Hollywood's favorite action archaeologist fights a new villain and finds an old love and even older treasures in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," the fourth installment of director Steven Spielberg's popular adventure series starring Harrison Ford.

In the newly released Special Edition DVD (Paramount Home Entertainment, $39.99) of one of this year's biggest movies, Spielberg explains that "The Russians got the job" as villains because the character of Indiana Jones (and Ford) had aged 18 to 19 years since the last movie was released in 1989. So "we couldn't have done Nazis again" in a film set in 1957, says Spielberg in a DVD documentary, "The Return of a Legend."

Instead, the new movie takes place in the midst of the Cold War, the mid-'50s specter of a "Red Menace" and the threat of nuclear annihilation But Spielberg, producer George Lucas and screenwriter David Koepp also used the new time period to comment on another aspect of life in the 1950s — McCarthyism, red-baiting and what Spielberg calls "political intimidation." In this case, Indy sets off on his new adventure after getting fired from his faculty position when his "loyalty" is questioned by the FBI.

Within this new political context, Spielberg and his crew, many of whom had worked on the three earlier Indiana Jones films — "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981), "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1984) and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989) — adeptly spin a yarn that takes Indy to the jungles of Peru in search of the Crystal Skull of Akator.

The skull, believes villainous Russian Col. Irina Spalko (played with vigor by Cate Blanchett, sporting a severe brunette haircut and an equally severe Eastern European accent), would bestow incredible powers of mind-control on its possessor. Along the way, Indy gets reunited with his old love Marion Ravenwood from "Raiders" (Karen Allen) and teams up with a new sidekick, a switch-blade wielding, motorcycle-driving rebel named Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf).

Although Spielberg, as is his usual custom, does not provide an audio commentary on the DVD, the director plays a major role in the DVD's most useful special feature, "Production Diary: Making Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," a six-part documentary. Featuring interviews with the stars, Lucas, Koepp and the key crew members as well as Spielberg, it includes illuminating behind-the-scenes footage and interviews taken at the three principal locations — New Mexico, for the early scenes involving a secret U.S. government warehouse and the site of an atomic bomb test; Yale University in New Haven, Conn., for Marshall College, where Indy teaches, and the Big Island of Hawaii, standing in for the Amazonian jungles of Peru. The documentary also travels to various Los Angeles-area sound stages where almost everything else was filmed.

In addition, some shorter documentaries explore various aspects of the creative process, including the design of warrior makeup, the creation of the crystal skulls, the making of the movie's iconic props such as Indy's familiar hat and whip, special effects, editing, music, sound and more.

Despite the long gap between "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and the previous Indy film, none of the major players has lost their touch. In particular, Spielberg remains one of our foremost film directors, delivering exhilarating action and punchy humor with unequalled verve, while Ford is still completely convincing as an academic who retains a punch, a whip and fearless intellectual curiosity despite being in his mid-60s. And for most fans of the Indiana Jones movies, the return of Karen Allen — always the best of Indy's romantic costars — in a major part is a treat.

But mostly, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" gives us another chance to watch one of Hollywood's great characters in an absorbing adventure — this time, in the words of another memorable movie character, going toe to toe with the Rooskies.

Also now available on DVD: All four Indiana Jones movies are packaged in "Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventure Collection" (Paramount, $89.99).

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