Thursday, January 6, 2022

Tomoyuki Tanaka's GOJIRA (1954), Howard Hughes' THE CONQUEROR (1956), Nuclear Fallout and Two Motion Pictures!

On December 10, 1952, a small motion picture "Invasion U.S.A." went unnoticed by most Americans. This was one of the first attempts by a movie company to address America's fears of the Soviet Union attacking the country and dropping "Atomic Bombs" on American soil. 

What wasn't known to those few Americans who saw this "Science Fiction" feature when it came out and the few critics that reviewed it at time, was that a "NUCLEAR INCIDENT" had already occurred over a community in Utah and the "Department of Defense" and the scientists that caused it took the position that it never happened.

This article looks at the event in Utah, and another effecting a Japanese fishing boat. However, I am also looking at two motion pictures, one Japanese, one American, related to both tragedies.

ゴジラ GOJIRA premiered in Nagoya, Japan, on October 27, 1954

To be clear, this first section of my article is not about the Americanized 1956 motion picture, "Godzilla, King of the Monsters", but Tomoyuki Tanaka's original 1954 "GOJIRA". A motion picture that came about because of a mistake made by American scientists that led to a nuclear weapons test on Bikini Atoll, located in the Marshall Islands. 

Below, are current photos of the Bikini Atoll.

The story of "Gojira" begins with a Sign Welcoming Visitors in February 1946.

Seen below is a photo of American Navy Commodore Ben H. Wyatt, the appointed "Military Governor" of the Bikini Atoll, speaking to a group of islanders. Commodore Wyatt was addressing their concerns about rumors of pending United States testing using the atoll and was assuring them that they would be relocated while the United States safely tested nuclear weapons on Bikini. Which he is quoted as saying was for:


Eight years later and the "Castle Bravo H-Bomb Test" on the:

BIKINI ATOLL, March 1, 1954

Below the vaporizing of Palm Trees on Bikini.

American scientists had calculated that the "Castle-Bravo Hydrogen Bomb" test yield wouldn't be higher than 6.0 megatons and all safety precautions for the area around the test site were predicated upon that figure. Their mistake, the yield was actually 15 megatons, or 2.5 times greater than their 6.0 calculation. 

The reason, the United States had never detonated a "dry fuel thermonuclear hydrogen bomb" and the predicted yield was a quote:

theoretical error made by designers of the device at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New Mexico.

The following link will take my reader to a more detailed explanation should they want it.


March 1, 1954, was anything but "Lucky" for the Japanese tuna fishing boat with a crew of 23 men.

The "Daigo Fukuryu Maru" was fishing in waters outside the danger zone established by the United States for the "Castle Bravo Nuclear Test". Unfortunately for the crew, as I have mentioned, that danger zone was predicated on an incorrect yield figure.

Not only was the size of the danger zone incorrect, but possible changes in the pattern of the weather were never considered by the American scientists at the "Los Alamos Laboratory" and they did occur. The end result was the carrying of nuclear fallout in the form of fine ash far beyond the stated danger zone and over the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru" and other islands in the area for a distance of 100 miles.

Initially, the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru" wasn't damaged by the shock wave from the blast, that according to the survivors lite up the sky. However, after that radioactive ash created by a mixture of coral and sand lifted from the seabed started to fall upon the fishing boat, the crew attempted to clear the area and return to Japan, but not until they spent six hours retrieving their fishing gear from the sea and processing their catch as if nothing out of the ordinary had taken place.

During their return to Japan the crew started to show symptoms of radiation poisoning. The crew experienced pain, headaches, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, and their eyes started to turn red and developed an itchy mucus. One of the fishermen had thought to take a sample of the ash and placed it in a pouch, but he hung it on the end of one of the beds in the room the men slept in and unknowingly exposed all to more radiation. 

The un-"Lucky Dragon #5" finally docked on March 14, 1954, at Yaizu, Japan, and because it was during the late night, the catch wasn't immediately unloaded, and the majority of the contaminated fish never ended up in the fish market. Radiation from the tuna boat was being detected one-hundred-feet from it and on deck a Geiger counter was reading 120 milliroentgens.

The crew were treated initially at the "Yaizu Public Hospital" and on March 15th, six of the "elderly" crew members were sent to the "Tokyo University Hospital" and the reality of what the tuna fishermen had been exposed to was revealed.

On March 22, 1954, the future of the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru", that was still docked at Yaizu, was debated by the American military, the Japanese government and scientists from both countries. The American military representatives wanted the tuna boat to be moved to the American base in Yokosuka to be disposed of. While Minister without portfolio Ano Masazumi argued that the tuna boat should be kept in Yaizu, parts saved for scientific research and the rest scuttled.

