By Chris Nashawaty
Updated September 07, 2012 at 01:00 PM EDT
Credit: Paramount Pictures

It’s one of the most iconic scenes in one of the most iconic movies of all time: Indiana Jones vs. the Swordsman.

If you’re a film lover, chances are you’ve watched the scene more than once. Who are we kidding, you’ve probably seen it a couple dozen times. But thanks to a breathtaking new Blu-ray box set, Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures (due in stores on Sept. 18), you’re about to see it in a way you never have before. Come to think of it, we’ll do you one better: you can watch it right now in this exclusive first look.

The set-up: In Steven Spielberg’s rollicking 1981 classic, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harrison Ford’s swashbuckling archaeologist has just arrived in Cairo and his parter-in-adventure, Karen Allen’s Marion Ravenwood, is kidnapped by the Nazis in an Egyptian bazaar. As Indy desperately runs through the crowd looking for her, the teeming masses of Arab locals part and he comes face to face with a sinister, smiling bad guy in a black robe brandishing a menacingly large scimitar. Uh-oh. Indy stands there frozen as the sword-wielding henchman does some razzle-dazzle moves with the impossibly huge weapon. Could this be curtains for Dr. Jones? Please! After watching the cackling goon’s threatening display, Indy just shrugs, pulls out a pistol, and shoots him from 20 paces. It’s the best laugh in the movie. The take-away here? Gun trumps blade every time.

But in a new behind-the-scenes documentary on the new five-disc Blu-ray set, we find out that that classic gag almost didn’t happen. In this longer, alternate version of the scene, we see the same set-up, but this time Indy doesn’t have the tactical edge of a gun. Instead, he’s forced to square off with the Arab swordsman (played by stuntman Terry Richards) with his trusty bullwhip. The rehearsal footage is a little grainy, but the actual deleted scene looks sharp and shows just how good Ford got to be with his trusty whip. Check it out below, followed by the scene as we remember it from the finished film:

Watching this previously unseen clip, it’s pretty clear that Spielberg made the right call in the end. But the reason behind the dueling versions of the famous scene is a story unto itself. It turns out that when they were shooting the scene (in Tunisia, not Egypt), Ford decided to get a little adventurous with the local cuisine — as opposed to Spielberg who preferred cans of Spaghetti-O’s brought from home. Big mistake. Ford got ill and was running back and forth between the set and the men’s room. So instead of shooting multiple takes of the more drawn out and physically taxing bullwhip version, Ford suggested that Spielberg try something a little… quicker. Hence, the gun. And just like that, one of the most memorable moments in movie history was born. Now, after 30 years, Raiders fanatics — and, really, who isn’t one deep down? — can finally appreciate just how different their childhoods might have been if Indy wasn’t packing heat that day and if Ford had a stronger stomach.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark

  • Movie
  • Steven Spielberg