Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (4K UHD)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenplay: Willard Hyuck & Gloria Katz (story by George Lucas)
Stars: Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), Kate Capshaw (Willie Scott), Ke Huy Quan (Short Round), Amrish Puri (Mola Ram), Roshan Seth (Chattar Lal), Philip Stone (Captain Blumburtt), Roy Chiao (Lao Che)
MPAA Rating: PG
Year of Release: 1984
Country: U.S.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 4K UHD
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

According to George Lucas in a 2003 interview with Premiere magazine, “I was going through a divorce and was not in a very good mood, and so it turned out a lot darker than probably it should have.” And so goes his explanation for one of the most controversial sequels in recent memory, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Made three years after the smash-hit Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), an exuberant reimagining of ’40s-era Saturday cliffhanging serials, Temple of Doom had a load of expectations riding on it, and Lucas dealt with those expectations by going directly against them. In many ways, Temple of Doom is only tangentially related to its predecessor, with the only real link being the character of Indiana Jones. The arc of the story and the mood and tone of its telling are completely different; Temple of Doom is more comedic horror movie than action-adventure yarn, and some have amusingly dubbed it “Indiana Jones Goes to Hell.”

Again directed by Steven Spielberg, who had most recently made E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Poltergeist (1982), and a segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Temple of Doom starts off with an over-the-top action setpiece set in Beijing in 1935, a year prior to the events in Raiders (thus, it is technically a prequel, not a sequel). The opening credits sequence, a Busby Berkeley-inspired musical production of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” in Mandarin, is deliriously out of place, evoking the fantasy world of Depression-era musicals in everything from the female dancers’ glittery costumes, to the blatant disregard for realistic spatial dimensions. This sequence also introduces us to Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), a feisty and spoiled American singer who will end up right in the middle of the action again and again.

Adventuring archaeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is reintroduced to us as we’ve never seen him before, not in his signature leather jacket and beaten fedora, but in a dapper white dinner coat and bowtie, making a dangerous deal with Lao Che (Roy Chiao), a Chinese Mafioso, by trading the ashes of a great ancestor for an enormous diamond. The scene erupts into mayhem after Lao Che poisons Indy, who must scramble amid the chaos to recover a vial of antidote that is being kicked across the dance floor while Willie scrambles just as frantically to recover the diamond. It’s a fantastic scene—hilariously funny and tensely exciting—although, once you’ve seen the whole film, you’ll realize how much it stands apart from the rest of it, as if it had been imported from another movie.

Indy and Willie make it out of Beijing with the help of Indy’s sidekick, a precocious 12-year-old Chinese orphan named Short Round (Ke Huy Quan). But, if there’s one thing we can count on in an Indiana Jones movie, it’s that there won’t be peace and quiet for long, and soon the three of them find themselves in a pilotless plane that is almost out of gas and about to crash into a mountain. Making an amusingly improbable escape using an inflatable raft, they eventually wind up on the northern edge of India, where they are taken into a dusty, destitute village of starving men and women and no children. Indy is informed that evil members of the Thugee cult have stolen the village’s sacred stone that protects them and also abducted all of their children.

Thus, rather than chasing after an artifact, Temple of Doom positions Indiana Jones as an unlikely rescuer, sent on a mission by the starving village elders to Pankot Palace, which he discovers is just a façade for the eponymous Temple of Doom, where the Thugees worship the evil god Kali with human sacrifice and use enslaved children to dig in the mines for another missing sacred stone. It is here that the story’s inherent darkness truly envelops the film, casting it in dark shadows and blood-red light that underscore its horror connotations. The scenes that take place in the Temple of Doom, particularly the much-talked-about ceremony in which the high priest Mola Ram (Amrish Puri) rips a living man’s heart from his chest and then lowers the still-screaming victim into a fiery chasm of lava, are the potent stuff of nightmares, and they’re so well done it makes one wish that Spielberg would try his hand at a straight-up horror movie (considering his involvement with Poltergeist as producer, co-writer, and uncredited co-director , it’s clear that he wants to make one). A good half of the film takes place in the Dante’s inferno-like Temple of Doom, and when Indy, Willie, and Short Round finally escape into the daylight for the big climax (as opposed to all the smaller climaxes scattered throughout the film), it’s like waking up from a claustrophobic nightmare.

Like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom has more than its share of action sequences, the best being a literal roller-coaster ride in a mine car. There are also all kinds of pitfalls and booby traps, including one scene in which Indy and Short Round find themselves trapped in a room in which the ceiling and the floor are coming together and enormous spikes are threatening to skewer them a hundred different ways. There are also plenty of squirmy gross-out moments, especially a pathway beneath Pankot Palace that is carpeted with every writhing insect and arthropod you can imagine. For the cine-literate, the film brims with movie allusions, from Buster Keaton-inspired slapstick, to the mythical-majestic mise-en-scene right out of Thief of Bagdhad (1940), and even Short Round’s name, which is taken from Samuel Fuller’s The Steel Helmet (1950). There are a lot of laughs to be found throughout, particularly in the love-hate romantic sparring between Indy and Willie, as well as in the action scenes, which sometimes play more as inspired, breakneck comedy than pure action.