However, once the public learned of the incident, there was an outcry against the Japanese government over their treatment of the crew, the lack of information about the radiation on the docked tuna fishing boat and a fear of a cover-up about radioactive fish that might have gotten into the marketplace, and anti-American sentiment was rekindled. 

Today the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru" is in its own museum in Tokyo.

Into this environment entered movie producer Tomoyuki Tanaka.

I now turn to my worn copy of J.D. Lees and Marc Cerasini's classic, "The Official GODZILLA Compendium", page 11, for a look at a disappointed Tomoyuki Tanaka leaving Jakarta, Indonesia: 

Tanaka, a producer at Toho, Japan's premiere film studio, had been forced to shelve a Japanese-Indonesian co-production called Eiko no Kantani (Behind the Glory) because the Indonesian government refused to grant work visas to the Japanese stars.

It was a shattering blow to the fledgling producer. In the future, Tanaka would go on to produce films by famed director Akira Kurosawa, and would eventually become president of Toho-Eiga, the studio's production arm. Right now, all he had was a cast, cameras and equipment, and a schedule. But he didn't have a movie anymore. In fact, he didn't even have an idea for a movie.

 "Now I had to come up with something big enough to replace it, " Tanaka explained in a 1981 interview with Japanese Fantasy Film Journal.


I continue the story with the excellent biography "Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters" by August Ragone, and quote page 34 twice:

As legend has it, as Tanaka was looking out at the sea during the flight from Jakarta to Tokyo, he started thinking about a recent international incident between the U.S. and Japan, which the Japanese Press labeled "The Second Atomic Bombing of Mankind". On March 1 the fishing trawler Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon #5) sailed into the fallout from a U.S. hydrogen bomb test in the Marshall Islands.

Later the same page has:

Tanaka felt that the details of the tragic incident could be combined with the premise of Eugene Lourie's forthcoming film The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms to create an interesting new movie concept.



Above the poster for Ray Harryhausen's feature that was released in Japan on December 22, 1954. 

Lees and Cerasini mentioned at the bottom of page 11:

In 1952, the grandfather of all giant monster films, Willis O'Brien's King Kong (1933) was re-released in Japanese theaters.

They imply that film may have also influenced Tomoyuki Tanaka.

Whatever the real reasoning for producer Tanaka, according to page 12, of "The Official GODZILLA Compendium", "Kaitei Niman Mariu Kara Kita Dai Kaiju (The Big Monster from 20,000 Mile Underneath the Sea)" went into production.

Japanese science fiction writer Shigeru Kayama was hired to write the original story and submitted a 50-page treatment, but it was rejected, and Tanaka assigned screenplay writer Takeo Murata, with his own input, to write the screenplay for that very long titled motion picture. 

Murata, because of the Second World War, had only written three screenplays between his first in 1937 and this one. In 1955, Tomoyuki Tanaka would have Takeo Murata write the screenplay for "ゴジラの逆襲 Gojira no Gyakushu (Godzilla's Counterattack)". Which would come to English language screens as 1959's "Gigantis the Fire Monster", and later retitled "Godzilla Raids Again". Which created confusion as the same title was used for the English language release of the actual 1955 Japanese film. Also, in 1955 Murata would write the screenplay for the excellent "獣人雪男, Ju Jin Yuki Otoko Jo (Beast Man Yukio aka: Beast-Man Snow-Man)". That became the butchered English language motion picture, 1958's "Half Human".

To direct the motion picture would be Ishiro Honda. Honda is also listed as working on the screenplay, prior to this film he had written the screenplays for two short films and two feature films and co-written one other. All five were directed by him and there were three other motion pictures that proceeded "Gojira" that Ishiro Honda also directed.

According to page 18 of "LIFE" magazines 2019 special edition, GODZILLA, The King of the Monsters":
On August 7, 1953, Godzilla began shooting its Odo Island scenes on a mountain near Ijika, a remote fishing village on the rocky coast of Mie Prefecture.

Obviously, the year is incorrect and possibly a typo as the "Castle Bravo" nuclear weapons test wasn't until March 1, 1954. 

The "Special Effects Supervisor" on the film was the previously mentioned Eiji Tsuburaya, who submitted a story outline he had written in 1951, but it was also rejected by Tomoyuki Tanaka.

Tsuburaya had designed the first major motion picture about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 1942's, "Hawai Mare Okikaisen (The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya)". However, his future special effects would include, 1956's, "空の大怪獣 ラSora no Daikaiju Radon (Giant Monster of the Sky Rodan)", 1957's "地球防衛軍,Chikyu Boeigun (Earth Defense Force)" aka 1959's, "The Mysterians", and 1958's "大怪獣バラン Daikaiju Baran (Giant Monster Varan)" aka: 1962's "Varan the Unbelievable".

