Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Anything goes, 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom'

It was the original torture porn movie that outraged parent groups, infuriated the moral police, and created the PG-13 rating. Drawing inspiration from the “Weird Menace” pulps of the 1930s and the Men’s Adventure magazines of the 1960s, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” set off a firestorm of controversy when it opened on Memorial Day weekend in 1984.

Spielberg and Lucas were the on the receiving end of a wicked backlash more fierce than any of the multiple whippings in this deviously entertaining movie. People Magazine’s Ralph Novak called it “the most unconscionable 45 minutes in movie history, a relentless, tedious stream of graphic brutality.” Spielberg spent the next two decades trying to be politically correct and disown his dark masterwork of wonderment.

For years the music from “The Temple of Doom” was unavailable on any legitimate CD release except for an awful sounding Japanese import. The Japanese import CD was a reworking of the old Polydor vinyl album, a bare bones record which was missing all the best music anyway.
Finally Lucasfilm released a remastered and expanded CD through Concord in 2009. It is a crisp, vibrant sounding soundtrack album with beautiful packaging and a terrific presentation of John Williams’ action adventure masterpiece.
The disc, like the film, opens appropriately with Kate Capshaw singing “Anything Goes” in Mandarin, and for the next 75 minutes and 26 seconds, indeed anything does go. John Williams took the craft of sophisticated action music to a new level of artistry in “Desert Chase” from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. In “The Temple of Doom” he continues to build on that.

Track 2 is “Indy Negotiates”, a previously never released cue containing all of the cool John Williams’ gesturing with exotic danger colorings as the scene in the nightclub begins to unfold. Another previously unreleased cue follows in track 3, “The Nightclub Brawl”, a rousing action track that scores the brilliantly choreographed and executed opening set piece that sets the tone for the mayhem that will follow, both on the screen and in the score itself.
Spielberg has a long and storied history of casting naturally gifted child actors and getting seamless performances out of them. One of the cool touches in “The Temple of Doom” is the Short Round character played by Jonathan Ke Quan. “Short Round’s Theme” is one of the best themes in any Williams' score and this terrific, fluid piece of symphonic wonder gets a full fledged strong statement in both track 7 “Short Round’s Theme”, and track 22 “End Credits”.

Two of the most sought after pieces of music missing from the old Polydor album and Japanese CD are “To Pankot Palace” and “Approaching the Stones”. “To Pankot Palace” is a thunderous villain march and “Approaching the Stones” is the chill inducing quasi-religious mystical music playing as Indy reaches for the magical stones. Both are chill-inducing, knockout cues.
This is a score that is jam packed with terrific thematic material. There is exciting music, scary music, exotic music, inspiring music, sense of wonder music, and even a great, albeit briefly stated, love theme. This is vintage John Williams’ action adventure scoring at its very best.
“The Temple of Doom” is a relentless, wall to wall, bombastic, wild, hyper-energized ride of sonic color that may be too frenetic for some. Like the film it represents, it is a wickedly entertaining thrill ride. For fans of action music, it doesn’t get any better than this.

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