Deluge (1933, Felix E. Feist)

If it weren’t for the “fallen woman” third act, Deluge would probably stay afloat at the end. Instead, it flops out in the really protracted finale, which involves a survivor camp deciding on a credit system in an effort to get capitalism back. It’s a real let down considering the second act is all about roving rape gangs and the first act has a giant flood devastating the planet, right after some text explaining what we’re about to watch is fictional because God promised not to flood us again so it can’t possibly happen.

The special effects at the beginning, save the running crowd composite shots, are pretty impressive. There’s maybe one shot they hold too long and the miniature becomes too obvious, but otherwise the effects are good. And they’ve got these great transitions where the foreground crumbles and then the static background turns out to be an effects shot just waiting to get started.

Sadly there are no effects sequences after the opening and it turns out we’re not following the various scientists we’ve met—Edward Van Sloan runs the Astronomical Solar Society (making him head A.S.S.), which actually tracks the epicenter of the earthquake circling the globe on its way east. Samuel S. Hinds is the weather forecaster who opens the movie, having no time for silly questions while the barometer is dropping to alarming lows. Whether they’re good or not, Van Sloan and Hinds at least command attention. Once the story moves on to its eventual protagonists… well, they aren’t good and they aren’t commanding.

The film introduces top billed Peggy Shannon real quick during the pre-disaster sequence. Got to get in a leg shot and the implication of toplessness right away because Deluge is Pre-Code and you don’t want to cheat the audience, apparently. Shannon’s a professional swimmer who gets grounded because of the apocalypse. Then she disappears from a while and the human action becomes Sidney Blackmer, wife Lois Wilson, and their two adorable kids. Right after they’ve said their prayers, Wilson realizes this storm isn’t going away anytime soon so she gets scared. Blackmer then decides it’s time to hide in the nearby quarry. The logistics turn into a very questionable parenting exercise.

Post-flood the happy family is separated. Blackmer is all by himself in a cabin while Wilson and the children end up in a settlement, where she catches the eye of leader Matt Moore. Shannon will also catch the eye of a willful survivor, in her case Fred Kohler, who at the very least isn’t going to let anyone else rape her except him and definitely no one gets to kill her. Turns out the rape gangs tend to kill off their victims too.

Thanks to her professional swimming, Shannon ends up with Blackmer, where they almost immediately shack up before Blackmer decides she’s more than just a warm body and he wants to marry her seeing as how his family is gone. Except Kohler’s on their trail.

Meanwhile, it’s been like a month and Moore has decided no women get to be single in the settlement and Wilson’s either got to take him as her new husband or get out of town. Moore’s the good guy, mind you; he’s doing Wilson a favor.

Frankly, once Deluge starts doing the post-apocalyptic rebuilding thing—simultaneous to it having no more action sequences—it starts going downhill. It’s initially interesting in how it presents all the men, good and bad, as potential rapists and murderers, but the resolution’s at best inert but mostly tedious and predictable. The movie also makes sure to remember to be occasionally racist, though I suppose not as racist as it could be, as it uses the one Black male survivor as a joke instead of a threat.

Also Nobert Brodine’s day-for-night photography is really bad and it’s important for it not to be. Good editing from Rose Loewinger, okay enough direction from Feist—(Ned Mann directed the special effects sequences)—but Deluge’s only ever got so much potential. And it ends up flushing all of it for the unimaginative, unbelievable melodrama finish. Though maybe the real problem is Blackmer’s an abject charm vacuum so it’s hard to believe Shannon or Wilson ever could have a thing for him, last man on Earth or not.

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