Deluge (film)

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Directed byFelix E. Feist
Written byWarren B. Duff
John F. Goodrich
Based onDeluge
by S. Fowler Wright
Produced bySam Bischoff
StarringPeggy Shannon
Sidney Blackmer
Lois Wilson
Matt Moore
Fred Kohler
CinematographyNorbert Brodine
Edited byMartin G. Cohn
Rose Loewinger
Music byVal Burton
Admiral Productions
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • August 13, 1933 (1933-08-13)
Running time
70 minutes
CountryUnited States

Deluge is a 1933 American apocalyptic science fiction film, directed by Felix E. Feist and released by RKO Radio Pictures.

The film is very loosely based on the 1928 novel of the same name by S. Fowler Wright, with the setting changed from the United Kingdom to the United States. It follows a small group of survivors after a series of unexplained natural disasters erupt around the world and destroy human civilization, including a massive tsunami which inundates New York City.


Scientists discover that a violent storm is heading toward New York City and begin the warning process throughout the city. They believe that something is wrong with the natural barometer patterns and that an unprecedented event is imminent. 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.[citation needed]

Martin Webster (Sidney Blackmer) and his wife Helen (Lois Wilson) prepare for the oncoming disaster by gathering their children and some essentials and head for a high rock formation to escape the floods. Martin leaves Helen and goes back to the house to get more food and clothes, but the destruction of New York begins. Buildings crumble from earthquakes and tsunami waters envelop the city. Martin returns to find his wife and daughters are nowhere to be found. In the aftermath, grief-stricken Martin builds a shelter and tries to survive on his own.

Surviving in a cabin in another part of the New York City outskirts, two men, Jepson (Fred Kohler) and Norwood (Ralf Harolde), find Claire (Peggy Shannon) unconscious and washed up on the shore. As she recovers, the men start feuding and become very possessive. When Claire realizes the situation, she becomes uncomfortable and flees across the water for safety as she is a world-class swimmer, leaving the men angry and vengeful. Jepson kills Norwood and begins to search for Claire, vowing to bring her back.[1]

Claire washes up on 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 tunnel. 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.


Production notes[edit]

The film opens with a quote from the Bible's Book of Genesis, Chapter 9, verse 11: "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."

S. Fowler Wright, the author of the 1928 novel upon which the film was based, began pitching a script based on the book to studios in 1933. In May, he accepted an offer from Worldwide Studios for $5,000 for the options. Wright's script for a film version was not used.[2] The independent, Admiral/K.B.S. Productions, produced the film with a budget of $171,000, equivalent to approximately 3.51 million in 2020.[3][4] Wright later watched the final scenes being shot and was disappointed to learn that producers had made changes and chose to not use the ending of the book as the film's ending. He later wrote in his diary that he felt the film was "ghastly" and advised his children not to see it.[2]

While Deluge was the first film to capture the total destruction of New York City, it was filmed entirely in Los Angeles.[5] Many films have since continued to use New York as the center for their apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic film endeavors. A scene in Deluge that features a wave that leaves New York submerged in water and nearly all inhabitants of the city drown would later be recreated in the 2004 disaster film The Day After Tomorrow.

The special effects were done by Ned Mann, Russell E. Lawson and Billy Williams.[6] Mann later worked on the H. G. Wells-scripted film Things to Come (1936).[7]

Part of the stock footage of ships and planes returning to base under storm warnings includes actual footage of the Navy Zeppelin USS Macon (ZRS-5) which would be lost at sea in 1935.


Deluge received mixed but mostly positive reviews upon its release. It was a modest hit for RKO.[5]

Preservation status[edit]

Republic Pictures later bought the film, for its special effects footage only[8] using some of the scenes of destruction in S.O.S. Tidal Wave (1939), Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc (1941) and King of the Rocket Men (1949).[2][5][9]

For many years, Deluge was considered lost until Forrest J Ackerman discovered a print dubbed in Italian (La distruzione del mondo) in a film archive in Italy in 1981.[10]

Wade Williams actually discovered an Italian-language nitrate print of the film in the basement of an old mansion in Rome in 1981 belonging to his friend and Italian film producer Luigi Cozzi aka Lewis Coates. Forry Ackerman, his wife Wyndane, the Mossman Brothers and Wade Williams were guest speakers at a Science-Fiction Festival in Rome. Forry Ackerman verified it was a lost film in the US. Wade Williams bought the access rights, made a dupe preservation negative and 35mm print. It was sub-titled in English for the first US re-release on VHS by Englewood Entertainment and the 35mm print was re-released theatrically and played at the Film Forum in New York and other revival houses and archives.[11]

In 2016, a 35mm nitrate dupe negative with the English soundtrack was discovered. A 2K scan restoration was made by Lobster Films, and this restoration was picked up for a limited theatrical re-release by Kino Repertory, and a home media release by Kino Lorber Studio Classics in February 2017.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pitts, Michael R. (March 27, 2015). RKO Radio Pictures Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Films, 1929-1956. McFarland. ISBN 9781476616834.
  2. ^ a b c Wright, Sydney Fowler (2003). Deluge. Stableford, Brian M. Wesleyan University Press. pp. XXXV–XXXVI. ISBN 978-0-819-56659-1.
  3. ^ Cocchi, John (1991). Second Feature: The Best of the B's. Carol Publishing Group. p. 1933. ISBN 978-0-806-51186-3.
  4. ^ Soister, John T. (June 28, 2010). Up from the Vault: Rare Thrillers of the 1920s and 1930s. McFarland. ISBN 9780786481859.
  5. ^ a b c "Deluge (1933) – the first disaster film to wipe out New York City". Retrieved November 7, 2014.
  6. ^ Brotherton, Jamie; Okuda, Ted (2013). Dorothy Lee: The Life and Films of the Wheeler and Woolsey Girl. McFarland. p. 174. ISBN 978-1-476-60048-2.
  7. ^ Stanley Weinkauf, May (1994). Sermons in Science Fiction: The Novels of S. Fowler Wright. Wildside Press LLC. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-893-70280-9.
  8. ^ National Screen Exhibitor's reference book
  9. ^ Hurst, Richard M. (2007). Republic Studios: Beyond Poverty Row and the Majors. Scarecrow Press. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-810-85886-2.
  10. ^ T. Soister, John (January 1, 2004). Deluge (Up from the Vault: Rare Thrillers of the 1920s and 1930s). p. 143. ISBN 9780786417452. Retrieved April 5, 2014.
  11. ^ Wade Williams
  12. ^ Deluge Blu-Ray

External links[edit]