Hiding behind that title is what might have been called Genghis Khan: The Early Years, a big, slightly crazed (okay, ludicrous) epic with John Wayne as the once and future king of the Mongols . . . back in the day. A major production for Howard Hughes’s fast-fading RKO Pictures, it was an unhappy sophomore effort for singer/actor Dick Powell as director, with painfully stiff interiors matching a hopelessly stiff cast. Heaps o’ horses, though! Mountain-covering herds of them in some impressive action scenes as Tartars attack. (Likely the work of second unit director Cliff Lyons who’d do much the same on the next GENGHIS KHAN/’65 bio-pic.*) Forgettable as this is as product, the pic remains infamous for its Utah shooting locations near recent atomic testing ranges. We’ll never know how much nuclear fall-out stayed in the atmosphere, but we do know that all four top-billed leads (Wayne, Susan Hayward, Pedro Armendáriz, Agnes Moorehead) developed and eventually died of cancer.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Look for a caravan-on-wheels in the Mongol campsite. The first straw-covered mobile trailer to hit the market?
DOUBLE-BILL: *Khan hasn’t fared so well on screen. The ‘65 film is a trashy hoot and the Russian art-house epic, MONGOL: THE RISE OF GENGHIS KHAN/’07, was a trilogy that never got past Chapter One.