This is the movie that warped my mind more than anything else. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, probably the most controversial installment of the adventure series, is a major cornerstone in my creative thinking.
I remember seeing this movie not long as it came out on VHS, since I first saw it at my Papaw’s house. I was probably six, maybe seven years old. It was a different time for movies then, especially since PG-13 didn’t exist as a rating; I think that’s comical today since roughly 70-80% of all movies that get wide releases are PG-13. Along with Gremlins, Temple of Doom made it clear that there was a middle ground between kid-friendly all ages movies and movies meant strictly for adults.
It was my first introduction to India and Hinduism in a movie, despite the logical criticisms about the depiction of Indians in the film. The visual style of the movie is impressive, especially the Temple of Doom itself, the lava-lined ritual floor where the malevolent Mola Ram (played by the fantastic Amrish Puri) has his minions dip human sacrifices into a pit of lava. Temple of Doom was the first place where the notion of human sacrifice, which is especially interesting to me, since Mola Ram was assembled out of Aztec and Hawaiian traditions.
I’d seen Raiders of the Lost Ark before that, which features the lovely image of a man melting. In a family that liked to watch movies, I already knew who Indiana Jones was. He was a teacher and a man of action. He went on adventures and fought bad guys wherever he went. Naturally, I felt Dr. Jones was one of the good guys since I had never heard the term anti-hero at that point in my life.
When Mola Rom makes Indiana drink the blood of Kali, he accomplished the unthinkable in my eyes: Mola Ram turned a good guy into a bad guy. I didn’t think it was possible. The notion of switching between good and bad made no sense to me, yet Mola Ram had done it and would have succeeded if it wasn’t for that meddling kid, Short Round.
Something else unthinkable Mola Ram did was to tear a man’s heart out, leaving the man alive afterward. That was even more impossible to my youthful eyes. I couldn’t forget the scene either, since the sacrifice’s chanting always tickled my Mom; she didn’t realize he was praying to Shiva.
Because of these things, I wonder about the visual of my scenes, I try to find ways to make my villains terrifying, and I’m more than willing to have my villains force the heroes to become bad guys.