Born on February 17, 1931, Richard Krown grew up in the Los Angeles area and joined United Productions of America in the 1960s. At UPA, Mr. Krown worked on some of the most beloved Americanizations of Toho monster films, usually as production (or post-production) supervisor. Among his Toho monster movie credits are: Monster Zero (1965), The War of the Gargantuas (1966), Godzilla’s Revenge (1969), and Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975). Among his non-tokusatsu work at UPA are: Retreat from Kiska (1965), What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966), and Hell in the Pacific (1968). In July 2021, Mr. Krown spoke to Brett Homenick about his work on Americanizing Japanese films for UPA.
Brett Homenick: What can you tell us about your early life? When and where were you born, and where did you go to school?
Richard Krown: I was born in Los Angeles in 1931, which makes me 90, I guess. Anyhow, grew up in the L.A. area in a little town called La Crescenta. Graduated high school in Glendale. Then I went Cal Poly [California Polytechnic State University] San Luis Obispo and majored in radio and electronic engineering. Then I started working for a local radio station because I got a commercial license.
Anyhow, shortly after that, I was drafted during the Korean War, went in for the last three or four months, and worked in a little bit of television in the service. When I got out [in] 1955, I went [to] work for NBC Hollywood. After that, it goes on, too. I went to work for several other companies, ending up at UPA [United Productions of America]. Anyhow, I worked for NBC, Paramount, a company called UPA, Disney, and that was basically it, the companies I worked for.
BH: What were some of your hobbies or interests as a boy, growing up?
RK: Good question. My hobbies were in radio and electronics. That was basically it. Woodwork, maybe, but that’s basically it.
BH: When you worked for some of the other studios, like Disney and Paramount and so forth, what were some of the highlights of the projects that you worked on at those studios?
RK: That’s tough because there were so many things, Brett. I enjoyed what I did. I worked with a lot of very famous people, got to know them. Most of them, most people don’t know who they were because they’re all gone now. I started working in the industry in 1955 and then retired when I was 65, which was 1998.
BH: How did you meet and start to work with Henry Saperstein?
RK: Hank was doing a show called Ding Dong School, which was on NBC. After they dropped it, he picked it up and started producing it himself. So the first time where I worked with Hank Saperstein was during the series Ding Dong School, which was about 1965, 1967, somewhere in there.
BH: Do you know how Henry Saperstein became involved with Toho?
RK: I don’t know how he got involved with Toho. He was involved with them when I joined them.
BH: What was it like to deal with Toho in the 1960s and ’70s?
RK: I really had no direct [dealings] with Toho at all. It was mainly through, maybe, phone calls and letters and things like that.
BH: What do you remember about working on Monster Zero (1965)?
RK: Monster Zero was the first picture I worked on with Hank that we had to dub into English. Nick Adams was the American star in it. They tried, when they did these with Toho, to have at least one American known talent in it to give it that flavor and also to make it easier later on when dubbing. So that was the first one I ever dubbed. They used to call it looping; now they call it dubbing.
That was when I met a gentleman by the name of Riley Jackson. Riley had gotten the rights to and dubbed into English the first feature-length picture called I Bombed Pearl Harbor (1960). He bought the rights to that; he dubbed that into English. So, when I got around to doing the Japanese pictures, dubbing them into English, I got Riley. We became very, very good friends all the years until he died a few years ago.
He was very famous for radio, did some radio shows called Front Page Detective, Queen for a Day, and stuff like that. So Riley was a dear friend. All the dubbing I did — three, four, or five pictures — Riley either did the scripts for me or worked with me on the dubbing. Very talented man. He grew up in the radio industry in the beginning.
BH: Some new shots were inserted into this film, particularly Ms. Namikawa’s letter in English to Nick Adams’ character. Was this your shot?
RK: I had one of the secretaries in the office write it out for me in English, then I took it over to CFI Laboratories. They had a small stage, and we put it under a 35mm camera, and that’s where that came from.
BH: Did you work with Nick Adams? Even if you didn’t, what can you tell us about his involvement in the Toho films? What did he think about making them?
RK: I don’t know, but I understand he was very pleasant to work with.
BH: Why wasn’t Monster Zero released until 1970? It was made in Japan in 1965.
RK: I thought we released it in the States about that time. I’m not sure about the release date. It was in theaters for a while, but mainly it was on television.
