1984: The Greatest Year II – INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM

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Welcome to 1984: The Greatest Year Part II – Electric Boogaloo, the Geek League of America’s 30th anniversary tribute to the iconic geek culture films of 1984. This series of in-depth, analytical, fun, and nostalgic essays on the year that brought us instant classics like Ghostbusters, The Terminator, Gremlins, and others serves as a sequel to our 1982: The Greatest Year articles. Like 1982, 1984 was a game-changing year for genre cinema, loaded with popcorn blockbusters, cult hits, and genre-defining masterpieces. Join Jeff and other members of the Geek League of America for a fond, and sometimes funny, look back at this monumental year in nerd culture history.

The Story

Everyone has seen this movie! I feel it’s a bit redundant at this point to give you guys the run down, but basically, Indiana Jones and his traveling companions Willie Scott and Short Round find themselves in India and stumble into a plot involving an ancient, bloodthirsty cult who have enslaved village children and stolen sacred rocks in an effort to plunge the world into darkness. Or, as Indy calls it, “Tuesday.”If you haven’t seen it yet, do so now! There’s a really nice Blu-ray set you can buy which contains this movie, the other two Indy flicks, and a lovely decorative coaster. I will wait until you’re ready…

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My Memories

I first saw Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in the mid ‘80s. I actually have the most vivid memories of this particular installment in the Indiana Jones saga simply because Doom was in heavy rotation at the time on HBO. It’s definitely not my favorite of the series,but it holds a special place in my heart – I was going to see Indy crack and swinging on his whip. There would be amazing fight choreography and stunt work. There would be that spectacular sound whenever anyone was punched. John Williams was back for more. There would be a few Wilhelm Screams thrown in there (three, to be exact). It’s great. It’s all great. This was adventure. This was Indiana Jones.

I remember there were a number of parts in it that absolutely terrified me. This was a pretty dark and scary movie, especially to a kid who is like 5 or 6 years old. Temple Of Doom was kind of a departure in the series in that respect. Certainly there were moments in the other movies that were meant to give us a scare, but there was some stuff here that caused legit nightmares for a lot of young impressionable minds, myself included. There was drinking of the dark blood of Khali out of some dude’s skull, a guy getting his heart torn out of his chest while he’s still conscious and alive, 40 billion creepy crawly critters, and dead slave children in chains bursting out of rock walls. The Horror! I feel some solace knowing the fact that all of these terrors resulted in the first official PG-13 rating.

Another vivid memory I have is the mindfuck I experienced when it was explained to me that this took place BEFORE Raiders of the Lost Ark.

WHAT?!?

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So, like, what DID happen to Short Round after the events in the movie? Did Indy just dump Short Round in a halfway house in Delhi? What gives Dr. Jones?!?

I continue to ponder it to this day.

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The Back Story

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were going through a particular dark time in their own personal lives, having both just gone through divorces. The tone of the film was definitely a reflection of their state of mind at the time. Also, Lucas wanted the second act to be darker, akin to what The Empire Strikes Back was to A New Hope. In fact, the original title was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Death. This was actually going to be the first sequel (well, technically a prequel) of Spielberg’s career. Temple of Doom was to be the second act in a trilogy which, unknown to Spielberg, didn’t exist.

Apparently when Lucas was initially pitching the idea of a trilogy of Indiana Jones films to Spielberg, he was actually flat-out lying. There was no trilogy. There never was. He made it up. George had told Steven that if he directed the first one, he would have to do two more as well. In actuality, he had no idea what the other movies would be about, or if there would even be other movies. He would have to make some shit up, and quick! Now, I know what you’re thinking, George Lucas would never move forward into a trilogy of films without planning the story down to the most intricate detail first.The very idea of it is preposterous!

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Well. Yeah, maybe he would.

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Okay, he totally would.

So yeah, George was never a guy to really concern himself with all the details. Raiders was a huge hit, and the fans wanted more. He brought in Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz, had previously worked on the script for American Graffiti for him. Lucas had wanted to bring back Lawrence Kasdan as well, but he was working on The Big Chill, and he also had a dislike of the tone of the film.

