Deluge (1933)

 Run Time: 70 min. | b/w
Director: Felix E. Feist
Stars: w. Peggy Shannon, Lois Wilson, Sidney Blackmer, Matt Moore
 Genres: Drama | Sci-Fi   | Pre-Code
When an earthquake in the Pacific sends a massive tsunami across the globe, destroying much of civilization, it’s left to a few lucky survivors to rebuild. Lost for more than 80 years, this is the holy grail of disaster films.
Box Office
Budget: $171,000 (estimated)


  1. IMDBReviewer

    August 1, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    I saw this soon after a print was discovered in an Italian film vault. No one had subtitled it as of yet. The theater, Film Forum, here in New York City, hired an Italian translator to keep the audience up on the dialog and story.

    It’s remarkable how many films from the past 20 years were prefigured by this film. In a way, the "Day After Tomorrow" could be considered a remake. The destruction of New York is quite harrowing, actually more harrowing then the stupid "Day After Tomorrow". The special effect people orchestrated numerous shots that show masses of people perishing in the collapse of the city. And it’s not in that distanced way that removes the human element from the horror. Actors are integrated into the effect work in creative ways. A recent example would be the monster films of Shusuke Kaneko. After the city has completely crumbled, the ground breaks open and the wreckage falls into a crevice. Then a tsunami inundates the remaining ruins! Yikes!

    The rest of the film is done in a typical early 30’s melodramatic style. Judging from the other comments here, the translator sort of soft-pedaled the racy parts. The film didn’t hold up very well here but I think this could very well be the first post-apocalyptic film ever made.

  2. IMDBReviewer

    August 1, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    I read about this movie years ago but thinking that no prints existed, only recently looked for a rental copy. It was much better than reviews lead me to believe. The destruction of New York City was quite convincing especially when the earth opened up and the ocean rushed in. The screenwriters were smart not to offer any explanation for the disaster. Perhaps this was due to time and budget constraints. The scientists’ bewilderment added to the tension.

    The survivors’ story was credible even though the lead characters were somewhat stupid. Martin and Claire spent the night in a tunnel knowing full well that armed men were coming for them at first light. They could have easily escaped during the night.

    The story had several gaps probably due to lost or deteriorated film. How did Martin become separated from his wife and children? Why did each think the other was dead? The Statue of Liberty was still standing at the end of the storm sequence. Did it survive?

    The Italian dialog was distracting and the English subtitles did not convey everything that was spoken. There was something said about Louisiana sinking and New Orleans being flooded. When survivors in the settlement cannot raise anything on the radio, a boy says to an adult, "Now you can be the fire chief". I’m going out on a limb and say the boy is referring to comedian Ed Wynn who portrayed the Texaco Fire Chief on an early radio program. This must have been very confusing to foreign audiences.

    The actress who played Claire, Peggy Shannon, was strikingly beautiful with a modern look not normally seen in movies of that period. How sad that she died of alcoholism just 8 years after the movie was released.

  3. IMDBReviewer

    August 1, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    As a young man in the early 30’s I attended a small theater in Brooklyn, NY showing the film Deluge. The memory of the devastation depicted in the film has remained with me through the years. I feel that a similar film made today, with all the special effects, would not have the impact felt at that time.

    Of course there are many films from that era which are well remembered today while Deluge did not stand the test of time that I feel it deserved.

    Years later I read an article concerning films that were lost due to deterioration and Deluge e was mentioned. We can all be indebted to IMDb for providing an opportunity to rediscover films such as Deluge.

  4. Anonymous

    August 1, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Back at the start of the "talkies", in 1933, RKO Studios produced this compelling vision of the Earth destroyed by natural disasters. Until recently, this was a lost film, all prints of it presumed gone. I managed to obtain a VHS copy of this, essentially, low budget production directed by Felix Feist. For cinema historians, this is highly recommended viewing; just don’t expect CGI perfection, for we’re talking decades before our glorious computers were invented.

    The first twenty minutes are the most terrifying I can recall. For apparently no rhyme or reason, scientists discover that the Earth’s weather has drastically changed: The barometers are dropping rapidly, the wind velocity is increasing, and a mysterious, unscheduled solar eclipse has occurred. Unlike most science-films, no pseudo-scientific explanations are offered. the world’s officials and citizens are thoroughly baffled and horrified. To worsen the disturbing mystery, Earthquakes and tidal waves then break out, destroying and sinking most of the land on our planet, leaving the world a vast ocean with millions dead.

    The spectacular sequence of the destruction of New York is spellbinding and memorable. Though the effects are naturally dated, they are nevertheless convincing and frightening. Buildings crumble, people perish and a tremendous flood buries the world’s largest city (though some may not consider that to be any great tragedy). The sense of doom and dread convey an overpowering deluge. The film’s title conveys a double meaning; a gigantic flood and a state of being overwhelmed. As the tag line reads, EARTH IS DOOMED! And that’s no phoney promo, DELUGE lives up to its hype. A one of a kind effort and an early experiment in special-effects.

    The story’s opening is directed in an eerir Twilight Zone manner. Believable dialogue and an astute lack of sopomoric jargon enhance its credibility and effectiveness. A totally impossible nightmare plagues the human race, and no one knows how or why. Obviously, no solution to the bizzare occurance prevails. Reality and illusion converge with catastrophic results. Its grim, somber tone is undeniable and unrelenting. They don’t make paranoia like they used to.

    However, the film’s main drawback is that once the devastation is over, the excruciating tension diminishes and we’re left with a standard tale of a group of survivors marooned on a strip of land that still remains above water, a few miles away from where New York once was. Though not bad (remember it was still the first of its kind), it still pales considerably compared to the powerful and unforgettable opening.

    If DELUGE had concentrated solely on the catastrophie, and the suspenseful events leading up to it, it could have been a great classic. As it is, it’s still quite a unique effort (considering its low budget) and an interesting curio. Perhaps Irwin Allen saw this back in his childhood.

    Check this out, but don’t expect an Industrial Light and Magic enterprise and Harrison Ford. We’re talking nearly seventy years ago. It was ‘Famous Monster’s’ Forrest J. Ackerman who uncovered the only known existing print (way back in the eighties) dubbed in Italian and sub-titled, giving it a foreign film cinema verite appearence. Very honorable deed, Forrey, but why did you wait so long to tell us?

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