BH: Please discuss your work on The War of the Gargantuas (1966).
RK: The script was written by a gentleman by the name of Reuben Bercovitch. He was an accountant who was a good friend of Hank’s. He loved the industry; he loved writing scripts. He wrote War of the Gargantuas. My only involvement with that is, when they brought the pieces back, we assembled it, and we had a movie. And, of course, Russ Tamblyn was the American talent in the picture. With Nick being in the movie, and Russ being in the movie, when we went to dub, we didn’t have to redub their voices, except for Russ’s.
When Russ did War of the Gargantuas, they did not record his voice very well. So we had to go into Glen Glenn Sound, who had just developed a reversal system. I don’t know if you remember, when we used to dub pictures, it was called looping. They would take a section of the movie — maybe four or five lines — they cut it into a loop, put it into a projector, and continuously run it, and they would record the line that way.
Glen Glenn came up with a system, which was reversible. In other words, you didn’t have to cut up the movie at all. You put a 1,000-foot reel in the machine, and the recordist would forward and backward the scene automatically; you didn’t have to worry about cutting it apart. So Glen Glenn was very instrumental in getting those pictures dubbed.
BH: Do you remember any of the voice actors or the dubbers that you worked with on any of these pictures?
RK: I remember very vividly because I worked with Riley, Riley had worked in radio for years. There used to be a lot of radio shows. I suggested we use radio actors instead of off-the-street actors because they were so used to using their voice on radio and not on television. I felt they were better voice actors than a regular actor. That was my hang-up, but it worked out well. They were people who were very famous in radio.
BH: There were also shots made specifically for the American release, particularly when Gaira [the Green Gargantua] spits out a woman’s clothes after eating her. Did you do this one?
RK: No. Was that not in the Japanese version? When I saw that, I said, “That’s not going to go over big over here.” And they said, “Well, that’s a Japanese symbolism type of thing.” They said that that shot was something symbolic to the Japanese. I’m not sure if we took that out of the movie or not, the U.S. version. I was surprised to see it, very honestly. I don’t recall if we removed it for [the] U.S. release.
[speaking specifically about the shot of the woman’s clothes falling to the ground]
Brett, you caught me. I don’t remember that at all. I remember the monster, after chewing [her] up, spitting it out and hitting the ground. But I don’t remember the clothes. All I remember is that he spit it out, it was chewed-up clothes, and [the scene cuts to a shot of] flowers. That’s what I remember. I don’t remember being in the loop, very honestly. Maybe somebody later on put it on it; I don’t know.
[Note: After sending Mr. Krown the video clip, he confirmed that he did not film that scene.]
BH: Can you share your memories of Russ Tamblyn?
RK: Russ Tamblyn was interesting. They shot the film in Japan, and we had to redo his lines. He wasn’t happy doing that. It was very obvious he was not happy doing that. In a couple of days, we did all his lines, but he was not very sociable.
BH: Could you tell us why some of Akira Ifukube’s original score was replaced by library tracks?
RK: A lot of the soundtracks, the Japanese music was very march-like. We thought it was inappropriate for an American audience. So we’d go back and replaced the music with more Western type of music. One of the main titles, the original main title music was a very Japanese type of [marching] band music. It was not appropriate. So we dug up another song we liked, and that was the reason the main title music was changed.
BH: Do you know why Kipp Hamilton was used in Gargantuas? Did you work with her at all?
RK: Kipp Hamilton was the result of a auditioning a lot of ladies who could sing, and she sang just one song in the movie, as you know. I met her, I think, once when she came to the studio, but I never had any kind of relationship with her.
BH: Around this time, What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966) was released. What do you know about the genesis of this movie?
RK: It was originally a Toho picture with the same Toho cast. It was called [International Secret Police:] Key of Keys (1965), which meant nothing. It was Hank’s idea to throw out all the Japanese dialogue and just rewrite the story as a mystery type of thing. It was decided to make that kind of a movie out of it.
BH: What work did you do on Tiger Lily?
RK: I was involved in the editing, everything, from day one. The scenes with Woody were shot in New York. We shot additional scenes in Hollywood at Allied Artists’ studio. I directed, and we shot it. The problem with the movie, when they got through with it, and we added the voice track, [was that] it was very short. I think it was like 75 minutes.
