Deluge (film)

This article is about the American science fiction film. For the Polish historical film, see The Deluge (film).

Deluge Poster
Directed by Felix E. Feist
Produced by Sam Bischoff
Written by Warren B. Duff
John F. Goodrich
Based on Deluge
by S. Fowler Wright
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 dates
  • August 13, 1933 (1933-08-13)
Running time
70 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $171,000

Deluge is a 1933 American Pre-Code apocalyptic, science fiction film released by RKO Radio Pictures, and directed by Felix E. Feist. The film depicts 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 toward 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.

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 nowhere 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 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. 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

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.[1] An independent, Admiral Productions, produced the film with a budget of $171,000.[2] 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.[1]

While Deluge was the first film to capture the total destruction of New York City, it was filmed entirely in Los Angeles.[3][4] 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 later inspired a scene in the 2004 disaster film The Day After Tomorrow.

The special effects were done by Ned Mann, Russell E. Lawson and Billy Williams.[5] Mann later worked on the H. G. Wells-scripted film Things to Come (1936).[6]


Deluge received mixed but mostly positive reviews upon its release. It was a modest hit for RKO[3]

Preservation status

Republic Pictures later bought the film and used some of the destruction footage in Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc (1941) and King of the Rocket Men (1949).[1][3][7] Republic Pictures never bought the film for theatrical exhibition. They bought the special effects footage only.((cite-National Screen Exhibitor's reference book )

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.[8]

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 the Film Forum in New York and other revival houses and archives.(( wade Williams

In 2016, the nitrate dupe negative with the English soundtrack was discovered to exist. A 2K scan restoration was made by Lobster Films, and this is going into theatrical release, and later home media release by Kino Lorber.[9]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Wright, Sydney Fowler (2003). Deluge. Stableford, Brian M. Wesleyan University Press. pp. XXXV–XXXVI. ISBN 0-819-56659-4.
  2. Cocchi, John (1991). Second Feature: The Best of the B's. Carol Publishing Group. p. 1933. ISBN 0-806-51186-9.
  3. 1 2 3 "Deluge (1933) – the first disaster film to wipe out New York City". Retrieved November 7, 2014.
  4. Farberov, Snejana (September 12, 2012). "The first disaster movie: Amazing clip from 1933 disaster film Deluge shows moment New York was destroyed". Retrieved November 7, 2014.
  5. Brotherton, Jamie; Okuda, Ted (2013). Dorothy Lee: The Life and Films of the Wheeler and Woolsey Girl. McFarland. p. 174. ISBN 1-476-60048-1.
  6. Stanley Weinkauf, May (1994). Sermons in Science Fiction: The Novels of S. Fowler Wright. Wildside Press LLC. p. 81. ISBN 0-893-70280-3.
  7. Hurst, Richard M. (2007). Republic Studios: Beyond Poverty Row and the Majors. Scarecrow Press. p. 99. ISBN 0-810-85886-X.
  8. T. Soister, John. Deluge (Up from the Vault: Rare Thrillers of the 1920s and 1930s). p. 143. Retrieved 5 April 2014.

External links

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