Monday, 29 June 2009


It seems that this old copy of "The Hundred and One Dalmatians" has a couple of pages missing. That's a bit annoying. Maybe I should try and find another one.

In the meantime, here are some thoughts regarding Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, specifically the infamous banquet scene.

In the extra features on the DVD, we hear Lucas and Spielberg saying how they wanted the scene to be full of old-fashioned slapstick comedy. Meanwhile, the scriptwriters Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz express their interest in Indian culture and Hindu religion. No-one suggests there's any sort of clash here, but I think there might be. Huyck and Katz wanted to make a film which takes place in 1930s India, while Lucas and Spielberg wanted to make a film which takes place in a fictional India which might be found in a 1930s film.

You ever seen this early draft of the script? It's discussed in this great article "Raiders of the Lost Drafts", but there's a few things the article doesn't mention but which I think are worth calling attention to. The banquet is there in all its glory, but it's followed by a scene with Indy and the English colonial officer. Indy reads the "bizarre choice of menu" as a clue that Pankot Palace is not what it seems, as "a devout Hindu would never touch meat". That may be a generalisation but if so it's a lot closer to the truth than the implication made in the film - that live eels served in the body of a snake, soup full of eyes and chilled monkey brains are representative of Indian cuisine.

Of course, this short scene doesn't appear in the film. My idea is that Lucas and Spielberg devised the banquet scene without really thinking about whether it was "accurate" or not, because they weren't really thinking of it as taking place in a real version of India. Huyck and Katz, with their genuine interest in India, tried to explain the strange food by calling attention to it as being a sign that Pankot Palace did not follow usual Hindu beliefs. But Lucas and Spielberg didn't feel that the banquet needed any explanation and so, with their powers as executive producer and director, they cut it.

(You'll note I refer to "Lucas and Spielberg" throughout this post, as I'm not sure which person was responsible for each decision)

So, who was "right" then? The writers or the producer/directors? Well, I've read posts on forums by a few people identifying themselves as Indian, some who like the finished film and some who feel offended by it. So I guess there's no one answer. But I think the portrayal of the Indian characters in any version of Temple of Doom is better than the portrayal of the African characters in the proposed "Monkey King" film, which contains an "ADORABLE" pygmy named Tiki, who is studied by a zoologist and lives in a zoo cage.

(Note: Although the online version of the script indicates it was written in 1995 as a potential fourth film, it was later found out that it was actually written some time earlier as a potential *third* film -- you can see some elements in the script which wound up in Last Crusade)

And if you'd prefer that I defended my own culture instead, well, I can do that too. I'm not from the Highlands myself but even I can tell that the supposedly Scottish characters in the opening scenes of Monkey King are not at all like anyone you might find in this country, bearing names such as "Seamus Seagrove" and "Bottomley", using expressions like "truer than an angel's kiss" and "like you've seen a screamin' banshee" and dropping their 'H's all over the place. The only positive thing I can say about these ridiculous Irish stereotypes is that they aren't supposed to be Irish characters...

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