Reprint from Flashfilms, June 2016.
The arrival of the sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark was a big deal for me. So, when tickets went on sale for the U.K. charity premiere of the tantalizingly titled Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, I made a contribution to The Prince’s Trust and arranged to attend with two friends from the Steven Spielberg Film Society. Here is my gushing account -- putting the ‘fan’ into fanzine -- for the SSFS newsletter #15, the summer I filmed Board Game.
Anything Goes, or: Taking Movies Where They’ve Never Gone Before at the Royal European Charity Premiere of ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’
by Joe Fordham (August 1984)
6:00 P.M. Monday, 11 June, 1984:
Rendezvous of three young people dressed in ‘black tie’ evening suits. Reinout Goddyn from Belgium, Paul Barker from Yorkshire and Joe Fordham from Essex made their way through the streets of London to the Empire Cinema, Leicester Square. They arrived to find the arena of West End cinemas fenced off for approaching limousines and brimming over with hundreds of people. The centre of attraction was the theatre with the giant thirty-foot poster of a battered Indiana Jones over its main doors. Walking past the barricades into the theatre, the three members of the SSFS were making their way into the European Premiere of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Soon to join them were several hundred other people and the Prince and Princess of Wales. Because of the royalty present, the brass band played, after an arrangement of Indy and Marion's themes from the Raiders soundtrack, the National Anthem. However, the applause afterwards was mostly for the people sitting front center circle, in Row AA: Robert Watts, Frank Marshall, Kathy Kennedy, Kate Capshaw, Ke Huy Quan, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. The cinema was packed and, when the Royals were seated, the lights dimmed, and things started happening.
Re-establishing a tradition for Indy, the first shot of the film is a little piece of visual satire as
an old established Hollywood logo draws us into the movie by becoming part of the scenery, the Paramount mountain this time becoming part of the old Rank Organisation man-with-the-gong. Like Raiders, we begin to feel right from the start that this is no ordinary film. It is a movie-movie, a celebration of the sheer thrill of the cinema and the magic of films. And from this point on we are whipped up in a glorious, thrilling and emotional adventure spanning the awesome imaginations and senses of its loving creators, Spielberg and Lucas. Yep, ‘Anything Goes,’ and this time we are treated to another slice from the life of the legendary Indiana Jones.
New companions, new enemies and new backgrounds immediately recreate and add to theestablished character of Doctor Jones (Ford, of course). His incorrigibility, his inventiveness, his deep-rooted tenderness for his friends and his ruthlessness for his enemies are swiftly evoked as he barters with Lao Che (Roy Chiao). Meanwhile, Willie Scott (Capshaw), ‘famous American singer,’ finds herself stumbling into Indy's world and in no time at all we are away: Our Hero, the Girl, the Villain and the cocktail lounge of ‘Club Obi Wan’ become a sprawling, dazzling arena of mayhem and clamour. John Williams' score is, as ever, perfect as Willie's Mandarin rendition of Cole Porter’s ‘Anything Goes’ is caught up with the music, turning the scene into a delirious dance, clashing cymbals becoming both musical accompaniment and weapons in the fight.
The entire film, in fact, is like a huge dance with brilliant set pieces and outrageous action thrown in with the occasional jolt of visceral terror. This is the Spielberg of Jaws and 1941; yet the other side, the Close Encounters and the E.T. side, provide beautiful contrasts to driving action. Willie and Indy's flirtatious love affair is a charming, romantic running joke throughout the film. The sequence where they are both waiting for each other to come to their own bedroom in the Maharaja's palace is brilliantly orchestrated by Spielberg and brilliantly scored by Williams: both the characters pace the floor, mimicking each other unintentionally as the music tick-tocks the time away with their movements and anxieties. Spielberg has not lost his insight into intricacies of character, and Williams remains equally insightful and imaginative in his music.
One of the most unexpected touching moments occurs after Indy and his street urchin side-kick Shorty (Quan) have rescued Willie from the furnace. Spielberg crops Indy off at the waist as Shorty looks up at him. Shorty gives Indy his felt brimmed hat, Indy plants Shorty's cap onto the boy's head, and they hug. It is a moment of genuine love and friendship. With Williams' music, this is marvelous cinema.
Indiana Jones is also an extremely frightening and powerful movie. The Temple of Doom is a terrifyingly hellish place with the moaning, chanting worshippers, billowing flames and firey pits, it remains in its British version (censored for a PG rating) still nightmarishly potent. Spielberg himself, speaking -- shouting back -- to the crowd after the premiere, asked, "Is it too violent?" reflecting his own concern from the accusations in the media. The audience yelled back a huge, "No!" to his question. A movie with the power of Indiana Jones deals with emotional intensities. Pussyfooting around with the evil in the story would have been ridiculous. Spielberg and Lucas are constantly pushing forward cinema today by going back to the roots of filmmaking, making their pictures from the point of view of the audience. As a result, they are taking movies where they've never gone before. Indiana Jones is going to be the sort of film that will lay the foundations for movie-going in the future. It is an overwhelming experience, like being hit by a tidal wave.
The makers of this film had a standing ovation at the end of the premiere. People chanted "Speech! Speech!" Steven called back, "The movie speaks for itself!" Somebody shouted, "We want another one!" The reply, "Give us three years!" Everybody cheered, and when all the applause was finally ebbing, somebody shouted, "Thank you."
Imagery © Lucasfilm / Paramount Pictures
with the exception of ‘Black Tie Nerd’ by Steven Ager
article reprinted with permission, SSFS © August 1994