There were three films that I saw as a child that really fostered my love of horror and special effects. Two of them, Jaws and John Carpenter’s Halloween, had a pretty profound effect on every gore geek born in the era. Oddly enough, the third one wasn’t really known for being a horror movie, yet it had some images that stuck with 12-year-old Mike even into adulthood. That film was Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The climactic scene of Indiana Jones’ first adventure features the villains opening the Ark of the Covenant and getting their comeuppance in spectacularly brutal fashion. No one forgets Toht’s face melting off his skull, for example. An entire generation of kids were traumatized and amazed by that sequence alone.
However, as it turns out, Spielberg intended for his original take to be even more gruesome. As you may recall, Rene Belloq’s head explodes while the righteous flames of God swirl around his skull. It’s a pretty exciting moment, but Spielberg initially intended for it to be even more disturbing.
When the filmmaker originally shot the sequence, he didn’t have the flames obscuring the money shot of Belloq’s head exploding. Instead, Spielberg shot what was essentially his take on the infamous exploding head gags in Cronenberg’s Scanners and Bill Lustig’s Maniac. Unfortunately, the MPAA saw that and told Spielberg he was getting an R rating unless he changed the sequence (ironic that the exploding head was too much, but the melting face was totally cool). Spielberg’s compromise was adding in the flames to help obscure the explosion a bit.
Spielberg would again push the envelope in the sequel, which led to the creation of the PG-13 rating (no one wanted R-rated Indy films, so this was the compromise to try and keep everyone happy, apparently), but his work here was really intense for a PG feature.
Check out a cool video chronicling the tale and some of the awesome concept art below.
[via Twitter, Slate]
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