The Destruction of Toht

When Belloq opens the Ark, with Toht and Dietrich looking on, the vengeful spirits within get mighty pissed off and wreak all manner of havoc, including zapping the Nazi soldiers and blowing Belloq's head apart like so much ripe watermelon. But the effect we all remember most is when Toht's glasses begin sliding down his face... because his nose no longer exists...

Yep, that's right, Toht melted. If there were a perfect way for this character to go, this had to be it. We learn earlier in the film (at Marion's bar) that he has poor judgment when it comes to exposing himself to heat. That tendency catches him in the ass here.

The ingenious effect was accomplished by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) through the use of a carefully-constructed wax dummy. Three thin layers of a multi-layered gelatin compound served as "skin," holding a packet of fake blood and animal flesh inside, along with a ceramic skull. When super-heated air was applied to the head, the wax and plastic melted away, and the gore dripped out, leaving only the blood-stained ceramic head behind... oh, and the hat and glasses. The effect was filmed at under a frame per second, to heighten the effect through time-lapse.

It is my hope to someday replicate this effect myself, in my kitchen. Until then, I have the film to enjoy.

Related Images:

"Alas poor Toht:" ILM Effects Supervisor Richard Edlund, holding Toht's skull, the only remaining piece from the effect. Edlund's comments on the melting effect can be found on the Indiana Jones collection Bonus DVD.