LucasFilm has released full press information on all three sets of Young Indiana Jones DVDs, including some promising glimpses at the episodes and extras on Volumes 2 and 3. It looks like Volume 2 (coming in December) will be a must for spy fans. Not only will it contain the bulk of Young Indy’s espionage adventures, but it also features Bond stars Daniel Craig and Christopher Lee and several exciting documentaries about spies. (Craig even features on the cover, despite the brevity of his role.)
The “episodes,” it should be noted, are not the original hour-long versions that aired on ABC from 1992-93, with bookends featuring George Hall as a very old Indy recollecting his adventures. They are re-edited ninety-minute movies, each one comprised of two of the original episodes, or, in some rare cases, one episode plus footage that was shot later and will be seen for the first time on DVD. The “Old Indy” narration is dropped altogether, and those segments are not even available as deleted scenes. Some of these movie versions were released on VHS in 1999, and others are making their debut in this format in these sets.
Volume 2's “Demons of Deception” finds Indy on leave from the Belgian army (which he joined seeking adventure prior to America’s entry into WWI) in Paris, where he falls in love with the most notorious spy of that era, Mata Hari. The episode was written by Carrie Fisher and directed by Nicolas Roeg. Two of the accompanying historical documentaries (which are said to be amazing, the culmination of almost a decade’s worth of work) should fascinate espionage aficionados: Flirting With Danger: The Fantasy of Mata Hari and Reading the Enemy’s Mind: Espionage in World War I.
“Adventures In the Secret Service” compiles two standout escapades from Indy’s spy career. In one, directed by frequent Bond second unit director Vic Armstrong and written by Frank Darabont, Indy is sent on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines into the palace of Emperor Karl of Austria in an attempt to bring about an early end to the war. Christopher Lee guest stars in the most typically “spy movie” entry in the series. In the other, Indy’s espionage work takes him into Russia, which is on the brink of revolution. He must infiltrate a Bolshevik group and ultimately choose between his friends and his duty. I remember this as being a particularly good episode.
In “Espionage Escapades,” Indy engages in a pair of more comic spy missions, going undercover as a ballet dancer in order to discredit German diplomats with the aid of three bumbling agents, and then finding himself thwarted in a very simple assignment by a Kafka-esque web of bureaucracy... with only Franz Kafka himself to assist him! His spy career continues in “Daredevils of the Desert,” in which he must again go undercover, this time with beautiful lady spy Catherine Zeta-Jones in Turk-occupied Beersheba. Future 007 Daniel Craig has a small part as a mustached officer.
Volume 3, due sometime next spring, presumably to coincide with the theatrical release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, contains two more episodes in Indy’s espionage career. “Tales of Innocence” offers up some more light-hearted cloak and dagger work in Italy and North Africa, while “Masks of Evil” contrasts that with two of the series’ darkest tales. Indy has a tragic love affair in an Ashenden-esque Istanbul-set adventure dealing with a plot ot assassinate French agents, and has his first encounter with the supernatural when he comes face-to-face with Vlad Dracula in the only story in the series to completely throw history to the wind. There are plenty of other good episodes in Volume 3, but they take place after WWI, and after Indy’s days as a spy are over. One, however, "The Mystery of the Blues," is notable for featuring future Felix Leiter Jeffrey Wright as jazz legend Sidney Bechet. (The same episode guest-stars Harrison Ford as a fifty-something Indy telling the tale.)
The sets progress chrono-logically, and Volume 2 contains most of Indiana Jones’ espionage adventures, but all three sets of this wonderful show should definitely be worth getting, not just for the series itself, but also for the new historical documentaries. I really can’t wait to have this show on DVD.