The movie was panned by reviewers as overpriced and poorly-acted. Filmed over five years, Inchon lost an estimated 44.1 million USD. One of the major financial backers of Inchon was the Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, the church's founder, was a "Special Advisor" to the film. After hearing that the movie was backed by the Unification Church, the United States Department of Defense, which had supplied 1,500 troops as extras, withdrew support for the movie.
The story of how Sun Myung Moon became involved in movie-making is almost certainly apocryphal: One day, Sun Myung Moon began crying and could not stop. To raise his spirits he took a trip to the movie theatre and the crying stopped. He saw this as a sign from God and resolved to make his own motion picture.
The reverend united with a Japanese businessman, Matsusaburo Sakaguchi, who wanted to put his money into a film. He proposed a multi-million dollar epic on the life of Jesus Christ; Jesus of Nazareth had recently been well-received. But Sun Myung Moon had other ideas. He remembered the UN forces landing at Inchon, and how the mastermind behind the landings, General Douglas MacArthur, must have been inspired by God.
From the start it was clear Inchon would not be a cheap enterprise. The cost was to be split more or less down the middle, with Matsusaburo Sakaguchi putting up half the money, and Sun Myung Moon covering the rest from his personal fortune. But neither could have foreseen the disasters that would eventually make it - for the time - one of the most expensive motion pictures ever made.
To shoot the movie they chose British director Terence Young, a veteran of three James Bond films and the successful adaptation of Wait Until Dark. The lead role of General Douglas MacArthur was given to Laurence Olivier, at the time experiencing something of a renaissance as a movie star. Olivier was to be paid one million dollars for his work, but would eventually earn more as the film went over schedule. Ben Gazzara would receive $450,000 for a secondary role, and Toshiro Mifune, Richard Roundtree and David Janssen completed the primary cast.
Disasters that beset the production included:
- A typhoon that destroyed a recreation of the lighthouse at Inchon, requiring it to be rebuilt at huge cost.
- The beach landings at Inchon had to be redone after an assistant director accidentally sent the ships in the wrong direction, which ended up costing $2 million.
- The scene where General Douglas MacArthur greets the crowds in his limousine had to be shot three times. The first time, there were not enough people in the crowd. The second time, the shots did not match the first version. Finally, the producers hired a studio in Dublin especially for the scene at a total cost of $3 million.
The film was eventually shown at Cannes in a 140 minute version that was virtually booed off the screen. The film was then re-edited to 105 minutes, losing all of Janssen's scenes. A massive publicity campaign was launched, to no avail. Aside from the atrocious reviews, audiences were afraid that the film was being used as part of a drive by the Unification Church to recruit new members. The New York Times said that Inchon "looks like the most expensive B-movie ever made."
Inchon (originally called Oh, Inchon) would end up costing $40.8 million (Some estimates have put the figure between $65 million and $104 million, which would make it one of the biggest flops of all time). The film took just $5.2 million at the box office, and as it was not officially released on video or DVD (nor are there any plans to do so in the foreseeable future) it has a very small chance of recouping its massive budget.
Interviewed during production, Olivier responded:-"People ask me why I'm playing in this picture. The answer is simple. Money, dear boy. I'm like a vintage wine. You have to drink me quickly before I turn sour. I'm almost used up now and I can feel the end coming. That's why I'm taking money now. I've got nothing to leave my family but the money I can make from films. Nothing is beneath me if it pays well. I've earned the right to damn well grab whatever I can in the time I've got left"
- The recreation of the Inchon lighthouse was destroyed by a typhoon during filming and had to be rebuilt.
- The climactic scene of the fleet coming into harbor had to be reshot, at the expense of several million dollars, when an assistant director misinterpreted his instructions and ordered the ships to head out of camera range.
- Most of the cast and crew were apparently paid in cash, which furthered suspicions that the controversial Unification Church had footed most of the movie's $44 million price tag.
- The United States Department of Defense supplied 1,500 American troops (stationed in Korea) as extras. When they found out the Unification Church was one of the financial backers for the movie, they withdrew support and asked that credit be removed.
- Final shots of Macarthur in the limo were redone three times. The first time, the footage was rejected because there weren't enough people in the crowd. The scene was re-shot in Korea at an expense of $1 million, but this time the shots of the crowds and the limo didn't match. The third time, the crew rented a studio in Dublin and put the limo against a rear projection of the crowds. Total cost for this three-minute segment: over $3 million.
- The movie had an estimated loss of $44,100,000.
- This was to lead to a series of 10 to 15 feature films based on The Bible with a total projected cost of $1,000,000,000. The first film has yet to be made.
- When location filming ran past the original production schedule, Olivier insisted on being paid his "bonus salary" in weekly cash payments, delivered to him as briefcases full of money, flown to the location by helicopter
- The original cut of this film screened at Cannes ran over 3 hours long.
- This film's production budget was estimated to be about $45 million. Its domestic box office gross in the U.S. and Canada was $5.2 million.
- Was never released on home video or DVD.
- Rex Reed wrote in his GQ magazine column that he and David Janssen played war reporters. He also wrote that all of their scenes were eventually cut from the film.
- The is the last theatrical film project for David Janssen.
- The final shot of Macarthur admiring a statue bust of Julius Caesar, was a re-shot filmed on a day in October 1979 on a sound stage in Rome, Italy. This was over two months after filming ended at the request of Rev. Moon to further spread his Christian message to the viewers.