Steven Spielberg has often had a knack of getting his films rated ‘PG’ by the censors despite the fact they contain material that would normally have got the films in question a somewhat higher rating. Nowhere is this more evident than in the first two Indiana Jones adventures Raiders Of The Lost Ark and Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. The first film may have had considerable brutality and the climactic spectacle of Nazis melting and exploding, but it is the second film that remains probably the ‘strongest ‘PG’ rated film ever released, at least of the high profile kind and in the UK. From children being beaten to the grossest meal ever to graphic human sacrifices, it remains incredibly vicious and very intense too, at least in its second half. Spielberg later regretted making the film so horrific, but for me he doesn’t need to apologise, especially as I am one of those strange folk who consider it the best Indiana Jones outing, a pulsating, edge-of-seat thrill machine that easily holds its own today amidst the hyper-paced films being made now.
Now memory can play strange tricks on a person. A strange thing to say when doing a ‘Death Of The Week’ I suppose, but I shall explain. The most horrifying scene of Temple Of Doom is, of course, the human sacrifice witnessed by Indy and his companions about half way through, with the ripping out of a heart and then lowering of the victim into a pit of fire. This scene was apparently cut for the UK cinema release so you didn’t actually see the heart being removed, and the same version made its way onto video, but I distinctly remember seeing the heart being removed when I saw the film on video in 1985-6. Of course TV showings were cut even more and I did see a later video version which also cut the shot I mentioned, the same version which made its way onto DVD, but I am convinced I saw it in that video I hired out. I bought the R1 DVD set to get the film uncut and lo and behold, the shot was in there, along with some which I certainly do not remember seeing such as the victim’s stomach healing up after the heart is pulled out, and the heart catching fire. So maybe that first UK video version was an ‘in-between’ version? Or maybe, because the scene made such a strong impression, I just imagined I saw something that I actually didn’t!
Anyway, the scene in its full glory, which has been restored for the upcoming R2 Bly Ray Indiana Jones box set, is right here, and it’s just incredible that this was thought suitable for a US ‘PG ‘rating uncut in the US. As the chained-down victim repeats a Hindi prayer over and over again, Mola Ram, the High Priest of the Thuggee Cult, speaks some Hindi back at him, strokes the victim’s forehead than sticks his hand into his chest and rips out his heart. As he holds it up for all to see, the victim’s stomach holes up. He is actually still alive [a good example of the magical, fantastical world that exists on the edge of the Indy films], and is then lowered into a pit of lava [possibly inspired by a scene from the 1965 version of She]. As he is lowered further and further into this pit from Hell, the chanting and the drumming of the Thugees increases in speed and intensity until the poor guy is completely immersed in the fire and burnt to smittereens while the heart, still being held aloft by Mola Ram, bursts into flames.
Remember folks, this is a family movie…..