Above Elji Tsuburaya shows Ishiro Honda one of the puppets that his team had created. They also made a full body suit, for one the two credited "Suitmation Actors", Katsumi Tezuka, and Naruo Nakakjima to wear. The two were the primary actors, but two other actors Ryosaku Takasugi and Jiro Suzki, according to the IMDb website, also wore the suit at some point in the production.

The Four Main Roles:

Akira Takarada portrayed "Salvage Ship Captain Hideto Ogata". Takarada was born in North Korea, and this was only his second on-screen appearance. He would star in 1955's "獣人雪男, Ju Jin Yuki Otoko Jo (Beast Man Yukio aka: Beast-Man Snow-Man)"

Momoko Kochi portrayed "Emiko Yamane". This was the Tokyo born actress' sixth motion picture. She would be reteamed with Akira Takarada as another love interest in 1955's "獣人雪男, Ju Jin Yuki Otoko Jo (Beast Man Yukio aka: Beast-Man Snow-Man)".

Akihiko Hirata portrayed "Dr. Daisuke Serizawa". Hirata portrayed "Seijuro Yoshioka" in director Hiroshi Inagaki's classic samurai trilogy between 1954 and 1956. "Gojira" was the actor's eighth motion picture, and he would portray "Ryoichi Shiraishi" in 1957's 1957's "地球防衛軍,Chikyu Boeigun (Earth Defense Force)" aka 1959's, "The Mysterians"

Takashi Shimura portrayed "Paleontologist Dr. Kyohei Yamane". Character actor Shimura was part of director Akira Kurosawa's stock company. His first motion picture in 1954 had cast him as "Kambei Shimada", the leader of Kurosawa's "七人の侍 Shichinin no Samurai (The Seven Samurai)". Takashi Shimura is the only actor from 1954's "Gojira" to reprise his role in 1955's "ゴジラの逆襲 Gojira no Gyakushu (Godzilla's Counterattack)".

The Allegorical Atomic Bomb:

The first sequence following the opening credits is of a fishing trawler with the crew relaxing when they notice something in front of the ship and a blinding flash of light engulfs the trawler. 

Tanaka and Honda's Japanese audience easily realized that they were watching the allegorical "Daigo Fukuryu Maru" being destroyed by the "Castle Bravo Nuclear Weapons Test", but if for some weird reason not. Had they looked closely at the earlier scenes of that happy crew on the trawler's deck and specifically the "Life Preserver", Tomoyuki Tanaka and Ishiro Honda had placed a very clear "No. 5" on it.

The survivors are rescued, but the rescue ship is also destroyed. The allegory to the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru" continues when a fishing boat from Odo (Ohto) Island is mysteriously destroyed, only one man survives, and he's talking about a blinding flash of light engulfing the boat and killing the crew. He will live until whatever caused Tanaka's allegorical nuclear weapons blast comes into the fishing village.

Reporters investigating the mysterious sinkings come to Odo Island to speak with the natives, one of which in "Newspaper Reporter Hagiwara", played by Sachio Sakai, Akira "七人の侍 Shichinin no Samurai (The Seven Samurai)". 1957's "蜘蛛巣城Kumonosu-jōlit.'Spider Web Castle')" aka: "Throne of Blood", 1961's "用心棒Yōjinbō, "Bodyguard" aka: "Yojimbo", and Ishiro Honda's "獣人雪男, Ju Jin Yuki Otoko Jo (Beast Man Yukio aka: Beast-Man Snow-Man)".

Above, "Hagiwara" interviews the fishing boat survivor and his brother. That night during an island ceremony that goes back hundreds of years, he listens to the village elder who is convinced that the "Island God Gojira" is displeased with the people of Odo Island.

Later that night something gigantic levels most of the village and kills the survivor.
All setting up the arrival of the allegorical Castle Bravo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb.

In Japan "国会 National Diet" listens to representatives from Odo Island and decide to send an investigative group led by Paleontologist "Dr. Yamane" to the island to find out if there is any connection to whatever destroyed the fishing village and the destruction of the ships at sea. 

Walking through the ruins of the village, "Dr. Yamane" comes upon what appears to be a gigantic footprint and within it is:

One of the other scientists mentions the high radioactivity of the area and the villagers are told to move back.

The village alarm bell sounds, and everyone heads for what is believed to be safety from the sea monster at the top of a large hill, but now the first view of "Gojira" takes place and then the creature turns and returns to the Japan sea.