But, it is ultimately the film’s dark tone that catches most people’s attention, and not surprisingly, Temple of Doom caused a major stir during the summer of 1984 due to its PG rating. Many parents felt, quite simply, that it was too intense, too disturbing, and too violent for the children for whom it was clearly intended (of course, everyone seemed to forget the explicit violence of Raiders of the Lost Ark, including mummified corpses, a Nazi being splattered across the side of a plane by the propeller, a few face meltings, and an exploding head). The heart removal scene was constantly cited, as was a comical gross-out sequence involving an elaborate dinner that includes giant beetles, chilled monkey brains, and eyeball soup. Interestingly enough, Spielberg agreed with all the critics and called MPAA President Jack Valenti and encouraged him to create a new rating between PG and R—thus was born PG-13.

Because of Temple of Doom’s dark tone, many critics took a strong stance against it, which is unfortunate because it’s an extremely well-crafted, exciting, and, most importantly, brave work. Spielberg cites it as his least favorite of the Indiana Jones movies, perhaps because it is so unlike the movies it is sandwiched between. But that, in my mind, is what makes it so compelling; it is a unique and somewhat schizophrenic movie, one that marries swashbuckling adventurism with unnerving horror and slapstick comedy. It’s neither here nor there, which makes it an open text ripe for interpretation. Some will watch it and see a gross-out parody of action blockbusters, others will see it as a genuine horror movie, while still others will see it as an unconscious reaction on Spielberg’s part against the kind of family-friendly entertainment, particularly the mammoth blockbuster E.T., for which he had become so associated. I like to think it’s a little bit of all of those, which means it can be a different experience with each repeat viewing—a new movie every time.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 4K UHD Blu-ray
Indiana Jones 4-Movie Collection 4K UHD Box SetIndiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is available on 4K UHD as part of the “Indiana Jones: 4-Movie Collection” box set, which also includes Raiders of the Losr Ark (1981), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).

Aspect Ratio2.39:1
Audio
  • English Dolby Atmos
  • English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 surround
  • Russian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround
  • Subtitles English, English SDH, French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Russian, Swedish, Thai
    Supplements
  • On Set with Raiders of the Lost Ark two-part documentary: “From Jungle to Desert” and “From Adventure to Legend”
  • “The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark” 1981 documentary
  • “The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark” documentary
  • “The Making of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” documentary
  • “The Making of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” documentary
  • “The Making of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” documentary
  • “The Stunts of Indiana Jones” featurette
  • “The Sound of Indiana Jones” featurette
  • “The Music of Indiana Jones” featurette
  • “The Light and Magic of Indiana Jones” featurette
  • “Raiders: The Melting Face! ” featurette
  • “Indiana Jones and the Creepy Crawlies” featurette (with optional pop-ups)
  • “Travel with Indiana Jones: Locations” featurette (with optional pop-ups)
  • “Indy’s Women: The American Film Institute Tribute” featurette
  • “Indy’s Friends and Enemies” featurette
  • “Iconic Props” featurette
  • “The Effects of Indy” featurette
  • “Adventures in Post Production” featurette
  • Teaser Trailer, Theatrical Trailer, and Re-Issue Trailer
  • DistributorParamount Home Entertainment
    Release DateJune 8, 2021

    COMMENTS
    In 2012, I wrote that Paramount’s “Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures” Blu-ray box set offered “hands down, the best the Indiana Jones films have looked on home video.” Well, here I am nine years later essentially saying the same thing: The new “Indiana Jones: 4-Movie Collection” box set, while disappointing in terms of packaging and a lack of any new supplements, nevertheless offers us the best presentation of these films, with the upgrade to 4K UHD/Dolby Vision significantly increasing the level of visual quality. All four films have been given new scans and look like new, with Raiders of the Lost Ark being particularly impressive, having been subject to extensive film and digital restoration that results in a crisp, clean, intensely filmlike transfer (thank you, Paramount, for keeping the grain!). The palette of Raiders is fairly limited, mostly browns and grays, but flesh tones and the occasional burst of bright colors (as in the ending) are nicely toned and well saturated. All signs of dirt, damage, and age have been carefully removed, and the film has been color corrected and timed, yielding what I imagine to be its best presentation since its theatrical release in 1981. Temple of Doom looks just as good, although it is a much different looking film. The color schemes that dominate the film are much different than the more earthy tones that dominate Raiders of the Lost Ark. The bright reds and strong contrasts of the Beijing opening sequence are gloriously presented (this is the first time I can remember seeing the film where Spielberg’s directorial credit didn’t bleed into the dragon’s mouth behind it), as are the dark tones and shadow detail of the scenes in the Temple of Doom. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is arguably the most colorful of the first three movies, with expansive blue skies, intense stained glass windows, and, of course, Venice, although it also features plenty of earthy tones in the desert scenes. The image is sharp and clear, with excellent detail, even in the darker sequences such as the journey through the Venetian catacombs. And, of course, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, being the newest film in the series, looks spectacular, even though all the digital effects and polishing that went into its production result in a shinier, less gritty look than its predecessors, despite having been shot and cut on film.

