Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a 1984 American action-adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg.
After arriving in India, Indiana Jones is asked by desperate villagers to find a mystical stone and rescue their children from a Thuggee cult practicing child slavery, black magic and ritualistic human sacrifice in honour of the goddess Kali.
In 1935, Indiana Jones narrowly escapes the clutches of Lao Che, a crime boss in Shanghai who met Jones to exchange a diamond for the ashes of Emperor Nurhaci. With his orphaned 11-year-old Chinese sidekick Short Round and the nightclub singer Willie Scott in tow, Indy flees Shanghai on a cargo aircraft that, unbeknownst to them, is owned by Lao Che. While the three of them are asleep on the airplane, the pilots dump the fuel and exit by parachute, leaving the plane to crash over the Himalayas. Indy, Shorty, and Willie discover the sabotage and narrowly manage to escape by jumping out of the plane on an inflatable raft just before it crashes into the mountainside. They ride down the mountain slopes and fall into a raging river, eventually arriving at the village of Mayapore in northern India. The impoverished villagers believe the three have been sent by Shiva to retrieve the sacred lingam Shivling stolen from their shrine, as well as the community’s missing children, from evil forces in the nearby Pankot Palace. Indy agrees to go to Pankot to investigate. During the journey, he hypothesizes that the stone may be one of the five fabled Shankara shivlings that promise fortune and glory.
The trio receives a warm welcome from the Prime Minister of Pankot Palace, Chattar Lal. The visitors are allowed to stay for the night as guests, during which they attend a lavish but stomach-turning banquet hosted by the young Maharaja, Zalim Singh. Lal rebuffs Indy’s questions about the villagers’ claims and his theory that the ancient Thuggee cult is responsible for their troubles. Later that night, Indy is attacked by an assassin. After Indy kills the assassin, he discovers a series of tunnels hidden behind a statue in Willie’s room and sets out to explore them with Willie and Short Round, overcoming a number of booby-traps along the way.
The trio reaches an underground temple where the Thuggees worship Kali with human sacrifice. They watch as the Thuggees chain one of their victims in a cage, and the high priest Mola Ram uses evil magic to rip out the victim’s still-beating heart. He is slowly lowered into a lava pit, burning him alive, with his heart held in Mola Ram’s hand burning as well. They discover that Mola Ram and the Thuggees are in possession of three of the five Shivalings, which were hidden in the catacombs by a Thuggee priest when the British raided their temple to put an end to their activities. The Thuggies have enslaved the children to mine for the last two as well as to mine jewels to fund their operations. As Indy tries to retrieve the stones, he, Willie, and Shorty are captured and separated. Mola Ram explains his plan for world domination to Indy, then has him whipped and forced to drink a potion called the Blood of Kali, causing him to enter a trance-like state and mindlessly serve the Thuggees.
Willie is prepared for sacrifice, while Shorty is whipped and put to work in the mines alongside the children. Shorty breaks free and escapes back into the temple, where he burns Indy with a torch to bring him back to his senses. After fighting off the guards and defeating Lal, Indy stops Willie’s cage and cranks it out of the pit just in time to save her from the lava. Mola Ram escapes via a trapdoor under the Shivalings’ altar. Indy retrieves the shivaling and the three return to the mines to free the children. As Indy fights a hulking overseer, Maharaja Singh – also under Mola Ram’s control – tries to cripple him with a voodoo doll. Shorty knocks the doll away and burns Singh to break the trance, allowing a restored Indy to overcome the overseer, who is crushed in a rock-breaking steamroller. Singh then tells Shorty how to get out of the mine.
The trio escape from the temple in a minecart, pursued by Thuggees, while Mola Ram orders a huge water tank be dumped in an attempt to flood them out. After barely escaping the deluge, they are again ambushed by Mola Ram and his henchmen on a rope bridge high above a crocodile-infested river. Indy cuts the bridge in half with a sword, leaving them to hang on for their lives. As Mola Ram and Indy struggle over the stones, Indy invokes the name of Shiva and proclaims Mola Ram to be a traitor in Hindi, causing the shivaling to glow red-hot. Two shivalings fall out of Indy’s satchel and Mola Ram burns his hand trying to catch the last, causing him to lose his grip and fall from the bridge to be devoured by the crocodiles below. Indy catches the last shivaling safely and climbs up just as a company of British Indian Army riflemen, summoned by Singh, arrive and open fire on the Thuggee archers trying to shoot Indy. Gaining the upper hand, the British-Indian army quickly dispatches the Thuggees and forces them to flee. Indy, Willie, and Shorty return to Mayapore with the children and give the missing Shivaling back to the villagers. After that Willie says that she refuses to continue the journey to Delhi with Indy after all the problems she got into with him explaining she would rather go back to her home state in Missouri where those problems will not happen. But soon Indy and Willie make up with a kiss.
- Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones:
- An archaeologist adventurer who is asked by a desperate Indian village to retrieve a mysterious stone and rescue the missing village children.
- Ford undertook a strict physical exercise regimen headed by Jake Steinfeld to gain a more muscular tone for the part.
- Kate Capshaw as Willie Scott:
- An American nightclub singer working in Shanghai. In a nod to the Star Wars franchise, the nightclub is called Club Obi Wan.
- Willie is unprepared for her adventure with Indy and Short Round, and appears to be a damsel in distress.
- She also forms a romantic relationship with Indy.
- Over 120 actresses auditioned for the role, including Sharon Stone.
- To prepare for the role, Capshaw watched The African Queen and A Guy Named Joe.
- Spielberg wanted Willie to be a complete contrast to Marion Ravenwood from Raiders of the Lost Ark, so Capshaw dyed her brown hair blonde for the part.
- Costume designer Anthony Powell wanted the character to have red hair.
- Amrish Puri as Mola Ram:
- A Thuggee priest who performs rites of human sacrifices.
- The character is named after a 17th-century Indian painter.
- Lucas wanted Mola Ram to be terrifying, so the screenwriters added elements of Aztec and Hawaiian human sacrificers and European devil worship to the character.
- To create his headdress, make-up artist Tom Smith based the skull on a cow (as this would be sacrilegious), and used a latex shrunken head.
- Roshan Seth as Chattar Lal:
- The Prime Minister of the Maharaja of Pankot.
- Chattar, also a Thuggee worshiper, is enchanted by Indy, Willie and Short Round’s arrival, but is offended by Indy’s questioning of the palace’s history and the archaeologist’s own dubious past.
- Philip Stone as Captain Philip Blumburtt:
- A British Indian Army Captain on a routine inspection tour of Pankot and the surrounding area.
- Alongside a unit of his riflemen, Blumburtt assists Indy towards the end in fighting off Thuggee reinforcements.
- Jonathan Ke Quan as Short Round:
- Indy’s 11-year-old Chinese sidekick, who drives the 1936 Auburn Boat Tail Speedster which allows Indy to escape during the opening sequence.
- Quan was chosen as part of a casting call in Los Angeles.
- Around 6000 actors auditioned worldwide for the part: Quan was cast after his brother auditioned for the role.
- Spielberg liked his personality, so he and Ford improvised the scene where Short Round accuses Indy of cheating during a card game.
- He was credited by his birthname, Ke Huy Quan.
Additionally, Roy Chiao portrays Lao Che, a Shanghai crime boss who, with his sons, hires Indy to recover the cremated ashes of one of his ancestors; Ron Taylor dubbed Chiao’s voice. David Yip portrays Wu Han, a friend of Indy, who is killed in Club Obi Wan. Raj Singh (dubbed by Katie Leigh) portrays Zalim Singh, the adolescent Maharajá of Pankot, and D.R. Nanayakkara portrays Shaman, the leader of a small village that recruits Indy to retrieve their stolen sacred Shiva lingam stone.
Actor Pat Roach plays the Thuggee overseer in the mines, Roach had previously appeared as a mechanic and the Grand Sherpa in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Spielberg, Lucas, Marshall, Kennedy, and Dan Aykroyd have cameos at the airport. Tress MacNeille dubbed the voice of the first slave child in the prison scene, and Frank Oz dubbed the voice of the Thuggee overseer.
Spielberg later recalled that when Lucas first approached him for Raiders of the Lost Ark, “George said if I directed the first one then I would have to direct a trilogy. He had three stories in mind. It turned out George did not have three stories in mind and we had to make up subsequent stories.” Both men later attributed the film’s tone, which was darker than Raiders of the Lost Ark, to their personal moods following the breakups of their relationships. In addition, Lucas felt “it had to have been a dark film. The way Empire Strikes Back was the dark second act of the Star Wars trilogy.” Spielberg had said “The danger in making a sequel is that you can never satisfy everyone. If you give people the same movie with different scenes, they say why weren’t you more original?” “But if you give them the same character in another fantastic adventure, but with a different tone, you risk disappointing the other half of the audience who just wanted a carbon copy of the first film with a different girl and a different bad guy. So you win and you lose both ways.”
