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Classic sequel score recalls highlights of original, adds plenty of new ones

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Album cover copyright (c) 1984 Lucasfilm Ltd.; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall

It's not as good as the first film, but Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom doesn't deserve some of the criticism it picks up - it's still got plenty of classic Indiana Jones moments, is witty and exciting... and John Williams was again on hand to bless it with his fantastic music.  Its biggest problem is that the only person who seemed impressed by Kate Capshaw's irritating performance as Willy (who is female, and sounds like Jilly Goolden from Food and Drink) was Steven Spielberg - so impressed, in fact, that he married her.

This frustratingly-brief and frustratingly-hard-to-find CD packs in a lot of highlights in its 40-minute running time.  It opens with Capshaw singing "Anything Goes" (in Cantonese!) which is fun enough, but the real interest begins straight after with "Fast Streets of Shanghai" immediately launching the score into some action music - Williams didn't have the Christian mysticism to use as a launching pad for music this time round, but he made up for that by taking the exotic locales as his inspiration, with plenty of little flourishes giving extra colour to the music, most obviously in his treatment of the little Chinese boy Short Round who's along for the ride.

"Nocturnal Activities" is a classic piece, full of wit and adventure - perhaps this score's equivalent of "The Basket Game" or "Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra" - it introduces the lovely theme for Willy, and romance gradually turns to excitement as Indy and Willy's encounter doesn't go entirely to plan.  "Short Round's Theme" doesn't just expand on the theme interpolated into the earlier action music, it also briefly presents for the first time the score's third major new theme, for the slave children - more on that later.  All these themes are fantastic, exotic and memorable.

"Children in Chains" is a more serious piece, with a harrowing presentation of the children's theme being the highlight - Williams is able to flit between comedy and tragedy seemingly-effortlessly, with everything coming together so well - a real master.  It's straight back to action in "Slalom on Mt Humol", opening with a barnstorming sequence before a more tense ending.  "The Temple of Doom" is a nice little set-piece of source music - completely different from Williams - focusing on the worshipful chanting which accompanies the attempted burning to death of our hero - it builds to a frenzied choral climax which is quite spectacular.

"Bug Tunnel and Death Trap" - as you might guess from the title - is rather darker action music, but this is Indiana Jones so it remains great fun, and it features a wonderfully exciting rendition of the Raiders March.  Best of all is "Slave Children's Crusade", a glorious processional which recalls Miklós Rózsa at his most outlandish - it's such a memorable, exotic theme I can't believe it isn't generally-considered up there with Williams's very best - but that's how it's considered by this writer.  There's a wonderful concert version of the piece ("Parade of the Slave Children") available on one of Williams's Sony Classical compilations, which makes it sound even better.

There's still time for one last action masterpiece, "The Mine Car Chase" (which is very similar to "On the Conveyerbelt" from the second Star Wars prequel) - full of vigour and life.  The spirit of these movies allowed Williams to get away with such extravagance, which wouldn't have worked without the unique combination of adventure and humour.  The end titles wraps things up with all the main themes appearing in the six-minute suite.  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom might not quite be Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it contains so many classic moments it's certainly not far behind.  The rarity of the CD is probably the only reason this isn't as talked-about as the other Indy scores - but what a score it is.


  1. Anything Goes Kate Capshaw (2:53)
  2. Fast Streets of Shanghai (3:42)
  3. Nocturnal Activities (5:56)
  4. Short Round's Theme (2:31)
  5. Children in Chains (2:45)
  6. Slalom on Mt Humol (2:25)
  7. The Temple of Doom (3:00)
  8. Bug Tunnel and Death Trap (3:31)
  9. Slave Children's Crusade (3:25)
  10. The Mine Car Chase (3:42)
  11. Finale / End Credits (6:18)