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In a long time, ago in a galaxy far, far away (i.e., Shanghai, 1935), a pretty blonde woman sings a song and does a little tap dance number. After the number, see Indiana Jones, who's looking pretty dapper in the Club Obi-Wan—an inauthentic Chinese name if we've ever heard one. He's also bargaining with a Chinese crime boss named Lao over something called Nurhachi.
According to Indy, Nurhachi is the first emperor of the Manchu Dynasty. (Indy's 100% right.) Indy has his ashes, and he trades them with Lao for a diamond. Not a bad trade, in our opinion.
But Lao double-crosses Indy by poisoning his cocktail—he wants the diamond back in exchange for the antidote. Indy summons the waiter, his friend Wu Han. One of Lao's men shoots Wu Han (hey, the service wasn't that bad), and a fight breaks out.
Dodging gunfire, Indy attempts to recover the antidote to the poison. Meanwhile, lounge singer Willie Scott also wants the diamond. Both are being kicked about the floor of Club Obi-Wan in the commotion.
One of Lao's men opens fire with a shotgun, so Indy hides behind a rolling gong. He grabs Willie, and the pair jumps through a window, bouncing on awnings like a pair of crash test dummies until they land on the streets of Shanghai below.
They land in a car driven by a Chinese orphan named Short Round. (Indy's clearly taking advantage of 1930's Shanghai's lack of child-labor laws.) Shorty drives the crew to the airport, where they board a cargo plane filled with chickens. However, they don't notice that the plane doesn't say "American Airlines" on the side. It says "Lao Che Cargo." Uh-oh.
Instead of just shooting Indy and friends while they sleep, the pilot and co-pilot jump out of the plane mid-flight. Willie wakes up and notices no one is flying the plane. Before the pilotless plane crashes into the mountains, Indy and friends jump out in an inflatable raft and glide to safety. Whew.
They're now in India, where they're found and taken to a small village. Even though the village is poor, the villagers give some of their food to Indy. As Indy eats, the village elder tells him about a new evil that's moved into Pankot Palace: the new Maharaja stole the village's sacred stone and kidnapped all their children. Clearly the Maharaja's a klepto.
One of the children escapes that night, and delivers a message to Indy. Deciphering the drawing on the scrap of cloth, Indy realizes the missing stone is one of the sacred Sankara stones, and he agrees to help retrieve it.
With Willie and Short Round, Indy travels by elephant to Pankot Palace, where they're welcomed by the Prime Minister of Pankot, Chattar Lal. He invites them to a fancy feast, which includes tasty dishes like crunchy beetles and chilled monkey brains. (Hey, at least it's not, say, haggis.)
They meet the Maharaja, who's about ten years old, and talk about the Thuggee cult at dinner—a group who killed thousands of people in India. The Maharaja assures Indy that the Thuggee haven't returned to his kingdom. (Yeah sure, bud. Whatever you say.)
That night, Indy's attacked in his bedroom by a palace guard. He kills the guard and goes to check on Willie, finding a secret passage in her room. The passage takes them through a bug- and trap-filled tunnel. Honestly, if we had to choose, we'd pick being crushed to death by a spiked ceiling over all those bugs.
The tunnel leads them to a lava-filled chamber, where they watch the new Thuggee cult leader, Mola Ram. Mola Ram pulls out a man's still-beating heart, leaving the man still alive somehow, and lowers him into a pool of lava. It's quite the magic trick. David Copperfield, eat your heart out. (Pun intended.)
After the ritual sacrifice is over, the cult clears out. Indy enters the chamber to retrieve the Sankara stones. He hears noises from deeper in the cavern, and there he finds all the kidnapped children. They've been forced into slavery in the mines. Indy's quickly captured and imprisoned.
The temple guards capture Willie and Short Round, too. Mola Ram brings Indy into his chamber, where he delivers his super-villain monologue: they're going to find the stones in the mines and—mwa, ha, ha—take over the world. To help him achieve his goals, Mola Ram force-feeds Indy a syrupy concoction he calls the black blood of the Kali Ma. Not only does it taste great on top of ice cream, but it also brainwashes Indy into being Mola Ram's ally.
Speaking of Kali Ma, she's one greedy goddess. She demands another human sacrifice, even though she just ate—she goes through humans like Garfield goes through lasagna.
Mola Ram prepares Willie for sacrifice, and Indy, brainwashed, locks her into the cage and begins to lower her into the lava like a basket of French fries. Short Round, who breaks free of his chains, pleads for Indy to stop, but Indy backhands the kid in the face. Ouch.
Shorty won't give up that easily. He burns Indy with a torch, which snaps him out of his trance. Indy punches out the guards and stops the cage before it's filled with deep-fried Willie. With everyone safe, they head into the mines to rescue the children.
Indy punches out the guard of the mines, and Short Round uses his patented torch trick to snap the young Maharaja out of his trance, too. The Maharaja tells Short Round to escape through the left tunnel.
With the kids liberated, Indy and crew jump into a mine cart for a high-speed getaway. Guards pursue, but they fight them off. Even Willie makes herself useful, punching a guard who jumps into their cart. Mola Ram busts open a water tank, proving once again that he has no regard for natural resources. He wastes lava. He wastes water. He probably doesn't even recycle.
Great gushing geysers of water chase Indy and the gang out of the tunnels. They emerge onto the mountainside and cross a rickety rope bridge to escape. They're pursued by Mola Ram's men, and somehow Mola Ram appears on the other side of the cliff. (Teleportation must be another of his magic powers.)
Indy chops the bridge with a scimitar, sending people plummeting into the gorge below. He, Willie, Shorty, and Mola Ram hang on, and attempt to climb up the cliffside. Mola Ram tries to pull out Indy's heart, but Indy swats him away, and performs a mystic chant that causes the stones to burst into flame. Mola Ram grabs them, but he forgot his oven mitts. Shocked by the burn, he falls into the ravine below, where he's eaten by alligators. Good riddance.
Indy climbs to the top of the bridge and returns the stone to the village elder. The kids return, too, and everyone seems happy. Indy attempts to kiss Willie, but Short Round gets an elephant to spray them with water, and hilarity ensues.
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