Lucas set the film in an earlier year than the first to avoid repeating the use of Nazis as the villains. Spielberg originally wanted to bring Marion Ravenwood back, with Abner Ravenwood considered as a possible character. In developing the story, Lucas conceived of an opening chase scene with Indiana Jones on a motorcycle on the Great Wall of China, followed by the discovery of a “Lost World pastiche with a hidden valley inhabited by dinosaurs”. Another idea was to feature the Monkey King as the plot device. However, Chinese authorities refused permission for them to film in the country, requiring a different setting. Lucas wrote a film treatment that included a haunted castle in Scotland, but Spielberg felt it was too similar to Poltergeist; so the setting transformed into a demonic temple in India.
Lucas came up with ideas that involved a religious cult devoted to child slavery, black magic and ritual human sacrifice. Lawrence Kasdan of Raiders of the Lost Ark was asked to write the script. “I didn’t want to be associated with Temple of Doom,” he reflected. “I just thought it was horrible. It’s so mean. There’s nothing pleasant about it. I think Temple of Doom represents a chaotic period in both their [Lucas’ and Spielberg’s] lives, and the movie is very ugly and mean-spirited.” Lucas hired Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz to write the script because of their knowledge of Indian culture. Gunga Din served as an influence for the film.
Huyck and Katz spent four days at Skywalker Ranch for story discussions with Lucas and Spielberg in early 1982. They later said the early plot consisted of two notions of Lucas’: that Indy would recover something stolen from a village and decide whether to give it back, and that the picture would start in China and work its way to India. Huyck says Lucas was very single-minded about getting through meetings, while “Steve would always stop and think about visual stuff.”
Lucas’ initial idea for Indiana’s sidekick was a virginal young princess, but Huyck, Katz, and Spielberg disliked the idea. Just as Indiana Jones was named after Lucas’ Alaskan Malamute, the character of Willie was named after Spielberg’s Cocker Spaniel, and Short Round was named after Huyck’s dog, whose name was derived from The Steel Helmet.
Lucas handed Huyck and Katz a 20-page treatment in May 1982 titled Indiana Jones and the Temple of Death to adapt into a screenplay. Scenes such as the fight scene in Shanghai, the escape from the airplane, and the mine cart chase came from earlier scripts of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Lucas, Huyck, and Katz had been developing Radioland Murders (1994) since the early 1970’s. The opening music was taken from that script and applied to Temple of Doom. Spielberg reflected, “George’s idea was to start the movie with a musical number. He wanted to do a Busby Berkeley dance number. At all our story meetings he would say, ‘Hey, Steven, you always said you wanted to shoot musicals.’ I thought, ‘Yeah, that could be fun.'”
Lucas, Spielberg, Katz, and Huyck were concerned how to keep the audience interest while explaining the Thuggee cult. Huyck and Katz proposed a tiger hunt but Spielberg said, “There’s no way I’m going to stay in India long enough to shoot a tiger hunt.” They eventually decided on a dinner scene involving eating bugs, monkey brains, and the like. “Steve and George both still react like children, so their idea was to make it as gross as possible,” says Katz.
Lucas sent Huyck and Katz a 500-page transcript of their taped conversations to help them with the script. The first draft was written in six weeks, in early August 1982. “Steve was coming off an enormously successful movie [E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial] and George didn’t want to lose him,” said Katz. “He desperately wanted him to direct (Temple of Doom). We were under a lot of pressure to do it really, really fast so we could hold on to Steve.”
A second draft was finished by September. Captain Blumburtt, Chattar Lal, and the boy Maharaja originally had more crucial roles. A dogfight was deleted, as well as those who drank the Kali blood turned into zombies with physical superhuman abilities. During pre-production, the Temple of Death title was replaced with Temple of Doom. From March to April 1983, Huyck and Katz simultaneously performed rewrites for a final shooting script.
Huyck and Katz later said Harrison Ford took many of the one liners originally given to Short Round.
The filmmakers were denied permission to film in North India and Amer Fort, due to the government finding the script offensive. Producer Frank Marshall explained that “originally the scenes were going to be shot in India at a fantastic palace. They required us to give them a script, so we sent it over and we didn’t think it was going to be a problem. But because of the voodoo element with Mola Ram and the Thuggees, the Indian government was a little bit hesitant to give us permission. They wanted us to do things like not use the term Maharajah, and they didn’t want us to shoot in a particular temple that we had picked. The Indian government wanted changes to the script and final cut privilege.” As a result, location work went to Kandy, Sri Lanka, with matte paintings and scale models applied for the village, temple, and Pankot Palace. Budgetary inflation also caused Temple of Doom to cost $28.17 million, $8 million more than Raiders of the Lost Ark. Filming began on 18 April 1983 in Kandy, and moved to Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, England on 05 May. Frank Marshall recalled, “when filming the bug scenes, crew members would go home and find bugs in their hair, clothes and shoes.” Eight out of the nine sound stages at Elstree housed the filming of Temple of Doom. Lucas biographer Marcus Hearn observed, “Douglas Slocombe’s skillful lighting helped disguise the fact that about 80 percent of the film was shot with sound stages.”