Back in those days, a movie house would not run a movie, I don’t think, [unless] it was 85 minutes or something like that. Anyhow, we had to come up with some ideas how to lengthen the movie, and that’s where some of those Woody scenes came from. I remember sitting in several meetings in Hank Saperstein’s office with Woody — you know, how are we going to lengthen this picture up?
So we came up with the thing in the very end where he’s eating the apple, and the girl’s stripping. That’s my voice; that’s not Woody’s voice. Because we were at an insert stage for shooting small scenes, it was very noisy, so we couldn’t properly record Woody’s voice. So, when it came around to replacing Woody’s voice, he was not available to do it. So that was my voice doing the last lines of the movie. So wherever Woody’s in the picture live is to lengthen it out. The part of the picture where the projector stops, and there’s silhouettes of Woody and a girl, that was also my idea, too, how to lengthen that out. So a lot of stuff in that movie belongs to me.
BH: Do you have any Woody Allen memories?
RK: Woody wasn’t sure about the picture. When it first came out, he was not happy with it, except there was a reviewer in New York who was the big reviewer, I think, for Time magazine or something like that. She loved it. Well, that completely changed everything. All of a sudden, Woody liked the picture, and it did fairly well in the theaters.
[The film critic was] Judith Crist. She was a very famous reviewer for movies. Those are the Woody memories. I had a good relationship with Woody. We got along very well. He never liked Hollywood, and he did not like coming out to Hollywood to work. He was very obvious about it, but he knew it had to be done, and we did it. He doesn’t talk about the picture too much in his biographies or anything like that.
BH: How about Hell in the Pacific (1968)? Please talk about this film project.
RK: Hell in the Pacific was a result of a co-production with Toho that Hank and the guys at Toho wanted to do. Toshiro Mifune, of course, was a big Japanese star. So we had to find somebody who could play a G.I., and of course that turned out to be Lee Marvin. That was shot on [a] Palau island out in the Pacific that saw combat. In order to house the crew, they rented a cruise ship from a Chinese cruise ship company [that was] anchored in the harbor of Palau. That’s where everybody stayed that was from the States. They shot it.
My entire responsibility with that movie, Brett, was, when the film came to Hollywood, it was processed at Technicolor Labs. I had the responsibility of every afternoon going over to Sam Goldwyn Studio in their big theater and looking at the dailies. That was my responsibility — only responsibility on Hell in the Pacific. I would then fax them — there was no email back then — a report how the footage looked, if it was OK, any problems with it. So that was my total responsibility on Hell in the Pacific.
Originally, the ending was, the American and the Japanese, Mifune and Lee Marvin, got into a terrible argument. A Life magazine was lying there with images of dead soldiers; I think they were Japanese soldiers. Mifune got irate; he started yelling at Marvin. So they had a very heavy-duty argument. At the end of the argument, they looked at each other and decided, rather than shoot each other, they would walk off in their own direction. Mifune walked off in the direction where the Japanese were, and Lee Marvin walked in the direction where the American troops were supposed to be.
Very artistic ending, right? Hank didn’t like it; a lot of people didn’t like it. But, after viewing [it], we saw it didn’t work. So we came up with a different ending. The ending was, they would be sitting there, arguing, and you’d hear the sound of a mortar shell coming in, and all of a sudden the whole screen would blow up. Supposedly, they were killed in the explosion. That’s how the movie now ends. But, if you saw it, that’s what you saw. You did not see the artistic ending of them both walking away from each other off into the distance.
BH: When you were reviewing the dailies, did you ever notice any issues, or was it all very smooth?
RK: One time, I thought there was a minor focus problem on one of the cameras. I think it either turned out to be the projection; I’m not sure. But I did [fax] them that it looked a little soft. I never heard anything after that. So there was never any problem with exposure. There was a lot of footage, Brett. I will tell you, one day, it was about two hours of viewing bamboo being thrown off a mountainside into the ocean. Now that was what they made their float out of. (laughs) An entire day of shooting — I couldn’t believe it! I sat there for a couple of hours watching this! But it was interesting.
BH: Could you tell us anything about Toshiro Mifune or Lee Marvin?
RK: I never met [director] John Boorman, never met Lee Marvin, never met Toshiro Mifune.
BH: What are your memories of Godzilla’s Revenge (1969)?
