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In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in order to reach the Holy Grail room, three challenges must be passed.

In the first challenge, only the penitent man will pass, which involves kneeling before God. People who fail to do so get their heads cut off by an horizontal saw disc cutting at neck height.

However in the movie, there's a second saw disc, cutting vertically that forces Indiana to roll sideways after kneeling.

What's the purpose of this second disc? It doesn't make sense to me, since it will kill people who should have passed the challenge.

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  • 6
    To have Harrison Ford perform an epic quick time event rolling action.
    – Clockwork
    Jul 16, 2023 at 10:59

2 Answers 2

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In the script, the blade is a "triple pendulum" that swings down from the ceiling, rather than a blade that slices horizontally. There's no good indication why the VFX team turned this into a head-height spinning blade (and then added a secondary floor blade) other than that it might not be sufficiently clear why someone couldn't just crawl through.

The cobwebs begin to move...

INDY: He kneels before God. (to himself; suddenly) Kneel!!

We hear the awful rush of air -- WHOOSH! Because Indy is in the act of kneeling, only his hat is knocked off and his hair flies in his face.

Instinctively he ROLLS FORWARD on the ground out of harm’s way and looks up. From his new position he is able to see what is causing all the trouble: A RAZOR SHARP TRIPLE PENDULUM.

Indy gets cautiously to his feet. Now he sees the pendulum has been guarding a SMALL CORRIDOR which turns a corner to the left fifty yards ahead. Wooden wheels turn -- the mechanism controlling the spinning blades. Indy loops a rope around the wheels, Jamming the mechanism and stopping the blades in mid-swipe.

The second blade is absent in the official novelisation

He set his foot down and fell to his knees. As he did so, he heard a loud whooshing overhead, and he instinctively tumbled forward. He lay there on his stomach a moment, then slowly rolled over. He peered up, and now he could see it above him—a razor-sharp triple pendulum, and it was still whirring just inches over him. The pendulum was attached to a pair of wooden wheels connected to the inside of the stone arch. It was probably activated by the slightest breath of air created by a person’s movement, and stopped after it struck its target.

and the graphic novel

enter image description here


I've seen chatter on the internet that this additional blade would prevent a Muslim from crossing into the chamber because they show penitence by bowing rather than simply kneeling, but I've yet to find any actual quotes from the film's makers to confirm this.

enter image description here

enter image description here

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  • I was pretty sure this question was a duplicate and that I had seen it answered here before, but I guess it was just that Cracked article where I'd seen this discussed...
    – yoozer8
    Jul 17, 2023 at 2:47
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    Random thought: if a guy starts panicking and decides to crawl his way not to loose his head... well, chop chop
    – Clockwork
    Jul 17, 2023 at 6:51
  • The obvious follow-up question is then why on earth the script writers made it a triple pendulum, which would probably be one of the least reliable and efficient ways to chop someone’s head off, being more likely to just flop around uselessly. I’m not even sure how a “razor-sharp triple pendulum” would look, considering that it’s basically three sticks… Jul 17, 2023 at 12:40
  • @JanusBahsJacquet, I'm imagining a single actual pendulum, but with three blades stacked out to cover more area. Like a mezzaluna herb chopper.
    – JPhi1618
    Jul 17, 2023 at 14:54
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I think that the answer is much simpler. There was a specific spot that you were supposed to stop and kneel on in order to show reverence.

If you stood there the first blade would get you, if you went beyond that sport the second blade wold get you. So kneeling in the exact right spot would be safe.

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