STUDIO: Paramount
MSRP: $70.99
RUNNING TIME: 660 minutes
• Special Features for nearly every episode, including
documentaries on Tin Pan Alley, Louis Armstrong,
Ben Hecht, the Ataturk Revolution, Ho Chi Minh, The
Treaty of Versailles, Bronislaw Malinowski, Edith Wharton,
Robert Goddard, Paul Robeson, and more


The Pitch

Young Indiana Jones travels to foreign lands, meets interesting people, kills them. 

Indiana explains the importance of having plenty of bottles of lube
 during extended periods of trench warfare.

The Humans

Sean Patrick Flannery, Harrison Ford, Anne Heche, Bob Peck, Ronny Coutteure

The Nutshell

  This third volume of the Young Indiana Jones “edutainment” television series takes Indiana to New York, Chicago, Java, Venice, Hollywood, Romania, Africa, France, and other exotic locales, where he rubs elbows with many of history’s iconic figures, such as Edith Wharton, Louis Armstrong, Howard Carter, Ho Chi Minh, and John Ford.

  At the tail end of World War I, Indiana works with the French Foreign Legion and Secret Service to save as many civilian lives as possible.  Negotiating back room peace deals with world leaders, shuttling German defectors to safety, and breaking into POW camps becomes a way of life for the crafty young war hero.  Once the war ends, Indy doesn’t get much of a chance to rest, as he’s plunged into a world of treasure hunting, gangster mayhem, and show business intrigue.  Predictably, Indiana manages to find his way both into and out of serious trouble, and he usually gets the girl, even if a disturbing number of them end up dead before the credits roll.  

Vlad wasn’t a bad guy-  it’s just that he kept confusing the words
“impale” and “implore.”  This mix up had disastrous consequences
for his image later on.

The Lowdown

It’s week three of our thirty day Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Flaccid Macguffin blitz, so it’s time for a review of the mostly forgotten third volume of the Young Indiana Jones series.  Originally intended as an “edutainment” (which is a portmanteau that stikes fear into the heart of any reasonable ten year old) series for students, The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Volume Three, The Years of Change stands up surprisingly well, especially when compared with Jones’ most recent theatrical construct.  In fact, the Indiana Jones on display in some of Young Indy‘s historical vignettes feels more like classic Jones than the whipslinger in Crystal Skull ever did.  That Harrison Ford’s surprising cameo in one of the episodes felt more natural and fun than his recent reprisal of the role speaks volumes.  

  On the whole, Young Indy doesn’t really feel much like the original theatrical series, though.  Most of the episodes sacrifice a natural, compelling narrative in favor of shoehorning in historical figures to interact with Jones.  These historical figures’ interactions range from the believable (Bronislaw Malinowski, the famous anthropoligist), to the implausible (Paul Robeson, who appears as Indy’s childhood friend), to the downright mistifying (Edith Wharton as a love interest?), and one gets the feeling that Indy’s young adventures are George Lucas’ way of preparing us for the very small universe of the Star Wars prequels, where everybody bumps into everybody and coincidences run rampant.  Sean Patrick Flannery can’t hold a candle to golden age Harrison Ford, but at least he looks good in the role, and does a decent job of swashbuckling through the early twentieth century.

  Another note before reviewing the individual episodes, which were re-edited for this release as seven feature-length movies:  It’s hilarious that so many of Indy’s love interests end up getting murdered.  Maybe a better nickname for Jones would have been “person of interest,” as the women he meets during his adventure drop like flies.  Slogging through the more tedious episodes became almost a fun game: Predict Her Destruction!.  10 points for a shooting, 20 points for a stabbing, 30 points for a poisoning, and 50 for explosions.  One of the dead love interests in Treasure of the Peacock’s Eye netted me a hefty sixty points.

  The ratings for each of the episodes will be based on the following:

  1.  Indiana Jones Moments:  This is the total number of scenes that evoke the fun and excitement of the original trilogy.

  2.  Casualties:  How much blood gets spilled?

  3.  Best Scene:  The episode’s greatest moment.

  4.  Drink from the Cup:  A one sentence judgment of the piece.

Episode 1:  Tales of Innocence

Tales of Innocence has Jones moving German defectors across enemy lines while engaging in an equally nasty love triangle with Ernest Hemingway, and is one of the more uneven entries in the collection.  The love triangle has a few fun moments (and features Pernilla August in the role of the love interest’s mother), but it drags.  The story gets a tempo change by moving Jones to Africa to aid the French Foreign Legion to investigate enemy arms dealers.  The second half is much more fun, although the resolution feels simple and has a distinctly made-for-television feel.  Jay Underwood (Not Quite Human, The Boy Who Could Fly) co-stars as Hemingway.

Indiana Jones Moments: 2

Casualties:  Several Germans, a handful of legionnaires, and a few rebel arms dealers bite the dust.

Best scene:  Jones spits fire in an African warlord’s face.

Drink from the Cup:  Mostly forgettable, although the second half won’t melt your face.

Tolkien’s “The Littlest Corsair” was easily the cutest ship
to land during the battle at Pelennor Fields.

Episode 2:  Masks of Evil

Masks is the token horror episode, and while it’s much more goofy than it is scary, it’s still a decent amount of fun.  Jones spends the first half of the story as a spy in Istanbul.  While negotiating a deal with an Ottoman general, Indiana comes under attack when one of his group emerges as a German double agent.  A few dark alley chases and dead love interests later, Jones is sent to Romania to secure the release of French prisoners of war from the clutches of General Targo (Vlad the Impaler).  This is the only episode in this set that includes elements of the supernatural.  Bob Peck literally chews the scenery as the vampiric Targo. 