Danny Daniels choreographed the opening music number “Anything Goes”. Capshaw learned to sing in Mandarin and took tap dance lessons. However the dress was fitted so tightly that Capshaw was not able to dance in it. Made by Barbara Matera out of original 1920’s and 1930’s beads, the dress was one of a kind. The opening dance number was actually the last scene to be shot, but the dress did feature in some earlier location shots in Sri Lanka, drying on a nearby tree. Unfortunately an elephant had started to eat it, tearing the whole back of the dress. Consequently, some emergency repair work had to be done by Matera with what remained of the original beads, and it was costume designer Anthony Powell who had to fill in the insurance forms. As to the reason for damage, he had no option but to put “dress eaten by elephant”.
In a 2003 documentary on the making of the film (first released when the original trilogy made its debut on DVD), costume designer Anthony Powell stated that only one evening dress was made for Capshaw due to the limited amount of original 1920’s and 1930’s beads and sequins (story above). However, there have been more than one of these dresses on display at the same time in different countries, so this story cannot be entirely true – from late 2014, a dress was on display at the Hollywood Costume exhibition in Los Angeles (exhibition ran from 02 October 2014 to 02 March 2015). At the very same time, the travelling “Indiana Jones: Adventure of Archaeology” exhibition was on display in Edmonton in Canada (11 October 2014 to 06 April 2015) and there featured another of the red & gold dresses. It has also been confirmed by an embroiderer working at Barbara Matera Ltd at the time, that three dresses were in fact made initially – One for Kate, one for the stunt double, and one “just in case”.
Production designer Norman Reynolds could not return for Temple of Doom because of his commitment to Return to Oz. Elliot Scott (Labyrinth, Who Framed Roger Rabbit), Reynolds’ mentor, was hired. To build the rope bridge the filmmakers found a group of British engineers from Balfour Beatty working on the nearby Victoria Dam. Harrison Ford suffered a severe spinal disc herniation by performing a somersault while filming the scene with the assassin in Jones’ bedroom. A hospital bed was brought on set for Ford to rest between takes. Lucas stated, “He could barely stand up, yet he was there every day so shooting would not stop. He was in incomprehensible pain, but he was still trying to make it happen.” With no alternatives, Lucas shut down production while Ford was flown to Centinela Hospital on 21 June for recovery. Stunt double Vic Armstrong spent five weeks as a stand-in for various shots. Wendy Leech, Armstrong’s wife, served as Capshaw’s stunt double.
Macau (then a Portuguese colony) was substituted for Shanghai, while cinematographer Douglas Slocombe caught fever from 24 June to 07 July and could not work. Ford returned on 08 August. Despite the problems during filming, Spielberg was able to complete Temple of Doom on schedule and on budget, finishing principal photography on 26 August. Various pickups took place afterwards. This included Snake River Canyon, in Idaho, Mammoth Mountain, Tuolumne and American River, Yosemite National Park, San Joaquin Valley, Hamilton Air Force Base and Arizona. Producer Frank Marshall directed a second unit in Florida in January 1984, using alligators to double as crocodiles. The mine chase was a combination of a roller coaster and scale models with dolls doubling for the actors. Minor stop motion was also used for the sequence. Visual effects supervisors Dennis Muren, Joe Johnston and a crew at Industrial Light & Magic provided the visual effects work, while Skywalker Sound, headed by Ben Burtt, commissioned the sound design. Burtt recorded roller coasters at Disneyland Park in Anaheim for the mine cart scene.
“After I showed the film to George [Lucas], at an hour and 55 minutes, we looked at each other,” Spielberg remembered. “The first thing that we said was, ‘Too fast’. We needed to decelerate the action. I did a few more matte shots to slow it down. We made it a little bit slower, by putting breathing room back in so there’d be a two-hour oxygen supply for the audience.”
The film received mixed reviews upon its release, but over the years the film’s reception has shifted to a more positive tone.
Temple of Doom was released on 23 May 1984 in America, accumulating a record-breaking $45.7 million in its first week.The film went on to gross $333.1 million worldwide, with $180 million in North America and $153.1 million in other markets. The film had the highest opening weekend of 1984, and was that year’s highest-grossing film (third in North America, behind Beverly Hills Cop and Ghostbusters). It was also the tenth highest-grossing film of all time during its release. It sold an estimated 53,532,800 tickets in the United States.
