Their story is now legend. In 1982, twelve-year-old friends Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala, and Jayson Lamb started shooting a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark on a borrowed VHS camcorder in their small Mississippi town. Chris played Indiana Jones, Eric directed and played Belloq, and Jayson manned the camera, edited the footage, and brainstormed the special effects. They spent every summer vacation for seven years completing the film (every scene except one: the fight around the airplane with spinning propellers), by which time they had fallen out and weren’t even speaking to one another. Completed in 1989, it was practically forgotten until VHS copies started making their way to film buffs and movie collectors. Filmmaker Eli Roth brought a copy for an unannounced screening at the 2002 Butt-Numb-a-Thon and the underground legend exploded. In the years since, Chris and Eric traveled around the country for special screenings of their fan film.
Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, directed by Jeremy Coon and Tim Skousen and inspired by the book by Alan Eisenstock, will be the closest most people will get to seeing that astounding piece of DIY spectacle—the film was never meant to be seen outside of the friends who made it and what twelve-year-old thinks to get a waiver from the creators of the original film? It features clips from the film and outtakes from the production that show not only the spirit of the endeavor but the potentially life-threatening situations the boys put themselves through to do the shoot, as well as new interviews with the Chris, Eric, Jayson, their parents (God bless the mothers of these kids, who believed in their dreams, even if they worried about their methods), and other members of the cast and crew. And it’s built around the crazy impulse to finish the film decades later. Chris and Eric raised money in a Kickstarter campaign to get that last scene. It turned out to be just as dangerous an undertaking as the most reckless things they did as kids.