Next the direct tie-in to "Castle Bravo" takes place as "Dr. Yamane" explains his findings to the "Japanese National Diet" that a "HYDROGEN BOMB TEST" in the area near Odo Island awakened a Jurassic age dinosaur that was in some form of hibernation, and it has absorbed a large quantity of radiation. 

Another direct tie-in that "Gojira is the allegorical atomic bomb" comes later in the original Japanese language release from a woman speaking to her friends.

Once "Gojira" comes ashore in Tokyo the imagery that Tomoyuki Tanaka, Ishiro Honda, and Eiji Tsuburaya want to convey to their Japanese audience is presented. 

Above, Tokyo after "Gojira" has left and below, an actual shot of Hiroshima followed by one of Nagasaki.

The Imagery of the People of Tokyo as "Gojira" Attacks and After He Leaves:

Above a scene from "Gojira" checking for radiation poisoning on a young girl and below a real 11-year-old victim of radiation poisoning at Hiroshima.

A very poignant sequence takes places over the singing of the girls' choir that will affect "Dr. Serizawa". It is used to also affect the feelings of the film's audience especially in Japan by evoking more memories of the past nine years using a montage of scenes of "Gojira" and showing his destruction of Tokyo.

The Scientific Community:

Paleontologist "Dr. Kyohei Yamane":

Went to Odo Island to investigate the possible source of all the shipping disasters, found the answer and gave his findings to the "National Diet", but he lets his scientific curiosity about a living dinosaur block his reasoning of the danger it posed, let alone one that a hydrogen bomb had given nuclear breath too. "Dr. Yamane" defends studying "Gojira" rather than destroying "Gojira" in the name of scientific advancement in the field of Paleontology, even over the probable death and destruction this living dinosaur will cause.

Theoretical Scientist "Dr. Daisuke Serizawa":

As portrayed in the original 1954 "Gojira", "Dr. Serizawa" is very much like the scientist called the "Father of the Atomic Bomb", "Theoretical Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer", who was appointed head of the "Los Alamos Laboratory" in New Mexico during the "Manhattan Project"

Oppenheimer is famously quoted as saying on July 16, 1945, as he witnessed the first atomic bomb test and realized what he had helped to create:
The actual Hindu saying in the "Bhagavad Gita" translates as:
Now I am become death, the scatterer of worlds

During the 1949-1950 government and military debate on the development of a hydrogen bomb, Oppenheimer opposed it.

Which brings me to "Serizawa":

When "Emiko Yamane" goes to see "Dr. Serizawa" to tell him she cannot go through with their childhood arranged marriage, because she loves "Hideto Ogata". Initially, she is accompanied by the reporter, "Hagiwara" who wants to speak to "Serizawa" on his work and 'Gojira". "Hagiwara" leaves when the doctor won't discuss what he's been working upon, and "Emiko" prepares to tell "Serizawa" about "Ogata". However, she is unable to tell him, because "Dr. Daisuke Serizawa" now wants to show "Emiko Yamane" what he has been working on that has kept him out of touch with her and her father.


The audience only sees "Dr. Serizawa" drop a pellet into a tank filled with fish, the pellet starting to boil the water and "Emiko's" frightened reaction to whatever just happened.

In the climatic sequence, "Emiko" breaks her promise of secrecy to "Dr. Serizawa" and reveals what she saw happen within the fish tank. Whatever, "Serizawa" had discovered wasn't what he was looking for and it removes the oxygen in water and dissolves skin, organs and bone. "Ogata" realizes that this is the only way to stop "Gojira" and he accompanies "Emiko" to "Serizawa's" home and ultimately his laboratory.

In this original Japanese production "Dr. Daisuke Serizawa" has a long speech and attempts to burn all of his work. The theoretical scientist is torn, as Oppenheimer became, between searching for something to help humanity, in Oppenheimer's case ending the Second World War, and the sudden realization that his discovery is actually the opposite.

In the end "Dr. Serizawa" burns all his work so that nobody will learn the formula for his "Oxygen Destroyer" and sacrifices his own life to keep it a secret. As on-screen, "Serizawa" uses the "Oxygen Destroyer" to remove Tomoyuki Tanaka's allegory to Japan's recent nuclear incident and their past history from nine years before, while the Japanese audience watched in silence.


Just a word about subtitles used to translate the Japanese language into English, different translators come up with different words for the same scene. Below are examples from different releases of 1954's "Gojira". 

In the following two stills of the touching scene of a mother and daughter just prior to being killed by "Gojira". In the first the mother tells her daughter she is about to see her deceased "Father" again, but in the second it's her "Daddy" the daughter is about to see again.

Depending upon the release, my second example from "Gojira", has "Hideto Ogata" subtitled either as a private "Salvage Boat Captain" having his own company, or an apparent member of the "Coast Guard". 