RK: Godzilla’s Revenge, I think we did a couple of things on. We just recut it a couple of ways. That’s what I mostly remember about that.
BH: Please tell us about working on Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975).
RK: Terror of Mechagodzilla, that’s one, I guess, we dubbed into English. I don’t think there were any changes with that.
BH: Bob Conn released Terror of Mechagodzilla in the U.S. Do you know anything about him?
RK: I don’t know who Bob Conn was. I’m not familiar with that at all. When Hank sold the company and gave up the rights to the pictures, they went to a lot of different people.
BH: Would you happen to know of any unused ideas or movie proposals that never got made with Toho?
RK: I think a lot of stuff went back and forth, Brett, but I’m not sure what it was. The scripts would go back and forth, but nothing really happened.
BH: Generally speaking, do you have any memories of Glen Glenn [Sound]?
RK: They were one of the top sound-recording stages in Hollywood. Glen Glenn and then Goldwyn and a couple of studios had the higher-rated recording studios.
BH: How about Reuben Bercovitch?
RK: Reuben Bercovitch was a friend of Hank’s. He was an accountant, but he loved writing. He wrote War of the Gargantuas.
BH: What about Riley Jackson?
RK: Riley was a dear, dear friend till he died. He owned a TV station in Victorville, California. I helped him put it on the air. It’s a long story, but he always wanted to own a TV station. He got the construction permit from the Federal Communications Commission [FCC] for Victorville, California. He completely financed the whole thing himself, put it on the air, and I helped him with a lot of stuff, helped him get some equipment. He was a happy camper with that.
He had his TV station, and it was sold after Riley passed, so I don’t know who owns it now. I haven’t seen his wife since the day he passed, and that was the last time I saw her. They owned a home on the water down in Newport Beach, Balboa area. Nice, nice man. I can’t say enough nice things about him.
BH: Did he always write the scripts for the monster movies that were dubbed?
BH: When did he die?
RK: When my first wife died, he gave the eulogy for her. A lot of people [were] there. My daughter wrote the eulogy, and I called him up. He loved my wife, my family, and he came out. The night before the funeral, he said, “I want to rehearse this with you.” He came out — it’s an hour to get to my house from where he was. He came out with his wife. We sat there for 30 minutes and went through it several times. So, the next day, when he read the eulogy — he was an old-time radio guy. It was funny, to a point. But he was so good. So I’ve tried to give him credit where credit is due because, after he died, not a lot was said about him, but he was so instrumental.
Another thing about Riley Jackson, the very first helicopter that went around L.A. was owned by Riley Jackson. He leased it to KNBC. His helicopter did the traffic reports for L.A. So that shows you the guy was very innovative.
He died of cancer. I think I was one of the last people to see him. To show you how close we were, Brett, we had lunch at least two or three times a week together. We’d go into a restaurant owned by an actress. It was in North Hollywood, and all the old-time Western stars would come there. They all had lunch; they all had their nameplates on the parking lot. There were special parking places.
One of the guys was Gene Autry. Gene Autry was there almost every day for lunch. He sat by himself, and one day I said, “Riley, why does he sit by himself?” He said, “He likes to be left alone, doesn’t want to be bothered.” I said to Riley, “Can I go over and say hello?” When I was a kid, and I was in the Cub Scouts, we went to see a live radio show at CBS Hollywood, and it was The Gene Autry Show! I said, “I’d like to go over [and say] how much I enjoyed [listening to it. I was] 11 or 12 years old then.” He said, “No, just throw him a high sign and say hi.”
So that’s what I did, but I never met Gene Autry. But at least four or five of these very famous old Western stars would be there every day for lunch. But, anyhow, Riley and I would sit by ourselves, too, sometimes with these guys. It was an experience for me, Brett. It really was. I think back, [there were] some wonderful people I met that way. They were all egoless, as far as I was concerned. They were so funny, and people would come over to the table and get to shake their hands, and they were fine with it.
BH: How about film editor Frederic Knudtson?
RK: His dad was an editor, a very popular editor in Hollywood. Nice young man — I worked with him on a couple of pictures. Very nice. I never met his dad.
BH: Last but not least, what about Henry Saperstein?
