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Well, here we are. After two months, I have finally come to the end of my nine part survey into the Golden Age scores of composer John Williams, and as such it may be a bit of an anti-climax to go down in a bit of a whimper by presenting one of Williams least well represented major scores on album. But as far as this little series of mine goes, Id like to thank all of you for the quite positive feedback Ive received, giving me enough energy to continue to the end of this project. And despite how fun it has been, Im really looking forward into writing about something else for a change. So arigato gozaimasu!
With now having almost successively written music of such memorability to mostly sci-fi and adventure stories between 1977 and 1983, John Williams was looking at the end of the hayday of his most energetically robust scores by 1984, with the appearance of the Raiders of the Lost Ark sequel/prequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. After this score Williams style would significantly change towards more leaner and wall-to-wall tactics by the change of the 1990s, though one might pull strands as far as 1987s Empire of the Sun and The Witches of Eastwick to really signal the end of his Golden Age. Still, The Temple of Doom was pretty much the last, major blockbuster that came about during this era, that is only succeeded by The River in late 1984, Space Camp in 1986, and Star Tours in early 1987. For The Temple of Doom, Williams was still able to reprise some of that overflowing fun and energy he had insterted into Raiders of the Lost Ark, and which element was somewhat lost for 1989s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a fine score still, but a bit disjointed overall.
The Temple of Doom is without doubt the darkest of the three Indiana Jones films, as seems to be the usual practice for middle trilogy films, and which has also rendered it the least successful with audiences. Taking place in 1935 (a year before Raiders), the film is decidedly different from its predecessor in having a more ruthless and disillusioned Indy doing trading on artefacts with more shady people than we would have expected based on the first film. After a failed transaction in Hong Kong, Indy soon finds himself on the run with his comic sidekick Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) and the annoyingly whining nightclub singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) on a plane that soon crashes them in India. Once there, our heroes stumble upon a village where they learn of the new emergence of evil in the ancient Pankot Palace, a place where the sacred Shankara stones (one of them stolen from the village) are used as part of ritualistic worshipping and some other really dark deeds. What ensues is an often funny, often scary adventure into possession, slavery, sacrificial death, eye ball soup, and, of course, a bit of romance.
Musically, the film is also very much different from the original as the story demanded. Due to the fact that this time around there is no Marion, Nazis, or the Ark, the only theme that returns is the Raiders March, and even that is not used quite as extensively as before, with the only significant appearance of the theme taking place in the cue Fast Streets of Shanghai and, as expected, in the End Credits. Therefore, Williams gives greater signifigance to the secondary themes that are again numerous, though maybe not as widely memorable as the ones in the previous score. The biggest set piece here is the Parade of the Slave Children theme, depicting the enslaved children and their resultant liberation. It is a decidedly upbeat theme with a lot of optimistic pompousness, consisting of a broad melody for brass and a more skittering rhythm underneath for lighter instruments and some further trumpet flourishes. It is a very enjoyable and fun theme that makes its first, significant appearance in Children in Chains and in its fullest in Slave Childrens Crusade, though it does bare some similarity to the Parade of the Ewoks theme from Return of the Jedi. Closely tied in with that theme is the one for Short Round that bears very much similarity to the Parade, though with a bit more Chinese touches added in. The theme gets its greatest manifestation in the travelogue cue Short Rounds Theme that makes for extremely gratifying and grandiose statements that are not really to be reprised that much later on. Thirdly there is the theme for Willie, that is more whimsical, though not quite as memorable as Marions theme in the first score. But it still exists in very much the same kind of whimsical romance sensibility that makes it as fun as its predecessor.
On the whole, though, what comes across admirably well is the energy of the score. It seems that the Los Angeles studio orchestra really is pushing themselves to create as much excitement as they can, and this is well represented in the multiple action cues throughout that are heavy on Williams usual virtuoso brass writing. This is immediately apparent from the cue Fast Streets of Shanghai that tumbles along almost heedlessly, which is followed up in the hurtlingly hair-raising Slalom on Mt. Humol up to a great level. Further wonderful action sequences include the frightningly churning Bug Tunnel and Death Trap and the very exciting The Mine Car Chase, that presents a new fanfarish sub-theme for the breathless chase cue, making it one of Williams most enjoyable action cues ever. Other moments of note include the whimsical and light-hearted Nocturnal Activities for the teasing romance of Willie and Indys growing relationship and finally, a most interesting cue, The Temple of Doom. This latter track is undoubtedly one of the most unnerving single cues Williams has ever written, consisting of low, ritualistic chanting of a male chorus and underlined by a large number of percussion effects, making it a truly terrifying and unique entry into Williams music that I dont remember hearing anywhere else in his ouveur. The opening number on the album, Anything Goes, is an arrangement of Cole Porters classic and is performed by Kate Capshaw herself (singing parts of it in Chinese no less), being enjoyable, though perhaps slightly unexpected a way to begin.
The album situation is a dire one. Appearing in 1984 on LP, it was not until 1993 that the music as such made it to CD form, and it was not long before the title went out of print. This has made The Temple of Doom one of Williams most desired scores to be re-released and expanded in a similar fashion as was Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1995. The album that is in existence has only about 40 minutes of music and omits several quite wonderful cues, most notably the final bridge scene. Also the general rarity of the album means that prices are on the steep side, which means that it is not the most desirable album to pay top dollars for to get a release that leaves a lot to be desired. As such it is quite interesting to note that out of all of the major franchises Williams was engaged in during the late 1970s and 80s, the Indiana Jones series seems to be the most neglected. The expanded Raiders album has been out of print for several years now (an unforgivable sin), The Temple of Doom as noted exists only as a rare 40-minute album, and The Last Crusade (which still remains acquirable new) only has about 60 minutes of score with somewhat tepid sound quality and a lot of wonderful stuff still remaining officially unavailable. Hopefully these scores will in the future be made available in better representations as they are today as has been done to almost every other significant score of Williams from this era. As for Temple of Doom, it may be better to just wait for an expanded album somewhere in the uncertain future.
I wont put any fixed prices for this album as the second hand market is not a steady one. Amazon and eBay however are likely places to search for the title if you are interested, though asking prices will likely be high.
1. Anything Goes (performed by Kate Capshaw) (2:51)
2. Fast Streets of Shanghai (3:43)
3. Nocturnal Activities (5:54)
4. Short Rounds Theme (2:32)
5. Children in Chains (2:45)
6. Slalom on Mt. Humol (2:26)
7. The Temple of Doom (3:00)
8. Bug Tunnel and Death Trap (3:31)
9. Slave Childrens Crusade (3:25)
10. The Mine Car Chase (3:42)
11. Finale and End Credits (6:18)
Music Composed and Conducted by John Williams
Orchestrated by Herbert Spencer
Engineered by Lyle Burbridge
Recorded at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Music Editor: Kenneth Wannberg
Produced by John Williams & Bruce Botnick
1984 / Polydor/Edel, 1993 (TCS-102-2)
© berlioz, 2007
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Anything Goes
2 Fast Streets of Shanghai
3 Nocturnal Activities
4 Short Round's Theme
5 Children in Chains
6 Slalom on Mt. Humol
7 Temple of Doom
8 Bug Tunnel and Death Trap
9 Slave Children's Crusade
10 Mine Car Chase
11 Finale and End Credits