Initially, they also toyed with the idea of bringing back Marion and introducing her father, Abner Ravenwood into the story. They quickly decided against this, and they went with the idea of a somewhat revolving door of companions that we would see throughout the films. This was a little more than a wink and a nod to James Bond. The white tux? Definitely something that 007 would wear.

Lucas and Spielberg also wanted to make use of a few good bits that were, for one reason or another, left out of Raiders, such as the mine cart and raft sequences. When they had issues coming up with an opening for Temple of Doom, Lucas suggested they have the opening be a sequence that harkened back to old Busby Berkeley musicals, complete with a song and dance number. These were all story elements that were presented to Huyck and Katz to work into the script. At some point, they also decided to have this film take place before Raiders.

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They were given a budget of 28 million dollars to shoot. That’s completely nuts. If you wanted to make this movie today, which you couldn’t, it would be a CGI mess and cost at least like six or seven times that. They eventually decided to base the film in India, except none of the film was shot there at all. When they presented the script to the Indian government, it was immediately rejected it because they felt it was offensive to their culture. Eating chilled monkey brains and enslaving children under the curse of bloodthirsty cult? I don’t see the big problem. Spielberg and company ended up shooting the movie mostly in Sri Lanka and on closed sets in England, but the movie was still  banned in India for many years, only becoming available recently.

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Fun Facts about the Cast:

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones

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  • During shooting, Harrison Ford aggravated a disc in his back and had to leave the set in to have emergency surgery. Spielberg, being the antsy film nut that he is, didn’t want to stop shooting, and convinced the Paramount executives that he could shoot around Ford’s absence and even use his stunt double, Vic Armstrong, in his place. For those who aren’t aware, Vic Armstrong looks JUST LIKE Harrison Ford. It’s creepy. In fact, almost the entire conveyor belt fight sequence was Armstrong. Only the front view shots were of Ford. The power of editing. Movie Magic.
  • Ford used to run across the rope bridge over the gorge at full speed for fun. This terrified Spielberg, who would go nowhere near it, and actually used to drive a mile and a half upstream to shoot from the other side. He was terrified of heights.
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Kate Capshaw as Willie Scott

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  • Kate Capshaw’s dress in the opening song and dance number was made of vintage beads from the 20’s and 30’s. There actually was a bit of a crisis with said dress. The sequence where the dress is hanging on the tree branch in the background? Yeah, it got half eaten by an elephant. They had to get the dress painstakingly repaired because the opening sequence was shot towards the end of the production. They literally had to indicate “Dress eaten by elephant” for insurance purposes.
  • Both Kate Capshaw and Steven Speilberg were both somewhat reluctant to do the films for their own reasons. As previously mentioned, Steven thought the film was a little too dark and scary, and Kate Capshaw wasn’t sure she wanted the exposure the movie would bring her. She wanted to act in smaller artsy independent movies. Low and behold, they ended up really hitting it off and, as we all know, got married some years later. On a side note, Sharon Stone was one of the finalists for the role.
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Jonathan (Ke Huy) Quan as Short Round

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  • An open casting call was put out to all the elementary schools to find a young Asian actor to play Short Round. He came in with his brother, not to audition, but merely to provide moral support. He caught the casting director’s attention because he spent the entire time of his brother’s audition telling him what to do and what not to do. He had zero acting experience.
  • Short Round’s actual name is Su Wa Mu. Shorty reveals this during the scene when the Shaman first tells Indy about the “evil that started at Pankot”, as he taps Indy on the shoulder and whispers “See? Bad news. You listen to Su Wa Mu, you live longer.”
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Amrish Puri as Mola Ram

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  • The actor was asked to shave his head for the role. It created such an impression that he kept his head shaved and became one of the most popular villains in Indian movies.
  • He was scary and gave me nightmares.
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About Author

Shawn Carter

Shawn Carter is Jeff’s younger brother. Together they spent their childhoods watching schlocky movies on HBO, reading schlocky comic books, and playing schlocky video games. These days Shawn still enjoys schlocky geek culture entertainment, but also has an appreciation for the classic westerns of John Ford and Sergio Leone, as well as the masterworks of Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock.