Deluge (film)

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Deluge Poster
Directed by Felix E. Feist
Produced by Sam Bischoff
Starring Peggy Shannon
Sidney Blackmer
Lois Wilson
Matt Moore
Fred Kohler
Music by Val Burton
Cinematography Norbert Brodine
Edited by Martin G. Cohn
Rose E. Loewinger
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date(s) August 13, 1933
Running time 70 min.
Country United States
Language English
This article is about the American science fiction film. For the Polish historical film, see The Deluge (film)

Deluge (1933) is an apocalyptic, science fiction film, (filmed in Los Angeles) released by RKO Radio Pictures, about a group of worldwide natural disasters which lead to the destruction of the earth.

The film is very loosely based on the novel of the same name by S. Fowler Wright, with the setting changed from England to the United States. A series of earthquakes destroy the Pacific coast of the United States, causing a massive tsunami, which heads towards New York City. The wave leaves New York submerged in water and nearly all inhabitants of the city drown. This special effect sequence later inspired a scene in The Day After Tomorrow (2004). (Day After Tomorrow/Deluge Scenes on YouTube)

Deluge, was the first film to capture the total destruction of New York City,[1][2] although many films since, have continued to use New York as the center for their apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic film endeavors. It debuted shortly after the release of the classic film King Kong in which New York City was also the primary target for destruction.

The impressive effects were done by a team who later worked on the H. G. Wells-scripted film Things to Come (1936).

Preservation Status[edit]

For many years, Deluge was thought to be a lost film, but a print dubbed in Italian (La Distruzione Del Mondo) was found in a film archive in Italy in the late 1980s.[3] Before the discovery, the only part of the film known to survive was the impressive footage of the tidal wave destroying New York City, which was used in the Republic Pictures serials Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc (1941) and King of the Rocket Men (1949).


The film begins with a quote from the Bible "And I shall establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of the flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth". Interestingly enough the quote was taken from Genesis 9:11.

Scientists discover that a violent storm is heading towards New York and begin the warning process throughout the city. They believe that something is wrong with the natural barometer patterns and that something unprecedented is going to happen. A sudden eclipse of the sun verifies their notions and it seems that global destruction is near. Telegraphs from Rome and London explain days of unending earthquakes and state "The End of the World is at Hand". Tremendous earthquakes hit the Pacific Coast killing millions and it is reported that the entire western coast of the US has been demolished. The earthquakes have also caused major tsunamis in the oceans and disaster is just moments away.

Martin Webster (Sidney Blackmer) and his wife Helen (Lois Wilson) prepare for the disaster by gathering their children and some essentials and head for a high rock formation to escape the floods. Martin goes back to the house to get more food and clothes, but while he is gone from Helen's side, the destruction of New York begins. Buildings crumble from earthquakes and tsunami waters envelope the city. Martin returns to find his wife and daughters are no where to be found. In the aftermath, grief-stricken Martin builds a shelter and tries to survive on his own.

In another part of the New York City outskirts, two men, Jepson (Fred Kohler) and Norwood (Ralf Harolde), surviving in a cabin, find Claire (Peggy Shannon) unconscious and washed up upon the shore. After her recovery, the men start feuding about who gets to take care of her and become very possessive. When Claire realizes that the situation is becoming uncomfortable, she flees. Claire is a world class swimmer, so she swims across the waters for her safety, leaving the men angry and vengeful. Jepson kills Norwood and begins to search for Claire, vowing to bring her back.

Claire again, washes up upon another shore, where Martin finds her this time. Martin and Claire become good friends and eventually fall in love. Meanwhile, in a nearby town, survivors have gathered together to start a new civilization. Among these survivors is Martin's wife, Helen, and their children. Tom (Matt Moore), one of the townsmen, found Helen in the aftermath, and has been taking care of her ever since. He has also fallen in love with her, but Helen is convinced that Martin is still alive.

Jepson teams up with a gang of thugs who help him find Claire and Martin and eventually trap them in a mineshaft. Luckily, the townspeople stumble upon the situation and save Martin and Claire and bring them back to their new found city. Once they arrive, Martin finds his children and discovers his wife is alive and well and goes to her . Claire and Tom are devastated.

After the reunion, Martin explains to Claire how he is in love with both his wife and with her and that he will not choose. Helen visits Claire and they have a painful discussion in which Claire says she will not give up Martin. However, when Claire sees Martin with his wife at the town meeting her heart breaks and she runs to the ocean. She swims away as Martin is left watching her go. It is unclear whether Claire swims to her death from a broken heart or if she just swims to an unknown destination. The film leaves the ending up to the viewer.


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