"‘X’ never, ever marks the spot.”
There are two things in this world from history that tend to fascinate just about everyone: The Holy Grail and the Nazis. The history of The Holy Grail goes all the way back to the earliest centuries. For thousands of years there has been a quest for the Cup of Christ that he used at the Last Supper. The Nazis were leaders of Hitler before and during World War II. They did whatever their Fuhrer wished and stopped at nothing to make his wishes come true. They caused utter destruction and millions of deaths. One story is legend and the other is true. When truth and legend combined to form a story is can be an incredibly interesting one if done right. The third installment of the original trilogy of Indiana Jones, The Last Crusade, combines the legend of The Holy Grail with the insanity of the Nazis to form one of the best movie stories and best movies ever made.
The Last Crusade begins by telling the story of how Indiana Jones became Indiana Jones. In 1912 when he was on a trip with the Boy Scouts he encountered men digging in caves in the desert. They were looking for a cross that belonged to Coronado. Indy knows that the cross belongs in a museum and intends to steal it to show his father. He almost gets away with it but slips up on some wood as he is climbing and knocks the wood to the ground alerting the diggers. Indy almost manages to out run them by jumping on a circus train and then running back to his house. His father cares for nothing but what is in front of him and tells Indy to count to calm himself down. Unfortunately, the sheriff arrives with the diggers and Indy is forced to give up the cross. The main digger tells Indy “Better luck next time” and places his brown fedora on young Indy’s head.
Years later Indiana Jones is on a storm tossed ship once again looking to put Coronado’s cross into a museum. This time he is successful. Back in his classroom at the university where he is a professor, Indiana receives a package but does not have time to open it due to the swarm of students outside his door waiting to speak to him. He climbs out the window only to be stopped by two men in black suits and a car waiting to take him somewhere. That somewhere Indiana is taken to is the apartment of Walter Donovan. Donovan tells the archaeologist that his team he has assembled have found the location of a knight that is part of the lore of The Holy Grail and that his stone shield on his tomb has the site of The Holy Grail on it. Indiana is intrigued but asks why his father, who is an expert on the Grail is not the one Donovan contacted. Donovan informs Indy that his father was working for them but he disappeared in Venice.
In Venice Indy and Marcus are to meet a Dr. Schneider. They think the doctor is a man and are pleasantly surprised to find it is a woman, Elsa Schneider. Elsa had been working with Indy’s father Henry (Sean Connery) before he disappeared. They were last together in an old library that had once been a church. The church is filled with symbols and images from the story of The Holy Grail. Indy finds that that X really does mark the spot and that underneath that X is a maze of catacombs where the one Grail knight’s burial place is located. Indy and Elsa find the knight’s casket and the other half of the shield. Indy quickly chalk rubs the shield just before the petroleum all around them is lit. Fortunately they are able to get away but are quickly chased by a group of men who are sworn to protect the site of the Grail. After an epic boat chase Indy manages to get it out of one of the men that his father is being held captive in a German castle.
Indy and Elsa go to the castle and they split up. Indy finds Henry alone in room. The German are alerted to Indy being there and the head of the Nazis at the castle brings Elsa into the room as if she is a hostage. Henry tries to convince his son that Elsa is one of the Nazis. Indy refuses to listen and Elsa comes over to him and takes the Grail Book.
Both Joneses manage to get away from the Germans. They go to Marcus and Indy’s old friend Sallah in Egypt. The Nazis also manage to make it to Egypt and they make the race to where the Grail is a very difficult challenge. When they make it to the location Henry is shot by the Nazis to make Indy go through the challenges that were set up as a test for those seeking the Grail. Henry had found clues to the challenges over many years throughout many sources. Indy successfully gets through the challenges and so does Elsa and Walter Donovan. One of the knights of the Grail is still in the room where hundreds of chalices are. He tells them to choose wisely. Donovan is not a historian he has no idea which one would be the cup of Christ. Elsa chooses for him and she purposely chooses the wrong one. Donovan quickly decomposes and turns to dust. Indy, of course, chooses the right one, the one that would be the cup of a carpenter. He brings the Grail filled with water back to his father. Henry drinks it and Indy pours water over his father’s womb and it quickly disappears. The old knight told them that the Grail cannot be carried out of the location no one can carry it over a certain point on the floor. Elsa is a dumb ass and walks over the point and the whole place caves in on them. Elsa falls to her demise after she tries to crab the cup. Indy almost does too but Henry tells him, “Indiana, let it go.”
Indy, Henry, Sallah, and Marcus are all out of the location safe and sound. All throughout the movie Henry has been calling Indy “Junior”. Puzzled, Sallah asks what is with “Junior”. Henry explains that Indy’s real name is Henry Jones, Jr. and that “Indiana was the dog.” Indy goes by the dog’s name because he liked the dog.
What makes Last Crusade so much fun, almost more than the story, is seeing Harrison Ford and Sean Connery together. They made the best father/son team. It is really awesome that Sean Connery played Indy’s father because Indiana Jones was based off of James Bond. It was perfect to have the original James Bond come and play Indy’s father. Connery and Ford had great chemistry and they were very funny together.
Going off of the Bond theme, I feel the need to talk about Elsa as a kind of Bond Girl a little bit. In Temple of Doom, the female lead of Willie Scott was an awful mess. Willie was a mess because she was whinny and needy and annoying as hell and she followed who I consider to be one of the ultimate female movie characters Marion Ravenwood. Marion is THE HBIC she is perfection as a female character. Then George Lucas and the writers follow up Marion Ravenwood with Willie Scott who is one of the worst types of female characters in a movie (can you tell I really, really do not like Willie?). Elsa Schneider was in no way near Marion’s level of female character but she was a HUGE improvement over Willie. She was definitely more the type of a Bond Girl: she appeared to be on Indiana’s side and then she turned out to be duplicitous. Usually in the Bond movies there are two female characters, one of them is good and the one that Bond has a thing with and the other is seductive and bad. In Last Crusade there was no good Bond Girl-type just the bad kind and she worked out so well. I love the way Elsa played Indy and even Henry.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is without a doubt one of the most beloved and admired movies of all time and the out of the Indiana Jones trilogy that everyone likes the best. The story of the Nazis going after The Holy Grail and Indy and Henry having to go on this adventure to find it is so great and so much fun. I remember watching Last Crusade at my grandma’s house on VHS all the time when I was little. I did not even realize until like a couple of years ago there were other Indiana Jones movies besides Last Crusade! (that was before I became a movie freak, forgive my ignorance). Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is a movie that everyone enjoys and if you have not seen it shame on you, get your act together and go watch it right now!