Note the sight difference in how "Ogata's" description about the "Coast Guard" is subtitled in two different releases of the motion picture.

The immediately above still is probably from a release of the original 1954 "Gojira" after May 29, 1957, because of the "NAME" mentioned in the following clip of "Dr. Yamane" that uses the same color and style of subtitles. It is followed by a newspaper ad that supports the name change.

On September 27, 1955, Edmund Goldman approached "Toho International, Inc" at their Los Angeles, California headquarters about purchasing the American theatrical and television rights to 1954's "Gojira". For the sum of $25,000, 1955 dollars, equal as of this writing to $259,279, 2022 dollars, Goldman purchased those film rights. He in turn approached independent producers Edward B. Barison, Richard Kay, and Joseph E. Levine about making a dubbed into English version of the original motion picture!

According to Steve Ryfle's 1998 "Japan's Favorite Mon-Star: The Unauthorized Biography of the Big G", producer Richard Kay stated:

We weren't interested in politics, believe me. We only wanted to make a movie we could sell. At that time, the American public wouldn't have gone for a movie with an all-Japanese cast. That's why we did what we did. We didn't really change the story. We just gave it an American point of view. 
Actually, the key word by Richard Kay above is "politics" and his quote leaves out the truth of the situation that would lead to:

GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS premiering in New York City on April 4, 1956

It was publicist turned producer Joseph E. Levine that takes credit for the tagline:
King of the Monsters
But back to politics, which contrary to Richard Kay's statement governed every decision related to any action taken by the three American producers on the motion picture.

I mentioned that the Japanese governments non-action in 1954 by not informing the Japanese public about the "Daigo Fukuryu Maru" led to the rekindling of anti-American sentiment. Cross the Pacific Ocean that same year and a large portion of Americans still held anti-Japanese sentiment from the Second World War. So, in 1955, when Edmund Goldman approached Toho for the rights to "Gojira" and next, the three American producers. The three, including Richard Kay had to consider the politics of just dubbing into English a motion picture containing an implied anti-American slant.

For the record, five years after the release of "Godzilla, King of the Monsters", that ant-Japanese sentiment would still be strong for the "20th Anniversary" of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Producer, director, writer, and film-editor Hugo Grimaldi took the excellent Toho Studio production, "ハワイ・ミッドウェイ大海空戦 太平洋の嵐Hawai Middouei daikaikusen: Taiheiyo no arashi (Hawaii-Midway Battle of the Sea and Sky: Storm in the Pacific Ocean)". About the Second World War in the Pacific told from the Japanese perspective and cut the picture by 20-minutes into "I Bombed Pearl Harbor" with changed dialogue in the remaining scenes. The following poster played off that anti-Japanese sentiment in many parts of the United States.


The answer to the anti-Japanese sentiment was to reimagine the Toho production as a typical American giant monster on the loose feature. when the three producers were approached on Goldman's plan. 1955 had already provided them with three examples of what Americans wanted to see starting with Ray Harryhausen's, "It, Came from Beneath the Sea", director Jack Arnold's "Tarantula", and producer Bert I. Gordon's low budget "King Dinosaur".

Changing the story went to the uncredited Al C. Ward, a television drama writer, he would eventually write five episodes of televisions "Perry Mason". 

The actual writing of the revised screenplay was by the director of the new American footage Terry O. Morse. Morse who was a film-editor would additonally be responsible for that portion of the production. He had started editing in 1927, directing in 1939, but this would be his only screenplay.

The Main English Language Cast Consisted of Two Actors. 

Raymond Burr portrayed "International Reporter Steve Martin". Burr's six-day shoot included retakes. The still primarily unknown Burr was 18-months away from the first of his 271-episodes of televisions "Perry Mason". My article, "RAYMOND BURR BEFORE PERRY MASON: Film-Noirs, "B" Westerns, A Certain Monster and the Queen of the Nile" will be found at:

Frank Iwanaga portrayed "Security Officer Tomo Iwanaga". This was both his last of nine roles and the only one with on-screen credit.

One would think with all the footage of Raymond Burr that the Americanization of 1954's "Gojira" would be a longer feature film. Actually, the original Toho Production runs 98-minutes, while the 1956 re-edit only runs 80-minutes. Obviously meaning 18-minutes was cut from Ishiro Honda's film plus however more was needed to add Burr into the new story line.

The screenplay opens after "Godzilla" has destroyed Tokyo and injured "Steve Martin" is discovered by "Emiko Yamane", a combination of dubbed actress Momoko Kochi original scenes and a body double from the back. 

The story is told in flashback by "Steve Martin", for him it started on a plane flight, very similar to Tomoyuki Tanaka's original one, but in the sea below "Godzilla" attacks the fishing boat, the footage from the beginning of "Gojira" is cut into the picture.