RK: Hank Saperstein, interesting guy. Grew up in Chicago. His father’s name was Aaron Saperstein [who] owned theaters in Chicago. When the big movie studios like MGM, Warner Bros., had their own theaters, they would not give any of their new-release movies to these small theaters. There was a lot of them across the state. It wasn’t just Aaron Saperstein’s; it was others’. So Aaron and a group of people went to Washington in front of Congress and felt there was a legal issue there and that they were being restricted, and that the movies were only being played in the theaters that owned the movie. He got it turned around so that all the theaters [could] run the movies, and that is when they closed up a lot of the studio-owned theaters.
Anyhow, Hank worked with his dad; he was a projectionist for a while for his dad. Then he got into the merchandising business. That was his first thing. Now, UPA also had Mr. Magoo; he owned that, and he owned the UPA studio. He did a lot of merchandising. [Some] of his clients [were] Debbie Reynolds, Hugh O’Brian, and Elvis Presley. Hank handled their merchandises with them. He did a very good job for them. There was a lot of other people, too, but I don’t recall.
I guess Ding Dong School was the first time he got into television. Then he bought UPA. UPA was in bankruptcy. They were a very famous studio, owned by some very talented people who were very bad businesspeople. They were ready to go into bankruptcy, even though they had Mr. Magoo [and] Gerald McBoing-Boing. He had a deal with the cartoonist who did Dick Tracy to do Dick Tracy cartoons. So he was doing Mr. Magoo cartoons, Gerald McBoing-Boing, and Dick Tracy. UPA was very successful, but they did not handle their finances well. Hank bought the company and all the characters associated with UPA.
So, when I went onboard with him permanently — this was after we did a movie called [The Big] T.N.T. [Show] (1966). Do you remember the T.A.M.I. Show (1964) at all? The T.A.M.I. Show was a musical. It was a musical concert with all the great rock and roll [acts] in the 1960s. [It] had the Rolling Stones — all the big names were in it. We shot that in Santa Monica. We did the T.A.M.I. Show, and it was so successful in the theaters, Hank decided to do a follow-up, and we shot that in Hollywood at a theater. The opening act was an actor by the name of David McCallum. He was in a series called [The Man from U.N.C.L.E.] on television, which was very successful.
Anyhow, the opening act was David McCallum walking in the theater and conducting the orchestra. In this show was him [and] The Byrds. The producer of the film was Phil Spector. Phil produced it, and he brought in all the acts. Anyhow, I went to work with Hank right after The [Big] T.N.T. Show because he was in the throes of doing What’s Up, Tiger Lily? So he hired me to come in initially to do the post-production on it. That’s when I got involved with him and Woody and everybody else. That’s when I started with Hank full-time was when he did What’s Up, Tiger Lily? I’d worked for him for, like, 25 years.
In 1976, Disney hired me to come in and redo The Mickey Mouse Club. Through the years, I got to know a lot of people, obviously, and a lot of them respected me. When it came around to redoing The Mickey Mouse Club, they needed to do a pilot. So they hired me to shoot the pilot, which we did down at Disneyland. Based upon the pilot — of course, who’s going to turn down The Mickey Mouse Club, right? — they called me and said, “Would you like to come to work full-time? But you can’t direct because you don’t have a Directors Guild card. But we’d like you to come over as production manager or production supervisor or whatever.”
So I left UPA. Hank was unhappy. Went to Disney, and, three months after I was there, I had the opportunity to direct a couple of things. At that point, John Bloss, who was the production manager for the studio, said, “I’m going to get you into the Directors Guild.” So Disney sponsored my entering the Directors Guild and became a full-time director, which was a big deal for me. From that point on, I was directing segments of The New Mickey Mouse Club.
It didn’t do terribly well because it really did not follow the format of the original show. After the show stopped, there was no more room for me at Disney. Hank called me and said, “I’d like you to come back to work.” He said,” We can’t work without you here.” He was very honest, and he said, “The three years you were gone, we really had a lot of trouble.” I would go over there occasionally, Brett, when they called me to help them out. So he hired me back full-time, and I stayed there till right after Hank died.
They sold the company to somebody back East. They took over everything. I think the full staff, when I left, was, like, five people. When I first went to work there, it was, like, 40 or 50, to show you the difference. When they were doing all their animated Mr. Magoo for the theaters, I guess there was over 150 people working there. Back in those years, when a theater had a Mr. Magoo cartoon, it was on the marquee. They were so popular back then, that’s what drew in a lot of people to the theaters. So I remember going to theater and seeing Mr. Magoo. It was a very popular character. Through the years, organizations came in and complained about the fact [that] we were making fun of a man who had a sight problem. So it became a situation [where] he became very unpopular, so they stopped using him for that.
