With this latest batch of nine episodes of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, the second of three volumes, we get sixteen episodes from the series, with two episodes each paired together for form one long “movie.” With these episodes we move past the adventures of the Indian Jones in his youth and go straight into his time during World War I. While the Indy we knew in the past volume was taught life lessons as a child by some of the greatest men in the world, this volume finds Indy maturing in ways that only fighting in the trenches of a war torn Europe could do.
This volume takes us through Europe, Africa and Asia and allows us to see some of the greatest historical figures of the early 1900s. Learning from and coming face to face against Vladimir Lenin, Chalres de Gaulle, The Red Baron and reuniting with Pablo Picasso and T. E. Lawrence, Indiana Jones (Sean Patrick Flannery) finds himself in some of the most dangerous and incredulous adventures of his life. Though he battles the latter half of the war alone, for most of the series he’s paired with his faithful friend Remy (Ronny Coutteure). Along the way Indy goes from being a Belgian soldier to working for the French secret service and becoming a spy to falling in love with countless women along the way, including the legendary Mata Hari.
Despite being the slimmest volume of the three (the third of which arrives in Spring of 2008), this second volume contains some of the most exciting episode of the series. These are the episodes I remember watching on TV a bit clearer, although with such imagery as a soldier dying from asphyxiation from gas is hard to get out of one’s head, especially if you saw it as a child, it’s no wonder that they’re clearer. All of the episodes included on this set are nothing short of wonderful. It’s a really solid set and may go down as my favorite of the three, although that’s a bit premature as my memory of all of the episodes on the third volume is a bit hazy. Still, the 1900s are the one point of history that I’ve always found fascinating, what with the World Wars and all of the technological advances of the day. It’s really just a great collection that had me rapt with attention throughout.
In one day I polished off about five discs alone; I didn’t even realize I’d spent the day watching the DVDs until I looked out at my window and realized the sun had gone down since I’d started. Between the many scenes of war that were played throughout this volume, particularly in the first episode on the set, “Trenches of Hell” and the historical figures that Indiana comes across, the series serves not only as a great history lesson but an interesting one as well. The humor in this volume also leaps beyond what we got in the first and shows more of the quick wit that Indiana has in the original films. “Phantom Train of Doom” is hilarious and “Espionage Escapades” nearly becomes incredulous, with the absurdity of the Ministry of Telephones and what Indiana has to go through to get a message in the apartment he’s been stationed in. It becomes almost too slapstick at times, however, and I half expected some Benny Hill music to start up. But it was all in good fun and a welcome break from the intensity that made up most of the season.
The special effects were in full force in this volume and ranged from noticeable to rather impressive for its day. One thing I did notice was in “Espionage Escapes”, there was some bad dubbing over previous lines, particularly when Indy’s French contact said he had to “wee wee”, the mouth movements didn’t match up at all. On top of that, a lot of the action in this volume seemed to be sped up to make the progressions faster, only the speed up was noticeable and kind of took you out of the episodes for a bit. Considering most of these episodes were made in 1992-1993, it’s hard to fault it for even these minor instances and it’s still an impressive feat—that’s what having George Lucas as executive producer does for a show, I guess.
Also something I noticed is a lot of the episodes are cut together into “movies” so well that you don’t even notice the carryover—the repetition of characters throughout parts also helps, as it creates a smoother transition between the two episodes. Really nicely done and it’s obvious that these later episodes were made to do that, as the episodes in the first volume had such awkward bridges, you had to wonder why they even bothered to put them together.
Overall this is a superb volume of episodes. Flannery takes the role of Indiana and makes it his own while channeling what Ford did in the films and the supporting cast, including such modern day stars as Catherine Zeta-Jones and Daniel Craig (both of whom appear in the same episode and also on the DVD cover), add such a great depth to the episodes that their roles are often as pronounced as Flannery. Highly Recommended.
Continuing the epic amount of extras that the first volume set forth, this second volume is no slouch. While it’s a shame there are no extras that focus on the series itself, the historical documentaries included here are all interesting and well worth fans of the show or history buffs time. But first, let’s tackle the packaging, which arrives in a digipak dual tray set up, aside from the fifth discs which gets a single tray. In all there are nine discs and the set folds out in the same way as the previous volume. Menus and disc art are the same as the previous release and everything on this set is presented in a 4:3 frame.
Video and audio for this release is the standard Dolby Digital 2.0 and full screen format as the last release. The video can get a bit grainy at times, but for the most part it looks great here. No interlacing and a tad bit of compression, but aside from that it looks great, even blown up on an LCD. This show would have looked amazing in widescreen and I’m really disappointed it wasn’t made a few years later than it was, then maybe it would have been. Surprisingly the audio is still only a 2.0 mix, but sounds great regardless. And now we move onto the extras—strap in for a few pages, kiddies. This is going to be a long one.
Trenches of Hell
Unlike the previous volume, all extras for each episode are confined to the disc the film is on. This means there are fewer new featurettes, but there still are over thirteen hours to be found here, so don’t expect any real slouch in extras. For this first film of the set we have four documentaries; the first is “The Somme – Storm of Steel” (26:49), which recounts the bloody battle that left near a million dead, half of which were Germans. While the battle seemed to go nowhere for days on end, with both sides losing and gaining ground throughout it, it was not a pointless battle, as it taught us many things about modern warfare.