 At the airport "Martin" meets "Security Officer Tomo Iwanaga" and the two will accompany "Dr. Yamane's" investigation of the events on Odo Island.

This will lead to the appearance of "Godzilla", "Steve Martin" speaking to his friend "Dr. Serizawa" by phone with a scene of Akihiko Hirata from the 1954 feature dubbed to the new dialogue and covering the destruction of Tokyo....

.... and the flashback ends, and the audience sees "Ogata" and "Serizawa" going into the water and using the "Oxygen Destroyer" as in 1954's "Gojira", but with Raymond Burr's footage added supposedly on the ship with "Ogata", "Emiko", and "Dr. Yamane".

The screenplay for "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" is without any reference to the "Lucky Dragon #5", or "Godzilla" being the allegorical atomic bomb other than he was brought back out of hibernation by hydrogen bomb testing. Think about the similar explanation in Ray Harryhausen's "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" as a plot device to explain the monster's appearance. 

For back-up to my above statement that "Godzilla" does not have the same nuclear breath as "Gojira" is another tagline on the posters for the American re-edit designed to stay away from implying anything related to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the film is set Japan.

CIVILIZATION CRUMBLES as its death rays blast a city of 6 million from the face of the earth! 

The audience is dealing with "Death Rays" that go back to 1930's and 1940's science fiction like 1936's "The Invisible Ray", 1938's "Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars", and 1945's, "The Purple Monster Strikes" 

 Trivia: the actual population of Tokyo, Japan, in 1956 was over 8 million people! 

As I implied previously, "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" was released in Japan, and that was on May 29, 1957, with Japanese subtitles.

The following is a scene change to incorporated footage of Raymond Burr as an example of several scenes recreated for the 1956 version.

Above original scene from "Gojira" with "Reporter Hagiwara", below recreated scene for "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" with reporter "Steve Martin".

Another example of a scene changed by the dialogue is the following on the computer train without mention of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Instead, they are discussing the newspaper reports of a creature called "Godzilla" and the hope it doesn't come to Tokyo.

Below an insert of Raymond Burr and Frank Iwanaga while "Dr. Yamane" and the others examine the trilobite.

Above a changed scene of Raymond Burr and extras as Odo Island villagers in "Godzilla, King of the Monsters" to replace the scene of the villages in "Gojira" watching his head come over the hilltop for the first time.

Below, another scene added while "Dr. Yamane" is reporting to the "National Diet" on "Godzilla" to show "Steve Martin" and "Tomo" were there.

There was another motion picture that had a connection to 1950's nuclear weapon testing.

In 1955, producer Howard Hughes made what critics called a "Mongolian Western".

THE CONQUEROR premiered in London, England on February 2, 1956

As I mentioned before, J. Robert Oppenheimer was the head of the "Los Alamos Laboratory" scientists and the development of the first atomic bomb. They code named it "TRINITY" and at 5:29 a.m., on July 16, 1945, on the "Jornada del Murerto (Single Days Journey of the Dead Man)" desert about 35 miles southeast of "Socorro, New Mexico, population approximately 3,800, on what was at the time the "United States Army Air Force Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range", the United States entered the atomic age and Oppenheimer is said to have made his famous quote. 

The location is now part of the "Nevada National Security Site" run by the "Department of Energy".

"The Conqueror" was directed and co-produced with Howard Hughes by singer turned actor turned director Dick Powell. As an actor Powell had just appeared in an episode of the television anthology series "Four Star Playhouse", entitled "High Stakes" on January 26, 1956. As a director his previous motion picture was the 1953 Film-Noir, "Split Second", starring Stephen McNally, Alexis Smith and Jan Sterling. "The Conqueror" was his first motion picture as a producer.

Above, Dick Powell directing the motion picture.

The screenplay was by Oscar Millard. He had written 1951's, "The Frogmen", starring Richard Widmark and Dana Andrews, and 1951's, 'No Highway in the Sky", starring James Stewart, Marlene Dietrich, and Glynis Johns. Otherwise, Millard was writing for television.

Selected Cast Members:

John Wayne portrayed "Temujin, the future Genghis Khan". Wayne had just been seen on the television anthology series "Screen Directors Playhouse", in the 1955 episode entitled, "Rookie of the Year", and followed this film with director John Ford's 1956, "The Searchers". This picture contained one of four roles John Wayne attempted to use to change his cowboy image. My article, "JOHN WAYNE: Four Gutsy Role Choices", can be read at:

Susan Hayward portrayed "Bortai". Hayward had just portrayed the real life and tragic singer "Lillian Roth", in 1955's "I'll Cry Tomorrow", and followed this feature co-starring with Kirk Douglas in the 1957 comedy, "The Secret Affair".