    As for the soundtracks, all four films have gotten complete remixes supervised by Ben Burtt, the Oscar-winning original sound designer, at Skywalker Sound, and the results are absolutely magnificent. The Blu-ray soundtracks were great, but these are even better. Now, there is always the risk that such remixes will fundamentally alter the soundscape and interfere with our aural memories, but that is not at all the case here, as Burtt has effectively expanded the soundscape and deepened the effects without altering the balance. The soundtracks have excellent dynamic range and consistently impressive and enveloping use of the surround speakers (check out the opening sequence in the South American rainforest in Raiders and notice how well the surrounds create a living ambient environment, or note the intense directionality in the motorcycle chase sequence in The Last Crusade.

    The supplements here are simply a repackaging of those that appeared in the 2012 “Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures” Blu-Ray box set. And, while they are great, one wishes some new material had been included, especially since that set failed to include a bunch of suppelments from the original Crystal Skull Blu-ray and the 2003 Raiders DVD.

    On Set With Raiders of the Lost Ark is a two-part, 60-minute documentary that is comprised entirely of never-before-seen outtakes, alternate takes, deleted scenes, and on-set footage shot during the production and circa-1980 interviews with Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Harrison Ford, and several others. The footage is fascinating in that it gives us an unadorned, fly-on-the-wall peek into the creative process, whether it be Spielberg working out the Nepal gunfight with the stunt coordinator, or the construction of the Well of the Souls set. The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark is an hour-long behind-the-scenes documentary from 1981 that has been pulled from the archives and dusted off. We also get three making-of documentaries covering each of the first three films. Together they run a full two-and-a-half-hours, although they are not equal in length. The Raiders documentary is the longest at almost an hour, while The Last Crusade is the shortest at just over half an hour. They are all excellent documentaries featuring all-new interviews with everyone involved in the films, including Spielberg, Lucas, Ford, Karen Allen, Kate Capshaw, Lawrence Kasdan, John Williams, and a host of others. Sprinkled throughout the docs are storyboards, outtakes, and behind-the-scenes footage, as well as many revealing tidbits in the interviews. From the Crystal Skull Blu-Ray we have a much shortened version of the making-of documentary, trimmed down from 80 minutes to about half an hour.

    A number of shorter behind-the-scenes featurettes from previous DVD box sets are also included. From the 2003 set we get four featurettes that focus on specific aspects of the films’ production: “The Light and Magic of Indiana Jones,” “The Sound of Indiana Jones,” “The Stunts of Indiana Jones,” and “The Music of Indiana Jones,” each of which runs 10 to 15 minutes in length. There are also a number of featurettes from the 2008 “Indiana Jones: The Adventure Collection” box set. The 9-minute featurette “The Melting Face!” looks at the special effects involved in the gory climax of Raiders and features interviews with Spielberg, make-up effects maestro Chris Walas, and visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund. It also includes a recreation of the effect using all the same techniques. There are also two featurettes, both of which you can watch with or without pop-up trivia. “Creepy Crawlies” (12 min.) is about the use of snakes, insects, spiders, rats, and other skin-crawling vermin in the films (it features interviews with members of the cast and crew, although the most interesting part is a brief glimpse of an ill-fated attempt to use mechanical snakes for Raiders). “Travels With Indy” (11 min.) looks at all the various locations used in the Indiana Jones movies. “Indy’s Women,” includes nine minutes of excerpts from a 2003 interview with Karen Allen, Kate Capshaw, and Allison Doody that was convened by the American Film Institute in honor of the original trilogy being released on DVD. “Indy’s Friends and Enemies” is an 11-minute featurette that looks at the most memorable characters in the series (love interests, villains, and sidekicks) and features interviews with Spielberg, Lucas, producer Frank Marshall, and screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan, Willard Huyck, and Gloria Katz.

    Finally, we have three featurettes that originally appeared on the Crystal Skull Blu-Ray. “Iconic Props” (10 min.) is hosted by property master Doug Harlocker, who actually spends more time talking about specific props made for that film than the “iconic props” like Indy’s whip. “The Effects of Indy” (23 min.) explores the film’s visual effects, both practical and digital, which includes everything from the miniature town built for atomic destruction, to the complex use of computer programs to create tens of thousands of ants (although, not surprisingly, there is no mention of that awful, awful monkey sequence in the jungle—perhaps they were too embarrassed to discuss it). “Adventures in Post-Production” (13 min.) features interviews with composer John Williams, sound designer Ben Burtt, and editor Michael Kahn, who actually edited the entire film on film, rather than digitally.

    Each disc includes a teaser trailer and theatrical trailer for its respective film, while Raiders also includes a re-issue trailer.

    Copyright © 2021 James Kendrick

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    All images copyright © Paramount Home Entertainment

    Overall Rating: (3.5)




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