INDIANA JONES & THE TEMPLE OF DOOM is such a lousy movie in so many ways. Several common sequel pitfalls are tripped over (the 'annoying kid sidekick' is a prevalent film followup cliche), and who can erase the shrill annoyance of KATE CAPSHAW's dreadful performance (the future Mrs. SPIELBERG, nudge nudge) from their memory. But the jarring shift from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK's exhilarating, imaginative violence to the charmless, blunt sadism of the sequel is easily the most glaring shortcoming-- and indeed, TEMPLE OF DOOM is noted as one of the films which triggered the 'PG13' rating. You see, for a big budget, major studio, family adventure picture, an 'R' rating would constitute a disastrous loss of revenue. How do you measure the combined weight of director STEVEN SPIELBERG's and producer GEORGE LUCAS's Hollywood sway in the 80's? Instead of being pressured to tone down the brutality of their latest offering, they received a convenient new rating designation, seemingly tailormade for their predicament. "R' level violence that the kids can attend.
SPIELBERG & LUCAS were both struggling through divorce/breakup difficulties before and during production, and in retrospect both acknowledge this shaded their creative outlook, with especially SPIELBERG proving surprisingly willing to dismiss TEMPLE OF DOOM outright.
But perhaps there was something else heightening their black mood, nudging their bleak funk, agitating their simmering tastelessness. Recently, while in the midst of a VHS mondo genre review, I was suddenly struck by how many of TEMPLE OF DOOM's noteworthy scenes were mirrored in the famous snuff documentary FACES OF DEATH, released significantly earlier. FACES is well known as the release that triggered the death video compilation avalanche in rental stores nationwide during the early 80s- the MONDO CANE of the VHS age. (That so much of the 'documentary' is transparently staged, and narrated with insultingly smug phoniness, seems to have mattered little.)
While it is difficult to imagine SPIELBERG or LUCAS hanging out at their homes with a bowl of popcorn and shoving their clear-cased, loaner copy of FACES OF DEATH-- hosted by the ludicrously monikered FRANCIS B. GROSS (pictured above on the motorcycle)-- into their living room vcr for a viewing, the similarities are so strikingly clear, I was stunned to have not noticed them earlier. And make no mistake, as TEMPLE OF DOOM worked through conceptualization and pre-production, FACES OF DEATH had been wildly popular and well known in Video Shops for several YEARS.
Skeptical? Proceed. It'll pass.
1. BEATING HEART
One of TEMPLE OF DOOM's most notorious scenes, in fact, perhaps one of the very reasons PG13 exists, involves a ritual sacrifice in which a still beating heart is yanked from the chest of a helpless victim. The very opening scene of FACES OF DEATH features a look at some open heart surgery, and lingers for several seconds as the heart pumps away with the chest cavity open and exposed. The credits are then followed by autopsy footage where a heart, and other organs are removed.
2. GATOR BAIT
As TEMPLE OF DOOM draws to a climax, action shifts to a chasm bridged by a shaky rope contraption, and several henchmen tumble to their deaths into the crocodile infested waters below. This recalls one of FACES OF DEATH's sequences, in which a representative of law enforcement, unwisely attempting to lasso an alligator in a pond, is yanked into the drink and mauled.Of course, it's even MORE similar to the FACES OF DEATH 3 segment in which a windblown parachutist lands into a Florida allogator (crocodile? whatever) pit. However, the third installment in the FACES OF DEATH series saw relase a year after TEMPLE OF DOOM hit the theaters. It's still quite striking how similarly the feeding frenzies are edited-- perhaps FRANCIS B. GROSS and co. felt it was time for some payback. After all, turnabout is fair play.
3. MONKEY BRAINS
Lastly, the clincher. The 'comedic' highlight of the second INDIANA JONES flick involves a long gross out dinner scene in a foreign country where, amongst other revolting offerings, monkey brains are on the menu. If there is SOME way one can claim this idea wasn't stolen outright from this world-famous FACES OF DEATH sequence, PLEASE, explain to me HOW. (While this scene is truly disturbing, one can rest easy that it is also one of the 'documentary's most obviously staged schticks.)
INDIANA Jonesin' for death?? How could he B. so Gross?
Sorry for the low quality clips on some of these, copyright holders seem to be working hard to keep some of these scenes offline.