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Historical drama tops catastrophe in ratings battle By Barry J. Schlacter TOKYO (AP) - Filming the total destruction of Japan wasn't easy, and the television network that did it found it still couldn't get all the nation's TV viewers on the edges of their seats to watch. Actually, the destruction went on for months uiitil a TV news announcer appeared .with tears streaking down both cheeks and composed himself long enough to tell a fearful nation, "Fellow countrymen, sayonara. Farewell... The picture on the tube jumped as the studio was thumped asunder by a powerful earthquake and the TV screen momentarily went blank. When the picture returned, a tableau of destruction and horror was laid before the viewers' eyes. One by one, each of Tokyo's landmarks, from giant skyscrapers to mammoth transmitting towers, tumbled down, covering the streets with rubble and snuffing out the lives of millions of the people in this Japanese capital of 11 million people. What occurred next on prime time Sunday night television was an impossible act to follow -- or even repeat. The Japanese islands, ravaged for 26 weeks by earthquake and fire, slowly slipped beneath the water and settled permanently on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. And the television series called "The Submersion of Japan" came to an end this spring. It had not been a big success. Chillingly authentic struction looked chillingly authentic at times. In one episode, powerful tremors struck the picturesque old city of Kamakura and its giant statue of Buddha shook and trembled before being swallowed up by the earth. The city's terrified residents tried to escape by boat only to be called back -- too late -- with news of an approaching tidal wave. Kyoto, spared by American bombers during World War II because of its rich cultural heritage, lost each of its famous temples and castles down gaping chasms before another tidal wave turned the ancient city into a vast watery grave. Â· Osaka's eight-story castle fared somewhat better in a subsequent episode. After that industrial city was damaged by a series of earthquakes, yet another tidal wave rushed toward the mammoth castle, lifted it up and gently floated it away. The network, one of five in Japan, had believed that bad news would be good business. Two years ago, Japan's novelists and movie- makers turned to themes of doom, and found an eager market among the nation's 110 million people, already melancholy over an economic downturn. "Submersion" started out with 18 per cent of the Sunday evening audience. By the time Japan had become sunken property, however, only 13 per cent remained. Massive evacuation The story has the United Nations organize a massive evacuation that makes Dunkirk look like a boy Scout canoe trip and manages to save millions when Japan's final doom becomes apparent. The population is divided up and given shelter in the Unied States, the Soviet Union, Canada, Australia and elsewhere. But our hero and heroine, a young nurse and research assistant at a seismological agency, are left abandoned at a Christian church on the last sliver of Japan still above water. As their hands clasp for the last time, the series ends -- perhaps quenching once and for all Japan's two-year-long doom bomb. Lost interest "The Submersion of Japan" TV series was adapted from a popular science fiction novel of the same name. The book sold more than 3.5 million copies and a feature-length film soon followed. If the shows' popularity wasn't all that Tokyo Broadcasting System had hoped for, one reason might have been the acting. The story of the ever-eroding archipelago seldom got away from melodrama. But the special effects were something else. It took two days' shooting for two minutes of suitably shocking footage, said officials at Tokyo Broadcasting. Each installment was preceded and followed by a special announcement informing viewers they were watching a fictional account -- not newsreel film -- because the de- The movie ultimately became the biggest earning Japanese film in 1974. It helped spawn a host of books, an "After the Apocalypse" magazine and another doom movie, this one about the end of the world. The Japanese archipelago was never a very secure piece of real estate - what with countless floods, landslides and earthquakes throughout history. But after the two year media blitz, the Japanese seem to have lost interest in the theme. And "Submersion" lost the TV ratings battle to a historical drama of sex, violence and court intrigue in 17th Century Japan. Details of the "destruction" of Japan are carefully attended to buy a technician in a Tokyo film studio. ^Question Box Q. -- Larry Ragman is my favorite and I have a reason . . . he looks a lot like my husband. 1 would like to send him a letter. Where do I address it? - R.T., Avenel, N.J. A. -- Since Larry Hagman is not currently starring in a TV series, try addressing him care of the Screen Actors Guild, Hollywood, Calif. * * * (J. -- I enjoyed a John Wayne movie titled "Donovan's Reef" on TV and I especially liked the music. Who wrote it? - R.H., Laurel, Del. A. -- The music in "Donovan's Reef" was composed and arranged by Cyril Mockridge, who incorporated some well- known, old Hawaiian melodies into the theme of his musical score. Q. -- I may be way behind the times, but I am still an avid Tom Jones fan and I would love to know if he is going to nave a TV show again soon. -- R.E.W., Albany, N.Y. A. -- Tom Jones is hitting the summer theater circuit at present, so it doesn't look as if he will be headlining his own TV show in the immediate future. However, you can see Tom Jones do his stuff on the ABC special, "Salute to Lew Grade" on July 13. * * * Q. -1 saw the movie, "Boom," on TV with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Was this based on the play by Tennessee Williams, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof? - R. B. .Wichita, Kans. A. -- "Boom" was based on Tennessee Williams' play, "fbe Milk Train Doesn| Stop Here Anymore," which was pr sented in two versions on Broadway.. | one starring Hermione Baddeley (Mr Naugutuck in "Maude") and the other] the late Tallulah Bankhead in the ro' played in the film by Elizabeth Taylo "Cat on a Tin Roof" was also filme with Elizabeth Taylor playing the role o Maggie! Â· . * * Q. -- Where can I get a picture of I entire family in "The Little House tbe Prairie"? I love this series. - P.H.| Sacramento, Calif. A. -- Address your request to NBC ductions, "Little House on the Prairie,'! care of Paramount, 5451 Marathon St.| Hollywood, Calif. /fe CHARLESTON,W. VA. July. 6,',1975,--SunUa\ '