Indiana Jones Moments: 2

Casualties:  Many.  There’s actually a surprising amount of bloodshed.  Also: rotting corpses, as well as body parts in a box!

Best scene:  Using a grappling hook, Jones scales a castle wall and nearly kills himself on the way down.  His friends decide to use the open door nearby instead.

Drink from the Cup:  The spy-versus-spy drama was fun, and the Dracula stuff was a welcome supernatural addition, although the vampire was ultimately pretty goofy.

Episode 3:  Treasure of the Peacock’s Eye

Peacock is the most cinematic episode in this set, and is a far more satisfying Indiana Jones film than Crystal Skull.  It’s the only treasure hunt in this series, and has Indiana trotting the globe in search of a massive diamond that once belonged to Alexander the Great.  He’s assisted by the rotund Remy, a trenchmate from the war, who serves as light (but not overly tiresome) comic relief.  Peacock has tomb raiding, headhunters, pirates, and puzzles, and while it doesn’t have the charm of the original films, it captures some of the their tone.  It’s the best of this bunch, and is definitely worth a look. 

Indiana Jones Moments: 6!

Casualties:  Numerous.  There are legions of dead pirates and treasure hunters.

scene:  Raiding the Javanese tombs feels surprisingly close to a classic Jones adventure.

from the Cup:  It’s the Raiders of the set.

While translating the locals’ sacred text entitled “How To Serve White Man,”
 it never dawned on either of them that it was a cookbook.

Episode 4:  The Winds of Change

Winds has the least action and is the most dialogue driven in the bunch, but it isn’t the worst.  Indy comes home from the war after serving as a translator during the drafting of the Treaty of Versailles.  He attempts to reconcile with his father, and helps Paul Robeson confront racist jocks.  It isn’t terribly fun, although Jones’ interactions with his father do well to set up their roles in Last Crusade.  Kevin Jackson co-stars as Paul Robeson.

Indiana Jones Moments: 1

Casualties:  0

scene:  Jonesey backs up Paul Robeson in a fight.

from the Cup:  It doesn’t feel very much like an “Adventure”, but the link between this one and Crusade makes it a worthy addition.

Episode 5:  The Mystery of the Blues

Blues stands out as having a neat little Harrison Ford cameo, but is otherwise a pretty useless endeavor.  Indiana leaves home for Chicago, bumping into Louis Armstrong, Al Capone, Elliot Ness, and Ben Hecht.  He finds a job waiting tables, and learns to play the saxophone while bouncing from speakeasy to speakeasy.  Indiana Jones as a struggling jazz musician feels untrue to his character, and the amount of “run-ins” he has with historical figures in this one is preposterous.  It’s one of the worst, and felt like the longest one in the collection.

Indiana Jones Moments: 1

Casualties:  Minimal.

scene:  Harrison dons the fedora.

from the Cup:  This one spells Jehova with a ‘Suck’.

After his third failed relationship, Van Gogh’s “more is better” approach
showed that he was clearly running out of ideas.

Episode 6:  The Scandal of 1920

Scandal was the most inconsequential and tiresome of the series, and stands out as the weakest in the set.  Jones moves to New York City and gets a job as a stagehand on Broadway.  He inspires his new best friend George Gershwin (why?) to write music, joins the Algonquin round table, and explores Tin Pan alley, all while trying to juggle three girlfriends.  Did I mention the monkey stagehand who causes all sorts of shenanigans?   

Indiana Jones Moments: 0

Casualties:  0

scene:  The end credits.

from the Cup:  Cover your heart, eyes, and brain.

Episode 7:  Hollywood Follies

Follies manages to end the series on a high note by having Indiana move out to Hollywood to work for John Ford.  There are some great moments between Indy and Erich von Stroheim, and we even get to see Wyatt Earp whip out his rifle and show John Ford how things really went down at the O.K. Corral.  Most importantly, Martin Scorcese makes a cameo!

Indiana Jones Moments: 2

Casualties:  There’s a rattlesnake death, but this one’s easy on the mayhem.

scene:  Indy takes risks performing a climactic stunt for John Ford.

from the Cup:  It’s not the best in the series, but it’s a pleasant ride off into the sunset.

 Alarmed by the Seer’s predictions of monkey attacks, Firewalls, 
communist psychics, and Calista Flockhart, 1994 Harrison Ford 
raced to find himself a new agent.

There’s a startling variance of quality and content across each of the episodes, but there’s enough here to be entertained if you’re a fan of the Indiana Jones character.  The show’s detailed set designs and costumes are fun to discover, and Joel McNeely’s orchestral score is some of the best I’ve heard on television.  Although John Williams’ famous theme only makes an appearance once, McNeely does an admirable job holding down the fort.

While Young Indiana Jones doesn’t
always work as an Indiana Jones product, its value for kids shouldn’t
be overlooked.  There’s a lot of good history on display in these
episodes, and if having Indiana Jones in the midst of it all makes it
more palatable for students, then Young Indy might be a worthwhile
effort after all. 

The Package

The package is dense, and seems well suited for classrooms, since there are extensive documentaries attached to each of the episodes.  Those interested in delving deeper into the lives of the featured historical figures will find a wealth of useful information.  It’s the most substantial group of special features I’ve ever seen, and could have easily populated a lengthy standalone feature. 

Unfortunately, the audio is an unimpressive Dolby 2/0, but the 16mm photography looks really great, although this clarity makes some of the early attempts at CGI (especially in Masks of Evil) look glaringly horrendous.

The box art works well for an Indiana Jones product, and does a good job of evoking the tone of the series.


7.0 out of 10