Raiders of the Lost Ark charged into movie theaters 40 years ago this month. And it became one of the biggest blockbusters of all time. How big? Adjusted for inflation, it ranks at number 22 on the all-time box office charts. Above many a Star Wars and Marvel movie. And part of the magic that helped Steven Spielberg and George Lucas create a masterpiece was its sound design.
Lucasfilm’s sound design expert Ben Burtt, along with foley artist John Roesch, recently had a Raiders 40th anniversary reunion. It was all a cool little bit of promotion for the upcoming Indiana Jones 4K Blu-ray collection. Together, they demonstrated how the film’s sounds came to life. Although Burtt’s sounds for Star Wars get the lion’s share of attention, his Raiders work was also impeccable. You can watch the full video right here.
You’ll never see (and hear) Raiders in quite the same way again after watching this video. Who knew the slithering of the snakes in the Egyptian tomb actually originated with the macaroni and cheese made by Burtt’s wife? And that wasn’t the only edible object used to make sounds for Raiders. Celery sticks are behind the sounds of punches between Harrison Ford and that big, nasty Nazi guy. Remember Indy biting that dude’s arm? Yes, that’s celery too.
Lucasfilm / Paramount Pictures
Maybe the most iconic piece of the movie is the actual titular “Lost Ark” itself. And the sound of that ancient artifact opening was none other than the tank lid for Ben Burtt’s old toilet. What Burtt did was scrape the lid against a piece of concrete. Instant “opening for the first time in thousands of years” noise.
Although Burtt admits the toilet is long gone, he couldn’t get rid of the piece that helped to create such an iconic moment. Would you throw away a piece of the Ark of the Covenant? That seems like tempting fate. We can only hope that Burtt and Roesch have another reunion soon, on the set of Indiana Jones 5. It just wouldn’t be quite the same without them.
The Indiana Jones 4-Movie Collection arrives in 4k Ultra-HD Blu-ray and Digital on June 8. Just in time for the 40th anniversary of Raiders of the Lost Ark.