The gist of Mr. Magoo was the situations he got into because he was near-sighted. A lot of people didn’t like that, so it eventually faded away.
I try to keep copies of everything I did, [but] it got to be ridiculous after a while. I have no room anymore. I’ve got VHS [tapes] of a few of the Godzilla pictures. But the very first one I worked on, I think it was after we did What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, was Monster Zero. We hired Riley Jackson to write the dialogue that had to be done because the Japanese dialogue did not make sense sometimes.
He also, as I said, worked in radio. Back in the 1930s, 1940s, these [the voice actors on Monster Zero] were very famous radio actors. They were nice people. I felt so honored when I worked with them because, when I was a child, that’s when they were on the radio. We’d listen to I Love a Mystery at night, things like that. They were like gods to me. It was [such a] pleasure to work with them. They could do things things with words that a director really couldn’t get out of them; they were so good with it. I’d like to give them all credit because they were so nice to work with. But that’s where I first met Riley.
BH: Which of the movies that we discussed today was your favorite to work on?
RK: The first movie I did would have to be it. It was called One Potato, Two Potato (1964). When I worked at KTLA Hollywood, one of the directors there was a guy named Larry Peerce. Larry’s dad was Jan Peerce, the opera singer. He was a very famous opera singer. Larry and I became very close friends. I had a lot of close friends, Brett.
Anyhow, Larry said, “The only way I’m going to get out of doing these television commercials and stuff like that is to do a movie.” He had the money to do it, so he said, “I’m going to look for a script.” He found a script; it was called “Shades of Black and White.” It was the first time a black and white kissed on the screen in an American movie.
He got the script; he called me at home. I lived out in the Valley; he lived in Beverly Hills. “Dick, I want you to come over and get this script. I want you to read it tonight.” It was, like, one o’clock in the morning. So I go over [there], and he says, “Take it home and read it.” It was fantastic. It was the story of a white girl with a young daughter who moved into a town; she went to work for a factory. She met this black guy; they fell in love. That’s the story.
Anyhow, we changed the title from “Shades of Black and White” to One Potato, Two Potato. Now don’t ask me why; it’s what Larry wanted. The opening scene of the movie is kids in a playground playing “One Potato, Two Potato.” So Larry wanted that to be the title of the movie. It had nothing to do with the movie
We finished the movie, and I supervised the editing. We had some screenings; everybody that saw it loved it. But the problem was, a black and white kissed on the screen. So no major American distributor would take it on. There was a reviewer at Variety. [It] was Tone [the pen name of critic Tony Scott] who saw it. He wrote a smashing review about it, and he got Larry in touch with a distributor in England who took it on immediately. They entered it into [the] Cannes Film Festival. I guess people went crazy.
The movie did not win; it was one of the last two or three finalists. But Barbara Barrie, who was the star, got the Best Actress Award. Once that happened, there were lines outside the theaters in New York where it ran. People would get in line hours before just to see the movie. So I’ll have to say that would be because I got into motion pictures that way from television. That would have to be the best. I look at it today, and I say, “Oh, jeez, why did we do that?” But it still holds up. Once in a while, it shows up on TV.
BH: How about among the Japanese movies? Which one was your favorite, or which one do you think was the best?
RK: I guess the first one, Monster Zero. I sort of like that one. It starred Nick Adams. You start looking at the Toho Godzilla movies back then, Brett, as you know, you see the same actors over and over again — the same producer, the same director. It was like a club. I would say Monster Zero. Even though War of the Gargantuas was written by Reuben, an American, I still like Monster Zero. It wasn’t [called] Monster Zero originally; it was “Invasion of the Astros.”
BH: Why did you change it?
RK: They didn’t like it. They didn’t think that would sell in the theaters, I think.
BH: You mentioned serving in Korea. Was there anything that you’d like to share about your war experience in Korea?
