The Indiana Jones Monkey Head

Does this look like a real monkey head to you? Probably not! But part of the magic of Hollywood is that with careful camera work and lighting, props (real or fake things used by actors) can be made to look real when you see them in a scene on a movie or television screen.

This is a prop monkey head from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Paramount, 1984.) You may remember it from a scene where Indy and his friends eat at a fancy dinner banquet. A variety of unusual foods, including snakes and bugs, are served, but the dessert was the highlight of the meal—chilled monkey brains served in monkey heads. In the movie, Indy’s friend Willy (Kate Capshaw) was so upset by it that she fainted!

This is one of the heads used during the scene and looks real in the movie. But if you look at it up close, you can see that is it made of foam-filled molded plastic that has been hand painted and had artificial hair glued on. The top is removable and there is a small bowl-like area where the “brains” sat during the scene. You can even see some red stains from the food coloring used to make the fake brains!

The monkey head is a new addition to the museum’s American Collection, and you can see it on display for the first time this fall in our Hollywood Haunts exhibit. Other spooky props, costumes and scenery from our collection and on loan will be on display in Hollywood Haunts from October 5-November 24, 2013. Come check it out!