a silly and fun story. Our son was in heaven. It’s full of explosions and secret bases and fights, and Indy doesn’t smooch even one silly girl. The first “part” doesn’t end with a cliffhanger. It’s really two separate stories with most of the same cast, including Julian Firth in his other 1916 role, as a British military intelligence officer who’s grateful for this company of the “Old and the Bold” to pull them out of the fire.

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Young Indiana Jones 2.2 – Germany, 1916

Picking up from the previous episode’s cliffhanger ending, tonight’s installment is the big prison break episode. Both parts were originally shown in the US on ABC during The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles‘ truncated run on Monday nights in the fall of 1992. It’s really entertaining. Indy and another member of his Belgian company, who had been captured at the Somme, take the identities and uniforms of two French officers who didn’t survive the transportation behind the lines. Unfortunately for Indy, the man he’s pretending to be has made one too many escape attempts, so they ship him to a maximum security prison for “incorrigibles.” Fortunately, if there’s one man who can break out of any prison, it’s Indiana Jones. Unfortunately, he’s only seventeen at this point…

Among the guest cast this week, a famous French actor called HervĂ© Pauchon plays one of Indy’s fellow captives, Charles de Gaulle. Sean Pertwee plays a German officer, and we’ll see another member of the Pertwee family in the show a little while down the line. Julian Firth plays an imprisoned British officer, which is interesting because Firth has a completely different part in a couple of other episodes later on!

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