Deluge (1933)

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Deluge (1933)

Post  BoG on Sat Mar 06, 2010 9:48 pm

This may be the granddaddy of all disaster pictures.

This wastes no time; no preamble - ominous forces of nature are at work even as the film begins (unless there's original version footage missing from the start). The big sequence, the tidal wave striking New York City, occurs near the beginning, a template followed in reverse by most if not all disaster films (which began in earnest much later in the seventies). The Day After Tomorrow (2004) copies a lot of this aspect. There's also a huge earthquake which precedes the wave; this is a large model built of the city which gets a big shaking about, but still looks pretty impressive and even frightening in its intensity, especially for the thirties.
This film was believed lost for a long time or most of it was; I have a VHS edition from over a decade ago, with an explanation written on the back cover by the late great Forrest J Ackerman. This was a film restored by Wade Williams, released on video as part of the Science Fiction Gold collection. The film is only an hour long in this version, a copy made from a foreign version, so there's no English dialog, just English subtitles. Another very early disaster picture was San Francisco (1930) but that was based on the real event, the 1906 quake. Deluge is strictly in the make-believe sci-fi framework of apocalyptic scenarios, with a bit of biblical suggestion thrown in.  

The bulk of the film, then, deals with the aftermath, making this now similar to many of the post-holocaust films that began in the fifties. As mentioned on the video cover, there are a bunch of male survivors but not many females. This naturally sets up a conflict, with most of the men behaving in slightly uncivilized fashion. There are attempts to rebuild from the wreckage, in a wrecked town, but there's also a gang of men causing problems. This all seems like a set-up for the main soap-opera-type plot - one man, the emerging hero & leader, must choose between a woman he meets and a wife he thought dead.  BoG's Score: 6 out of 10

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