Pedro Armendariz portrayed "Jamuga". The Mexican American actor had just been in the 1956 historical drama, "Diane", co-starring with Lana Turner, and Roger Moore. He would follow this feature with the 1956 Mexican motion picture "La escondida (The Hide and Seek)" co-starring with Maria Felix.

Agnes Moorehead portrayed "Hunlun". The future "Endora" of televisions "Bewitched", 1964 through 1972, had just been seen in 1955's "The Left Hand of God", starring Humphrey Bogart, Gene Tierney, and Lee J. Cobb. She would follow this movie with 1956's "Meet Me in Las Vegas" co-starring with Dan Dailey and Cyd Charisse.

John Hoyt portrayed "Shaman". Character actor Hoyt was currently being seen on television, but his previous motion picture appearances included three 1951 motion pictures, the science fiction "The Lost Continent" starring Cesar Romero, producer George Pal's "When Worlds Collide", and James Mason's "The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel". In 1952, Hoyt was featured in "The Black Castle", starring Richard Greene, Boris Karloff, and Stephen McNally.

Above right is John Hoyt with Thomas Gomez as "Wang Khan". Gomez was the first Spanish American actor nominated for an "Academy Award" for the 1947 Film-Noir "Ride the Pink Horse".

William Conrad
portrayed "Kasar". The original "Matt Dillon" on radio's "Gunsmoke", would follow this picture with the Frank Sinatra western, 1956's, "Johnny Concho". Conrad was the narrator's voice on the animated "The Dudley Do-Right Show", and "The Bullwinkle Show".

Lee Van Cleef portrayed "Chepi". Van Cleef was primarily a western television and motion picture actor at this time. He had started his on-screen career as "Jack Colby" in 1952's "High Noon" and began making the rounds of the western television shows but did appear in 1954's "Princess of the Nile" starring Debra Paget as "Cleopatra". My article "LEE VAN CLEEF:  Mixture of "B" and "Spaghetti" Westerns with a Side of Science Fiction and Just a Taste of Drama" may be found at: 

Jean Gerson portrayed "Bortai's slave woman". This was her fourth on-screen appearance out of eighteen.

The plot of this motion picture is basically the "Mongolian Western" the critics called it. You just substitute John Wayne's "Mongols" for the "United States Cavalry" and Ted de Corisa's, Orson Welles' 1947 "Lady from Shanghai" and Walt Disney's 1954 "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", "Tartars" for the Native American's and you could be watching James Stewart and Jeff Chandler's 1950 "Broken Arrow", but with Susan Hayward as Debra Paget's Native American Princess.

Above, Ted de Corsia and John Wayne, below, Susan Hayward and John Wayne.

Located 137 miles down wind of the "Nevada National Security Site" was "St. George, Utah" one of the communities around which Howard Hughes used as a filming location for "The Conqueror". St. George wasn't full of those fake people set up on the test range to study the effects of the bomb blast...

...but a small town with a population of approximately 4,700 Americans.



Between October 22, 1951, and November 29, 1951, was "Operation Buster-Jangle", the testing of 7 nuclear weapons. The Department of Defense, "Buster", provided 6,500 army troops for military exercises in the bomb test area and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, "Jangle", provided the nuclear weapons tested.

Apparently, the scientists from Los Alamos never took the wind conditions into consideration and radiative dust blew across St. George, Utah. "Operation Buster-Jangle" would be followed by "Operation Tumbler-Snapper", April 1, 1952, through June 5, 1952, and the testing of 8 nuclear weapons. Which in turn was followed by "Operation Upshot-Knothole", March 17, 1953, through June 4, 1953, and another 11 nuclear weapons tests.

An example of "Operation Upshot-Knothole" took place on May 19, 1953, when a 32-kiloton atomic bomb nicknamed "Harry" was detonated at the "Nevada Test Site" and gained another nickname "Dirty Harry", because of the tremendous amount of off-site fallout that the bomb generated and was carried by winds onto St. George and the surrounding desert and hills. It was reported that residents in the town had felt:

an oddly metallic taste in the air. 

Yet, neither the "Department of Defense", or the scientists attached to the "Los Alamos National Laboratory" felt there was any danger to the residents there. 

Enter the cast and crew of "The Conqueror" to on-location film between June and August 1954 on the same desert and hills outside of St. George and use the community for food, rented rooms for some of the members of the cast and crew, while others slept in tents on the radiated dust covered desert floor itself. Additionally, Howard Hughes had 60-tons of the desert sand transported to the Hollywood sound stage being used for the indoor filming to match the outdoor shots.