“Siegfried Sassoon – A War Poet’s Journey” (30:09) covers Sassoon’s life, even though we only saw a bit of him in the series, he gets a nice featurette here. The same goes for “Robert Graves and the White Goddess” (30:18) and “I Am France: The Myth of Charles de Gaulle” (30:90), which cover characters we saw in the episodes only briefly. As with the past volume we have plenty of scholars and historians covering the lives of the men that we see in the series.
Demons of Deception
“Into the Furnace: The Battle of Verdun” (27:47) covers the battle that many men refused to fight as their commanders seemed to be more hell bent on sending their men into battle than concerned for their soldiers well being. “Marshal Petain’s Fall from Grace” (30:41) accompanies the Verdun featurette and details the life of Petain.
“Flirting With Danger: The Fantasy of Mata Hari” (29:53) goes over the life of the temptress whom Indiana had “relations” with in the episode; it’s actually the first documentary I’ve watched where it was revealed that the actress chosen to play Mata Hari really didn’t match the pictures of her at all. Kind of a curious choice, but it’s nice to get quick little historical pieces on these characters that were molded into Indiana’s world. “Reading the Enemy’s Mind: Espionage in World War I” (24:21) plays along with Mata Hari’s supposed spying (none of which was ever proven) and goes into detail about the many new kinds of tricks and devices that were employed during the time of the first World War.
Phantom Train of Doom
For this episode we get three featurettes that cover the men featured throughout: “Chasing the Phantom: Paul von Lettow Vorbeck” (24:54), “Dreaming of Africa: The Life of Frederick Selous” (25:06) and “At Home and Abroad: The Two Faces of Jan Smuts” (32:17). As with most of the featurettes on this set, these all focus on individuals rather than specific events, making them a bit harder to discuss in detail. Still, these are all very interesting to watch and I found myself getting lost in them; while I’m sure books could be written about them, these twenty to thirty minute documentaries on their lives are really just a nice, quick way to learn more about their history.
Oganga, The Giver and Taker of Life
“Albert Schweitzer: Reverence for Life” (29:47) tells of the German doctor who gave up his life to work in Africa. Accompanying these are two featurettes that focus more on elements that weren’t exactly detailed in the episode, including “Congo: A Curse of Riches” (32:39) which talks about Mobutu and his rule over the nation. This is a curious extras as it focuses more on events that happened a few decades after “Oganga, The Giver and Taker of Life” took place. Nevertheless it’s an important look into the history of the nation and is accompanied by “Waging Peace: The Rise of Pacifism” (26:02).
Attack of the Hawkmen
“War in the Third Dimension: Aerial Warfare in World War I” (26:43) tells of the first war to be fought in the air, focusing on the planes of the era and the amazing pilots who flew them. On top of the quick discussion of the pilots of the era, we hear about “Blood Red: The Life and Death of Manfred von Richthofen” (27:34), which talks about the Red Baron’s amazing life, even though it was ended before he even reached thirty. “Flying High for France: The Lafayette Escadrille” (26:13) and “Anthony Fokker: The Flying Dutchman” (27:31) accompany.
Adventures in the Secret Service
“Karl – The Last Habsburg Emperor” (29:49) details the fall of the Habsburg empire, which had lasted six hundred years prior to his rule. “The Russian Revolution: All Power to the Soviets!” (33:36) and “V.I. Lenin: History Will Not Forgive Us” (33:54) paint the picture of the rise of the Bolsheviks and the Soviet Union and the eventual fall of it. “The Russian Revolution” focuses a lot on events that occurred later in the timeline, much like the way the “Congo” extra from “Oganga” did.
“Impresario: Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes” (28:13) talks of the movement that Picasso started with his art that spread to Diaghilev and the ballet. “Ballet: The Art of Dance” (32:16) informs us that the ballet isn’t just for little girls and goes into detail about the history of the art, as well as its pioneers. “Franz Kafka’s Dark Truth” (31:21) takes a look at Kafka’s life and the downfall that he felt after his wife committed suicide and one of his planes made headlines by crashing, thus ruining his career.
Daredevils of the Desert
“Lines in the Sand: The Middle East and the Great War” (34:29) cover the Middle East’s role in World War I and the generals that commanded over Beersheba and other locations. “Col. Lawrence’s War: T.E. Lawrence and Arabia” (36:05) is the only documentary to be repeated from the first volume of the set, likely only because there was space to fill on this disc. Kind of sad to see a repeat, but it had to happen eventually—this episode wasn’t entirely full of historical figures.
Like the last volume this set contains an “extras only” bonus disc which houses the timeline we got in the previous set as well as a new documentary and interactive game. The time line is indeed the same as the previous set, but the documentary, “Historical Lecture – War and Revolution” (1:02:30) is all new and eclipses the last sets “Historical Lecture” by over twenty minutes. This is a really a great extra that summarizes World War I and the revolutions that the world experienced during it and afterwards.
The interactive game this time around is a bit more frivolous and focuses on shooting people mainly. It’s a bit unresponsive and I got tired of it within a few minutes. Nice for kids, but I really don’t know what the point of these games are—I’d rather have some documentaries or featurettes on the making of this series; granted I don’t know how much behind-the-scenes footage was shot for it, but still.
Overall this is another great set that sits proudly next to the first volume. There are lots of historical documentaries to enjoy and just an all-around great batch of episodes. Highly Recommended.
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Volume 2, The War Years is now available on DVD.