“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984)
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, based on a story by George Lucas
Starring: Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri, Roshan Seth, Philip Stone, Ke Huy Quan
After the successful theatrical run of 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” executive producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg began developing the second installment of the Indiana Jones film series. They considered various story ideas (a haunted castle in Scotland, a “lost world” scenario with dinosaurs), all of which were discarded in favor of an India-based quest for the sacred Sankara Stones.
Lucas intended “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” to be darker in tone than “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” He wanted the second installment in the Indiana Jones series to be the thematic equivalent of the “Star Wars” trilogy’s “The Empire Strikes Back.” As it turned out, “Temple of Doom” became too dark: the story features a highly fictionalized version of the Thuggee cult, child slavery, and human sacrifices.
Since Spielberg and Lucas did not want to revisit “Raiders of the Lost Ark” territory (no Nazis, no Marion Ravenwood), “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” is set in 1935, one year before the events in “Raiders.”
As in the first film, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” follows the pattern of the James Bond films by introducing archaeologist/fortune hunter Indy (Harrison Ford) at the climax of a previous adventure. This time around, Indy is in Shanghai’s swanky Club Obi-Wan, where a local gangster, Lao Che (Roy Chiao) and his goons are waiting on him to complete a somewhat shady transaction. Lao wants the ashes of a long-dead Chinese emperor of the Manchu dynasty. In exchange, he has promised to pay Indy with a large and rare diamond.
(Though the film never makes this clear, the diamond Lao Che is supposed to pay Indiana with is the legendary Peacock’s Eye, which once belonged to Alexander the Great. This diamond is the McGuffin in “Young Indiana Jones and the Treasure of the Peacock’s Eye.”)
Before making the trade, Lao introduces Indy to the club;s new American singer, Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), a gorgeous, sometimes sarcastic and always high-strung woman from Missouri. She’s also Lao’s girlfriend and doesn’t like Indy at first.
Willie: Aren’t you gonna introduce us?
Lao Che: This is Willie Scott; this is Indiana Jones, a famous archaeologist.
Willie: Well I always thought that archaeologists were always funny looking men going around looking for their mommies.
Unfortunately for Indy, Lao has no intention of keeping his end of the bargain. He already made a failed attempt to steal the emperor’s ashes prior to the meeting; now he reneges on the deal.;
Indy barely survives Lao’s attempt to poison him and, taking a reluctant Willie along, he escapes from Lao’s club. Jumping out of a window, the two land in a car driven by 12-year-old Short Round (Ke Huy Quan), an orphan Indy “adopted” after a Japanese bombing raid on Shanghai.
After a series of close calls involving car chases, shootouts, and a plane crash in the Himalayas, Indy’s motley crew ends up in British-ruled India. There, Dr. Jones, Willie, and Short Round go on a quest for an Indian village’s sacred stone, which has been stolen by evil Thugee followers of the Kali cult.
Indy is at first reluctant to go on this quest for yet another mythical artifact. However when the villagers tell the archaeologist and his two companions that the followers of Kali, now based in Pankot Palace, have stolen their children, Jones agrees to pay the new Maharajah of Pankot a visit.
Indy’s interest is piqued further when a dying child slave arrives at the village and hands Indy a scrap of cloth with a fragment of tapestry. Reading a Sanskrit inscription and looking at the pictographs on the cloth, Indiana discovers that the villagers’ sacred stone is one of five Sankara stones, left to men by the Hindu god Shiva. When a puzzled Short Round asks Indy what a Sankara stone represents, the professor/adventurer replies, “Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.”
But Indy’s quest for “fortune and glory” takes a disturbing turn when the trio reaches Pankot Palace. The prime minister, Chattar Lal (Roshan Seth) appears to be just another Oxford-trained Indian bureaucrat, but in reality he’s one of Kali priest Mola Ram’s (Amrish Puri) lieutenants. Soon, Indy, Short Round and Willie go from honored guests to prisoners when they discover the goings-on behind the high walls of Pankot Palace.
“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” was a huge hit back in 1984, grossing over $333 million worldwide in its theatrical release. It’s a movie with many elements of classic 1980s action-adventure movies, including a likable main character, exciting action set-piece sequences, stunning visual effects, and tongue-in-cheek humor.