Marvel Comics published a comic book adaptation of the film by writer David Michelinie and artists Jackson Guice, Ian Akin, Brian Garvey, and Bob Camp. It was published as Marvel Super Special #30 and as a three-issue limited series.
LucasArts and Atari Games promoted the film by releasing an arcade game. Hasbro released a toy line based on the film in September 2008.
The video was released at Christmas 1986 with a retail price of $29.95 and sold a record 1.4 million units.
Dennis Muren and Industrial Light & Magic’s visual effects department won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects at the 57th Academy Awards. Soundtrack composer John Williams was, as he had been for his work on Raiders of the Lost Ark, again nominated for Original Music Score. The visual effects crew won the same category at the 38th British Academy Film Awards. Cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, editor Michael Kahn, Ben Burtt and other sound designers at Skywalker Sound received nominations. Spielberg, the writers, Harrison Ford, Jonathan Ke Quan, Anthony Powell and makeup designer Tom Smith were nominated for their work at the Saturn Awards. Temple of Doom was nominated for Best Fantasy Film but lost to Ghostbusters.
The depiction of Indian culture caused controversy and brought it to the attention of India’s censors, who placed a temporary ban on it as it did not open in theaters. The film was later released when it came out on home video. The depiction of Indian cuisine was heavily criticized, as dishes such as baby snakes, eyeball soup, beetles, and chilled monkey brains are not actual Indian foods. Shashi Tharoor and Yvette Rosser have criticised the film for it’s portrayal of India, with Rosser writing “[it] seems to have been taken as a valid portrayal of India by many teachers, since a large number of students surveyed complained that teachers referred to the eating of monkey brains.”
Roshan Seth, who played Chattar Lal, mentioned that the banquet scene was a joke that went wrong. “Steven intended it as a joke, the joke being that Indians were so smart that they knew all Westerners think that Indians eat cockroaches, so they served them what they expected. The joke was too subtle for that film.” In the script, a brief scene which did not make it into the film had Indiana Jones remarking “even if they were trying to scare us away, a devout Hindu would never touch meat. Makes you wonder what these people are …”, a hint that something was amiss in the palace.
In his autobiography, Amrish Puri expressed the whole controversy around the film was silly and ridiculous, writing “it’s based on an ancient cult that existed in India and was recreated like a fantasy. If you recall those imaginary places like Pankot Palace, starting with Shanghai, where the plane breaks down and the passengers use a raft to jump over it, slide down a hill and reach India, can this ever happen? But fantasies are fantasies, like our Panchatantra and folklore. I know we are sensitive about our cultural identity, but we do this to ourselves in our own films. It’s only when some foreign directors do it that we start cribbing.”
- Not wishing to feature the Nazis as the villains again, George Lucas, executive producer and co-writer, decided to regard this film as a prequel.
- Three plot devices were rejected before Lucas wrote a film treatment that resembled the final storyline.
- Lawrence Kasdan, Lucas’s collaborator on Raiders of the Lost Ark, turned down the offer to write the script, and Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz were hired as his replacements, who had previously worked with Lucas on American Graffiti.
- The film was released to financial success but initial reviews were mixed, criticising its darker elements and violence.
- However, critical opinion has improved since 1984, citing the film’s intensity and imagination.
- In response to some of the more violent sequences in the film, and with similar complaints about Gremlins, Spielberg suggested that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) alter its rating system, which it did within two months of the film’s release, creating a new PG-13 rating.
- Contrary to popular belief, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins were both released in the US with a PG (not PG-13) rating, although controversy surrounding the two films did lead to the subsequent creation of the PG-13 rating.
- The first film to be issued the new PG-13 rating was The Flamingo Kid (1984), although Red Dawn (1984) was the first to be released theatrically under the new rating.
Indiana Jones Series
You can find a full index and overview of the Indiana Jones franchise here.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Steven Spielberg.
- Producer(s): Roberts Watts.
- Writer(s): Willard Huyck (screenplay), Gloria Katz (screenplay), and George Lucas (story).
- Music: John Williams.
- Cinematography: Douglas Slocombe.
- Editor(s): Michael Kahn.
- Production: Lucasfilm Ltd.
- Distributor(s): Paramount Pictures.
- Release Date: 08 May 1984 (Westwood, US) and 23 May 1984 (US general release).
- Running Time: 118 minutes.
- Rating: PG.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.