The backstory of the notorious turkey The Conqueror, starring John Wayne as Genghis Khan, has all the ingredients for a stimulating documentary, but Hollywood Fallout puts that story into a larger and more troubling context. Spoiler alert: the U.S. government lied to its citizens about the dangers of long-term radiation emanating from atomic bomb tests in the Nevada desert, and stonewalled the residents of St. George, Utah, where its effects were particularly devastating.

That’s where the erratic billionaire Howard Hughes sent director Dick Powell, movie stars John Wayne and Susan Hayward, and a large cast and crew to make this misbegotten film in 1956. A large number of those people died from one form or other of cancer—enough to remove it from the realm of coincidence. Writer/director William Nunez has cut no corners in telling the whole story, of which The Conqueror is a crucial—but not singular—component. Sophie Okonedo narrates this well-told, thorough account.

We meet longtime residents of that community who, like Holocaust survivors, feel an imperative to tell their stories while they are still here to serve as witnesses. The Hollywood angle is well represented by the surviving sons of John Wayne and Susan Hayward, along with Michael Medved, Barrie Chase, Mary Dickson, John William Law and the longtime curator of the Brigham Young University Film Archive, James D’Arc.

I am deliberately not going into detail about what I learned from the documentary because I think you should experience it first-hand. Filmmaker Nunez is touring this week with his film, which then opens nationwide on June 28 from Blue Fox Entertainment.

You can read more about it HERE Website: and watch the trailer HERE.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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July 2024