RK: I was always stateside. I was stateside during the entire thing. I was 12,000 miles from the nearest rifle shot. I went through basic training; that’s how I lost most of my hearing. Back then, when you went through basic training for the Second World War [or] Korea, they did not give you ear protection. So you went through all of the explosions and gunfire and everything — 12 to 16 weeks, whatever it was. And they’d laugh! They said, “If you live to be over 75 years old, you’re going to be deaf.”
So, when I was in my late 30s, I went to an ear doctor. I started to have some hearing problems. He says to me, “Mr. Krown, were you in the service?” I says, “Yeah.” He says, “When?” I says, “I was in the last part of the Korean War.” “Did you fire an M1 rifle?” I said, “Yeah.” He says, “OK, you’re going to start losing your hearing in your right ear, then your left ear.” Sure as hell, Brett, slowly. I have maybe 15% hearing and no intelligibility unless I wear a hearing aid.
So what I did was in the service, went through basic training, and was at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, for a while. And then I found out that they were opening a television division at the Signal Corps Pictorial Center [a former Paramount facility where Army training films were produced] in Long Island City. I sent a letter to the guy who was in charge of that and said I’d worked in television.
I [was at] Fort Monmouth, and I get orders to go Bremerhaven in Germany. I said, “Oh, God.” In the meantime, I’d sent the letter to New York. Two days later, I get a letter saying, “Your orders were changed. You’re now going to Signal Corps Pictorial Center.”
Got there, and they were building mobile units to do television demonstrations, how TV could be used in combat. So we built the units, and we went to, like, 12 or 14 different stations around the East Coast and did television demonstrations. When I got out of the service, a friend of mine was working for NBC Hollywood, and he said, “Come into town. They’re going to hire you.”
So I went into NBC Hollywood — they were not in Burbank then. The guy interviewed me. He said, “We want you. We need people with television experience.” So that’s when I went to work for NBC and got involved in a lot of technical stuff. I could go on for hours.
That was my service experience. The worst thing that happened to me is, I lost my hearing. Could be worse, I suppose. I met a lot of guys who came back from Korea who had been prisoners and badly wounded. Boy, I tell you, it was an eye-opener. I belong to the Korean War Veterans and all that stuff. I belong to a group that’s slowly dying off.
On Americanizing the Toho war film Retreat from Kiska (1965)
Kiska was one of the pictures that Hank Saperstein acquired from Toho in a huge package of pictures. When I went to work for Hank full-time, as I told you, I started with What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, but I would go into the projection room an hour, a couple of hours, every day, and he wanted me to look at all these pictures. There was a lot of them. I remember Kiska very vividly because I was so impressed with it. It was so much like the old war movies and things like that.
I liked it. I liked how it was directed; I liked the cinematography. The only thing bad about it was, some of the miniatures were not wonderful. But the story line was what was really interesting because most people had never heard this story. I mentioned to Hank, “We gotta do something with that.” He said, “Come up with some ideas.”
It laid around for about five or six years, and we had a sales manager by the name of Lee Cannon, who was a World War II Marine vet. He’s the guy who brought the Navajo code talkers to interest for everybody because he was involved with them in a war. Anyhow, Lee knew about the picture. I guess he was talking to somebody at NBC Burbank about this great picture, and the guy says, “Well, we’d like to see [it].” “Well, it’s in Japanese.” So we decided to dub it into English.
But, before that, several times we had ideas. We would go out and shoot an American version. We’d cut to a battleship or a cruiser, and there’d be an American admiral, and he’d be on a radio or something like that, going back and forth. We started interviewing people, and we had actors come in. We’d even had Dana Andrews come in. He was a little bit older then, [which] of course wasn’t appropriate. He liked the picture, but we dropped the idea because I felt it [would] just not work for the picture and not look good. So we let it go away.
Anyhow, we decided to dub it into English. Riley Jackson wrote the script, and at that point we were thinking about how we were going to cast it. We got George Takei to do the Admiral Omura part, and I decided, if we could find Japanese actors, it would be better for the promotion of the film, and it would maybe [add] a little bit of accent to it, but nothing terrible.
Anyhow, where do you find them? Well, in 1965, something started in L.A. called the East West Players, which was a theatrical group made up of totally Asian people, mainly Japanese. A friend of mine went to them, and we started asking some of those guys, and they were great! And, fortunately, like George Takei, some of them spoke better English than I did. Anyhow, we cast all these guys, and we went to Ryder Sound Service in Hollywood. By now, they had picked up the same system that Glen Glenn had developed, the foward-reverse record system.