For most of its 118-minute running time, “Temple of Doom” is an enjoyable modern version of the old Republic film serials that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg watched on TV when they were kids in the 1950s. Its simple (if sometimes implausible) plot is straightforward enough, and the script by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz is replete with witty one-liners and humorous exchanges that would have fit well in a 1930s Preston Sturges comedy.
Willie: So what are you supposed to be, a lion tamer?
Indiana Jones: I’m allowing you to tag along. So why don’t you give your mouth a rest. Okay, doll?
Willie: What do you mean “tag along”? Ever since you got into my club, you haven’t been able to take your eyes off of me.
Indiana Jones: Oh, yeah?
[tugs his hat down over his eyes, and falls asleep]
Nevertheless, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” is the darkest and weakest of the four films in the franchise. It’s also the most controversial, due to its violent content, Lucas’s choice of the Kali cult as the antagonists, and the Indian government;s refusal to let Spielberg film within its borders due to the script’s alleged racism. (Location shooting was eventually done in Sri Lanka, an island country off the southern coast of India.)
Though I believe that India overreacted to Huyck and Katz’s screenplay and should have let Spielberg shoot on location, some of the criticism aimed at the movie is valid. The now infamous scene where Kali high priest Mola Ram (Amrish Puri) carries out a human sacrifice is out of place in a movie with a PG rating. The entire child slavery subplot is also unpleasant, and there is an arch, mean-spirited tone that undermines the relationship between Indy and Willie.
The criticism that “Temple of Doom” is too dark isn’t limited to film critics or moviegoers. Lucas and Spielberg both admit that it is darker than they intended it to be. In the bonus features disc of “The Adventures of Indiana Jones: The Complete DVD Movie Collection” box set (2003), Lucas attributes the movie’s tone to the stresses of his messy divorce from film editor Marcia Lucas. In the same “making of” documentary, Spielberg says:
” ‘Temple of Doom’ is my least favorite of the trilogy. I look back at it and I say, ‘Well, the greatest thing that I got out of that was that I met Kate Capshaw. We married years later and that to me is why I was fated to make ‘Temple of Doom.’ “
The criticism over the gore and violence in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” spurred Spielberg to propose the creation of a new rating – PG-13 – to denote movies which contain material that may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13. The aforementioned human sacrifice scene and other sequences in “Temple of Doom” might have earned the film an R rating had it not been directed by Spielberg, so it was fitting that he was one of the advocates for a rating that fell between the kid-friendly PG and more adult-oriented R ratings.
Nevertheless, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’s” action set pieces (some of them conceived for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” but left out for time constraints) are still thrilling, Spielberg’s directing is top-notch and John Williams’ 1930s-flavored score is, as always, brilliant. Although the other three films in the series are more fun and lighter in tone, the 1984 prequel adventure is still worth watching.
DVD and Blu-ray Releases
“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” has been released on standard definition DVD twice.
The first DVD edition was released by Lucasfilm and Paramount in 2003 as part of the “The Adventures of Indiana Jones: The Complete DVD Movie Collection” box set. There are two versions of this set – widescreen and pan-and-scan. Other than audio and subtitle options in English, Spanish and French, this out-of-print edition has no extra features to speak of.
In 2008, the year in which “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” was in theaters, Lucasfilm and Paramount released a Special Edition of “Temple of Doom” as a stand-alone offering and in a new box set that included “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” The 2008 reissue not only had audio and subtitle options similar to those in the original DVD, but it has several extra features added for this edition. They are:
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: An introduction by Steven Spielberg & George Lucas
- Creepy Crawlies
- Storyboard sequence: The Mine Cart Chase
- Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures game demo and trailer
DVD Specifications (2008 Special Edition)
- Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
- Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
- Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
- Dubbed: French, Spanish
- Region: Region 1
- Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
- Studio: Paramount
- DVD Release Date: May 13, 2008
- Run Time: 118 minutes
“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” has also been released twice on Blu-ray. In September 2012, Paramount Home Entertainment included it as Disc 2 of the 5-disc “Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures” box set. It has audio and subtitle options for several languages, including subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired. It also includes a number of theatrical trailers, including the 1983 promotional teaser and the 1984 release trailer.
The 2013 stand-alone reissue ports over the Special Edition’s extras, which are interesting for casual viewers but not as good as the ones in the box set’s Bonus disc.
Source. Peacock’s Eye
Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Widescreen
Region: Region A/1
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
DVD Release Date: December 17, 2013
Run Time: 118 minutes