'Design For Death' is Released

An Academy Award winner for best documentary, the film opens with a notice that..."Exhibition of confiscated Japanese film material authorized by permission of the Alien Property Custodian in the public interest under License No. LM 979"...and was assembled from hundreds of captured newsreels, historical dramas and propaganda films. While revealing the steps that Japan took that led to Pearl Harbor, it goes back 700 years to the feudal caste system, a peasant revolt suppressed after the Samurai murdered over 40,000 people, to Admiral Perry forcibly opening Japan to foreign trade, to the perversion of converting the Shinto religion of nature-worship to that of a fanatic state creed that preached the Japanese were a Master Race and the Emperor was a sun-god to be blindly obeyed. The film carried no credit for a director, while Richard Fleischer shared the Producer credit with Theron Warth.

This 48-minute cautionary documentary was the brainchild of Theodore S. Geisel, better known to generations of children as Dr. Seuss. An expert on Oriental history, Geisel and his wife Helen hoped to steer audiences clear of war by underlining the unheeded warning signs of WWII. Utilizing captured Japanese newsreel footage, the film theorizes that future wars can be averted by keeping power-hungry, nationalistic "racketeers" in check. In addition to Geisel himself, the film was narrated by Kent Smith, representing the Typical American, and by Hans Conried, as the personification of Japanese Militarism. Design for Death won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.