It took me about a week or so to record it. We recorded it, and it was tough because the guys were actors, and they were not dubbers. I had to make my mind up if I wanted a performance or to be in sync. It was a little tough because people looking at it would be distracted by the fact that that there was overlap, or it was missing. I decided to go with a performance because I felt that was more important to it. The actors were much, much happier about that because they were not dubbers. To sit there and try to put their words and performance into a certain time segment didn’t fly with them, and they were much, much happier with that.
So we did that, and it didn’t turn out that bad. Long story short: Lee Cannon took it over to NBC Burbank where Bob Howard was the manager. He looked at it, and he said, “We want to put this on the air,” which we were very pleased. He got James Shigeta to do breaks on it. In other words, the movie would run for a while, they’d do a commercial, come back, and Jim Shigeta would be there. They built a very nice set, and he would bring people up to date on what was going on, sort of talk about the movie a little bit. It worked out quite well. I was over there when they did the James Shigeta segments. They put the thing together, and it went on the air on August 24, 1973, in L.A.
It was reviewed in the L.A. Times by a reviewer by the name of Charles Champlin. He was the big reviewer for the L.A. Times. He liked it; he said it’s good. He was a little concerned about the dubbing. He gave it a very nice review in the L.A. Times.
Anyhow, it aired on that date, got good reviews. That was the last time it was on the air or seen that I was familiar with. I have a 3/4-inch cassette of the whole movie that I dubbed. For some reason, it doesn’t have the main title, but it’s the entire movie. I ran some of it the other day, and I enjoyed it. It was sort of fun.
That’s basically the story. People were not aware of this story that the Japanese sent an entire fleet up right through the American blockade and took the garrison off the island. That’s really the story of the whole thing.
BH: It also reminded you of All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), correct?
RK: Yeah. Reminded me because that was black and white and a similar story. Lew Ayres was the star of that, and he was a friend of mine because I met Lew years after he did All Quiet on the Western Front. I worked with him on a couple of things.
BH: In the screening room, when you were watching the Toho films, did any of the films that you watched stand out?
RK: It was subtitled. They had put overlaid subtitles on it, so there was a little bit of a story line to it.
They [the other movies] were secret-agent type of things. All the same actors, same directors, same writers. [A] Keg of Powder (1964) — does that mean anything to you? Key of Keys was the basic movie for Tiger Lily. Practically all of that was used on Tiger Lily. But there was Tiger Fang (1964).
That’s basically the story of Kiska. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do with it, and we sort of lucked out. It was interesting that NBC Burbank decided to run it, but it was good they did, and they got a lot of accolades for it. I don’t know what happened with it after that. I think the version that NBC aired with James Shigeta stayed in the NBC vaults. I don’t think it was ever seen anyplace else again. We did have the movie in English available on videotape, and I’m not sure if any other television stations picked it up or not.
It was a challenge because the actors were all very good. They were very nervous, and they wanted to do the right thing. Tried to make it as easy as possible for everybody. George was fantastic — great actor.
BH: Was that your hand [holding the English-language letter in Monster Zero], or do you remember?
RK: I don’t remember, but probably was my hand, yeah. I just know we took it over to CFI, put it under a 35 title camera, and shot it.
BH: Did you hire Riley Jackson from outside UPA, or was he already with UPA at the time?
RK: Because he had dubbed [I Bombed Pearl Harbor], his name came up to help us when we started dubbing, I think, Monster Zero. That’s when I first met Riley. We hired him to do that, and we became very good friends after that. We worked on a lot of things together. We became very close. He wrote the screenplay for Monster Zero. He helped me dub it because he had dubbed I Bombed Pearl Harbor. He was an old radio director, as I told you, and he brought in some that people he knew from years before. It went very smoothly.
BH: In the War of the Gargantuas dub, Russ Tamblyn has a lot of jokey or sarcastic lines.
RK: A lot of that happened. We had a script, but people sometimes would throw things in that were different.
BH: So those were more like Russ Tamblyn ad libs?
RK: As you know, he was a highly talented and respected movie actor who had done some great movies. I think he had an Academy Award nomination for one of his films. When Russ arrived, he was a bit tired, but, after a while, we connected, and he jumped right in with suggestions, and it went very smoothly. That was 55 years ago.