Chances are, you never saw The Conqueror. RKO Pictures' sprawling epic of a film, The Conqueror won't be found in many classic collections, nor is it considered vastly underrated by critics or cinephiles. No, by almost every account, it was an unmitigated disaster.
To make matters much worse, the film was shot along the red bluffs and scrubby flatlands of St. George, Utah. Unfortunately, production commenced 137 miles downwind from an atomic testing range in Nevada's Yucca Flats. No less than 11 atomic explosions occurred there the year before, two of which scattered ample amounts of radioactive material throughout the area. The nukes, nicknamed Simon and Harry, were several times larger than the 13 kiloton bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
91 members of the cast and crew -- including leads John Wayne, Susan Hayward, and Agnes Moorehead, stuntmen Chuck Roberson and Bernie Gozier, and director Powell -- each contracted various forms of cancer in the years following production.
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