Movie: The Viking
Casualties: 27 people including movie director killed in a dynamite explosion.
Movie set location: Horse Islands, off the coast of Newfoundland
The Viking depicted a rather dramatic story of a seal-hunting expedition along the coast of Newfoundland in Canada.
The movie was famous for using for the first time in history technology that allowed to feature sound and dialogue recorded on filming location.
After the majority of the movie was finished director decided that additional shots of Canadian icy wastelands need to be produced. He boarded SS Viking to film ice floes, icebergs, and some gruesome and incredibly violent footage of seal hunting. Days later the ship got trapped in the ice. As the crew was preparing to free that vessel with dynamite charges an accident in the powder room happened. 25 crates of dynamite killed 27 crewmembers and destroyed the ship in the gargantuan explosion.
Three months later the movie was released with the footage that was ready prior to the catastrophic sea journey but didn’t find critical or financial success.
Movie: The Conqueror
Casualties: 46 people including John Wayne exposed to nuclear bomb radiation!
Movie set location: St. George, Utah
The Conqueror is not a great movie. John Wayne had an enormous talent but him stepping-in the role of Genghis Khan was one of the biggest miss-casting in the Golden Age of Hollywood.
The Conqueror was filmed in St. George, Utah downwind from the nuclear testing site. That is a next level toxic environment in the workplace by any standard. During few weeks of filming, many of the crew developed cancer due to extensive radiation exposure. One of them was John Wayne, who developed later a terminal lung cancer.
It is said that that Geiger counter cracked so loud on The Conqueror film set in St. George, Utah that John Wayne thought it is broken. Permit for filming in the hazardous location was given either way with federal government reassurance that location is perfectly safe. Approximately 100,000 people who lived in the three-state fallout zone north and east of the testing site have very high cancer rates to this day.
Movie: The Roar
Casualties: 70+ crew members seriously injured by predatory animals.
Movie set location: Soledad Canyon in California
The Roar was described as “plea for the preservation of African wildlife meshed with an adventure-horror tale which aims to be a kind of Jaws of the jungle.” The plot follows a family who is attacked by a range of ravening jungle animals at the secluded home of their keeper.
Director decided to use 150 untrained free-roaming lions, leopards, tigers, cheetahs and other big cats, not to mention several large and ill-tempered elephants on set. Crew members had constant contact with the animals. Production was troubled and took 11 years. During this time 70 crew members sustained life-threatening injuries ranging from gangrene to bone fractures to scalpings. The injuries were really gruesome. Jan de Bont, the cinematographer had his scalp lifted by a lion, resulting in 220 stitches. Melanie Griffith was clawed by a lion in her face. She received 50 stitches. Doctors feared she would be disfigured and lose an eye, but she recovered. Doron Kauper, Assistant Director had a nearly fatal encounter with a lion. His throat was bitten open, his jaw was bitten, his ear was almost ripped off. He had injuries in the head, chest, and thigh area. Director Noel Marshall was clawed by a cheetah and bitten by lions multiple times. Eventually, he was diagnosed with gangrene. Recovery from the injuries took him several years.
The film was released theatrically in Europe in 1981 without financial success. Many crewmembers later admitted that they resigned during filming as they didn’t want to come back to the movie set location.