Soundtrack Review: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Until Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Temple of Doom was regarded by most as the weakest Indiana Jones flick. The love interest is annoying, juvenile humor abounds in some scenes, and there was perhaps a little too much dark elements, creating the PG-13 rating. Still, Spielberg’s worst movies are still a cut above most other films and aside from the whipping scene I don’t think it’s too much darker than the other ones, which had their fair share of skeletons and grisly deaths. This time Indiana Jones adventures in South Asia, seeking the Sankara stones and fighting an evil Kali cult along the way. John Williams crafts a fine follow-up to his Raiders score, though the music feels much lighter this time around. The Temple of Doom is the most enthusiastic musical entry in the series, with several themes continuously popping up in racing action cues.

The only returning theme is that for Indiana Jones himself, as no other characters or ideas return from Raiders, but this theme is used quite liberally across the score. There are four new major themes. The first to make its appearance, and the most frequently used, is that for Asian kid sidekick Short Round. It’s playful, but does reach sweeping heights several times. By the way, the track “Short Round’s Theme” isn’t really a suite, but a direct cue which also references the slave children’s theme. The children’s theme also represents the village where the children are abducted from. It’s considered the highlight of the soundtrack, with “Slave Children’s Crusade” often appearing on John Williams compilation albums.

The female lead for the movie is Willie, an intentional 180 from Marion in that while Marion was a tomboy, Willie screams at pretty much everything. Her theme (or the love theme), isn’t as good as Marion’s theme, but it does what it’s supposed to. It’s showcased at the beginning of “Nocturnal Activities”. The artifact theme is a sinister tune for the Temple of Doom, though the actual artifacts in the film are the Sankara stones which are sometimes represented by the slave children’s theme. The Temple theme doesn’t have as large a presence as that for the Ark of the Covenant and doesn’t make an appearance until “To Pankot Palace”. It does factor heavily into the final action scenes in “Mine Car Chase” and “Broken Bridge”.

Original 1984 Album

Things start off with “Anything Goes”, a Broadway number “sung” by the female lead in Chinese. To start the film, it’s a pretty different way from Raiders and Last Crusade, though Kingdom of the Crystal Skull would use Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” for its opening. Notes from the song are inserted into the following action cues, though none of those are present on the original album.

“Fast Streets of Shanghai” introduces Short Round’s theme and features the triumphant return of the Raiders March. “Nocturnal Activities” starts with a playful version of Willie’s theme before transitioning into a light-hearted action cue. “Children in Chains” focuses on the slave children’s theme in its most tragic form, with some clanging metal strikes as well to represent their enslavement as miners. Both the theme and metal percussion return in a much more rousing and heroic rendition a few tracks later in “Slave Children’s Crusade”. “Slalom on Mt. Humol” is a decent action cue representing the seemingly endless descent of Indy and friends down a mountainside before settling into ethnic Indian music.

“The Temple of Doom” is an original piece of source music, from the infamous scene where someone’s heart gets ripped out. It’s quite eerie, starting with sinister gongs and Sanskrit chants. As the track moves along the percussion gets more frequent and the chanting faster, ending with a creepy wail. “Bug Tunnel and Death Trap” somehow effectively conveys both humor and peril, with a simple little motif that builds in intensity before the Indiana Jones theme takes over. “Mine Car Chase” is a wild racing cue which features the Temple of Doom theme. “Finale and End Credits” is a solid suite with all of the non-villainous themes arranged between two statements of the Raiders March.

There is a ton of good music missing from the original album, but, as with Raiders of the Lost Ark, it does a pretty good job given the restraints if a single LP. Actually, I’d say it’s the better of the two in terms of what was chosen. If I had to choose what cues to put on a roughly forty minute album, I’d choose most of the same music.

Rating: 9/10

Track Listing

  1. Anything Goes (2:54)
  2. Fast Streets of Shanghai (3:43)
  3. Nocturnal Activities (5:57)
  4. Short Round’s Theme (2:32)
  5. Children in Chains (2:45)
  6. Slalom on Mt. Humol (2:26)
  7. The Temple of Doom (3:01)
  8. Bug Tunnel and Death Trap (3:32)
  9. Slave Children’s Crusade (3:25)
  10. The Mine Car Chase (3:42)
  11. Finale and End Credits (6:19)

2008 Concord Set Album

It’s really strange how long it took for the second and third Indiana Jones scores to receive expanded releases. The Temple of Doom benefits the most from the expanded 2008 Concord release. Not only was it originally the hardest to find of the three CDs, it now has over twice as much music available. With a chronological track ordering, the tonal shifts of the movie is perfectly captured. The first half is mostly light-hearted adventure fare while the second features more percussion and dark or epic cues.

The nightclub sequence is expanded upon with “Indy Negotiates” and “Nightclub Brawl”, the latter of which features an instrumental version of “Anything Goes” at the end. “The Scroll/To Pankot Palace” introduces the Temple of Doom theme, which was originally only present in “Mine Car Chase”. Here it is played under percussion until bursting out as a sinister fanfare. And speaking of outbursts, Williams unleashes an otherworldly choir in “Approaching the Stones” as Indy finds his treasure.

A great deal of the new tracks cover the seemingly endless series of action sequences in the movie’s last third. Most feature Short Round, Willy, and Indy’s themes playing among an action backdrop. “Water!” is a track which literally sparkles, while in “The Sword Trick”, Williams makes a humorous reference to “The Basket Chase” when Indiana Jones fails to repeat his act of simply shooting down a swordsman. The best addition among these cues is “Broken Bridge/British Relief”, the climatic cue. It has various action statements of the Temple of Doom theme, with the Sanskrit chant breaking out at one point as Indy almost has his heart ripped out. The slave children’s theme breaks out with the backing of a choir as the main villain meets his demise and a little heroic fanfare concludes things.

Three tracks can be found on the fifth disc. The best of these is “Indy and the Villagers”, which is the film’s first appearance of the slave children theme. “The Secret Passage” is an ominous cue with typical creepy crawler music, and “Return to the Village/Raiders March” serves as a good finale for the fifth bonus disc, though it does cut off abruptly where “Finale and End Credits” starts. This release really shows how great the Temple of Doom score is.

Rating: 9/10

Track Listing

  1. Anything Goes (2:51)
  2. Indy Negotiates (3:59)
  3. The Nightclub Brawl (2:32)
  4. Fast Streets of Shanghai (3:39)
  5. Map/Out of Fuel (3:22)
  6. Slalom on Mt. Humol (2:24)
  7. Short Round’s Theme (2:29)
  8. The Scroll/To Pankot Palace (4:26)
  9. Nocturnal Activities (5:54)
  10. Bug Tunnel/Death Trap (3:31)
  11. Approaching the Stones (2:39)
  12. Children in Chains (2:42)
  13. The Temple of Doom (2:58)
  14. Short Round Escapes (2:22)
  15. Saving Willie (3:35)
  16. Slave Children’s Crusade (3:23)
  17. Short Round Helps (4:49)
  18. The Mine Car Chase (3:41)
  19. Water! (1:55)
  20. The Sword Trick (1:05)
  21. Broken Bridge/British Relief (4:47)
  22. Finale and End Credits (6:19)

From the Fifth Disc

4. Indy and the Villagers (3:54)

5. The Secret Passage (3:31)

12. Return to the Village/Raiders March (3:27)


The Temple of Doom is at the tail end of Williams’ more in-your-face period. Some people might think it’s a little too frenetic at times, but there wasn’t much in the way of serious moments in the movie and the action did go incredibly over the top. It’s a loud, bombastic score for a loud, goofy film.

Overall Rating: 9/10

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