Raiders of the Lost Ark was a huge hit when it was first released in cinemas back in 1981. Millions of kids likely spent their recess reenacting scenes, but childhood friends Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala took the whole thing a bit further: they decided to remake the movie, shot for shot. Chris opted to star in the film, taking the role of Henry “Indiana” Jones Jr., while Eric jumped into the director’s chair. Eager to make the best film they could, they filled a notebook with plans and storyboards.
They didn’t start shooting until the following summer but they assumed that they could get the whole film done by the time school started up again. With a few friends and an oversized camcorder, they only managed to film Raiders’ first few scenes by the time Labor Day rolled around. Then Eric’s parents announced they were getting divorced, the girl they picked to play Marion moved to Alaska, and a lot of their footage was unusable. Undaunted, the duo started over in summer ‘83 and came up with ingenious ways to recapture the original film’s sets and special effects. Chris’ dog Snickers played a monkey in several scenes, an old quarry served as a “crocodile infested river,” and they made that famous giant boulder out of fiberglass. The two spent the next several summers and $5,000 working on the project. Before finally pulling the plug in 1989, they had refilmed the entire movie except for its iconic “Flying Wing” sequence because they couldn’t find a plane.
In the mid ‘00s, their project, now dubbed Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, started being discussed on film websites after Eric gave a few copies to his friends (who made copies and gave them to their friends and so on…). The uncompleted film was even screened in theaters around the country and directors Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino commended their efforts while magazines like Vanity Fair published articles about the whole thing.
The duo later returned to their day jobs, figuring the uncompleted project was finally behind them. Then, after some goading from fans and a successful Kickstarter campaign, Chris found himself once again donning Indiana’s fedora. Nearly 33 years after they came up with the idea, Chris and Eric filmed the “Flying Wing’ sequence with a budget of nearly $60,000 and several volunteers.
The finished Raiders adaptation—with new sequence intact—is touring film festivals and revival houses.