Just so you know, it's really “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Plastic Skull.” With a light bulb inside.
And the skull is hooked up to a dimmer switch so it emits the requisite intensity of otherworldliness.
And don't call it an alien, because director Steven Spielberg really didn't want to do another alien movie after “E.T.” and “Close Encounters.” Producer/writer George Lucas got him to sign on by calling the creatures “inter-dimensional beings.” Right.
Such trivia tidbits are overflowing on the two-disc “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” DVD that hit store shelves Oct. 14. The extra features are exhaustive and a bit exhausting, spewing forth hours of interviews with the creators, the stars – major and minor – and the people behind the sets, the cameras, the special effects, costumes, makeup, killer ants, angry natives and more.
Yes, I'm a big “Indiana Jones” fan (well, the first and third movies, anyway). But it's hard to muster the excitement for this much Indy 4, which is only slightly better than No. 2, “Temple of Doom” (discuss amongst yourselves).
So the first of the extras, “The Return of a Legend” – with everyone so reverential about working together again after lo these many years – gets a little tedious. A more substantial offering is the 12-part “making of” feature, taking you on an almost scene-by-scene backstage tour of the film.
I watched them all. I was getting paid to. But, hurray for Hollywood, it is amazing to see how it all came together. Here are some of the more interesting behind-the-scenes facts I gathered, from my skull to yours:
Shia LaBeouf learned swordfighting from a coach but had to teach himself to handle a switchblade like a proper '50s greaser. “It became like my Tetris,” he says. “It became the most interesting thing to do on the set.”
Cate Blanchett helped come up with her look for villainess Agent Spalko by poring through 1950s yearbooks. She liked the “short fringe” – that's British for “bangs.”
Remember the scene when Harrison Ford and LaBeouf are riding the motorcycle through the college library? It's really a Yale University dining hall, with the floor covered and protected. And remember how they slide under the library tables and come to rest at the feet of a student, who asks Dr. Jones a homework question? That's Chet Hanks, Tom's son.
The hum of swarming ants is a mix of three sounds: corn feed poured from a bucket, eggshells getting crushed and human voices sped up and/or played backward.
That's a real snake – a 13-foot, 50-pound python – that LaBeouf tosses to Ford in the quicksand. Ford says he doesn't mind snakes. LaBeouf? “I'm a dog person.”
Spielberg wanted the Area 51 warehouse stocked with supernatural artifacts, including the golden Ark of the Covenant from the first movie. A big stick that comes crashing out of a crate is supposed to be Moses' staff, which the crew copied from Charlton Heston's “The Ten Commandments.”
Say what you will about the movie, you have to appreciate that attention to detail.