All bringing me to the question:

Did Nuclear Testing Kill Members of the Cast and Crew of "THE CONQUEROR"?

With a November 10, 1980, article in "People Magazine", by Karen G. Jackovich and Mark Sennet, entitled "The Children of John Wayne, Susan Hayward and Dick Powell Fear That Fallout Killed Their Parents", the general public first became aware of something others only spoke about in private.

Let me start with the cause of death of the three people named in the article.

John Wayne died from Stomach Cancer at the age of 72 on June 11, 1979.

Susan Hayward died from Brain Cancer at the age of 57 on March 14, 1975.

Dick Powell
died from Lung Cancer at the age of 58 on January 2, 1963.

However, there were others:

Pedro Armendariz committed suicide on June 18, 1953, because he could not stand the pain throughout his body from Kidney Cancer.

Agness Moorehead died from Uterine Cancer at the age of 73 on April 30, 1974.

John Hoyt died from Lung Cancer at the age of 85 on September 15, 1991.

Lee Van Cleef
died from a Heart Attack with Throat Cancer listed as a secondary illness at the age of 64 on December 16, 1989.

Jeanne Gerson
died from two forms of cancer at the age of 87 on February 7, 1992.

In all, out of a cast and crew of 220 people, 91 developed cancer and 46 medically died from it.
Two arguments against the location and the nuclear fallout being the cause of the cancers have been put forward. 

The most prominent was this was the 1950's and everyone smoked!

However, according to her mother Mollie, Agness Moorehead never smoked, the "People" article mentions that near death Moorehead told her best friend actress Debbie Reynolds:

Everyone in that picture has gotten cancer and died...I should never have taken the part.

Dick Powell's diagnosis of "Lung Cancer" came from his widow, June Allyson in a televised interview on the "Larry King Show". It was a known fact that she was upset with all the nuclear radiation talk about "The Conqueror". Powell's two children by his first wife actress Joan Blondell according to the "People Magazine" article disagree with Allyson. They also accompanied him to St. George, Utah, and watched the filming. As did both of John Wayne's sons, Michael and Patrick who had small roles in the motion picture and developed cancer. Along with Tim Barker, Susan Hayward's son who was on the location shoot as a spectator and developed a form of cancer.

According to the "People" article, Jeanne Gerson stated:

I've always been convinced that it's more than a coincidence

that she developed cancer. 

The second argument is that the percentage of cancer on "The Conqueror" shoot was in line with the average percentage of cancers in adults during the 1950's, 43 percent getting a form of the disease, and. 23 percent dying from it. The pictures percentages based upon the 220 cast and crew members sighted, showed 41.36 percent developed cancer, and 20.91 percent died from cancer. 

However, the 220 figure does not include members of the Native American "Southern Paiute people" being used as extras and nobody looked into the rate of cancer among them which would have affected the percentage figures used to argue that smoking and not the nuclear weapon testing wasn't responsible for any one case.

Another area overlooked by the percentage counters for the motion picture was St. George, Utah, itself. 

The citizens were being routinely diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma, thyroid cancer, breast cancer, bone cancer, brain tumors and other forms of the disease during the 1950's.

This was backed up by details of a study in the 1979 issue of the "New England Journal of Medicine" that stated:

A significant excess of leukemia deaths occurred in children up to 14 years of age living in Utah between 1959 and 1967. This excess was concentrated in the cohort of children born between 1951 and 1958, and was most pronounced in those residing in counties receiving high fallout

To conclude this section of my article, two truths need to be mentioned. 

The first truth was the "Department of Defense" finally admitted that the nuclear testing between 1945 and 1963: 
used thousands of GIs as human guinea pigs.  The GIs, who became known as the "atomic veterans," were exposed to nuclear fallout, and many suffered fatal diseases 

In 1990, "Congress" passed the "Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA)" to give the miliary personal used in the nuclear tests up to $75,000.

The second truth was in 2002 "Congress" admitted civilians were also affected by the nuclear weapons testing and passed an amendment to the "RECA" to permit "Downwinders" like the citizens of St. George, Utah, to get up to $50,000 in compensation. The qualification was you had to have lived in Southern Utah for two years between January 21, 1951, and October 31, 1958, or all of July 1962.

Yet, even with the filming of Howard Hughes' "The Conqueror" in St. George, Utah, as of this writing many people still argue that the high concentration of radioactive fallout at the pictures shooting location and the 60-tons of radiated desert sand brought back for indoor shooting could not have contributed to any of the cancers of the cast and crew.



No comments:

Post a Comment

Jan Sterling: Lingerie - Fate - and a Motion Picture Career

Why Jan Sterling  wasn't considered an "A-List" actress is a riddle many film critics and historians still ask? This is a look...