At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

DELUGE (KINO/Lorber)

By • Mar 6th, 2017 •

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BluRay review by Roy Frumkes

I’ve shown the deluge sequence to a number of people already, and despite (and perhaps partially because of) the hokeyness of the destruction, they all loved it. It actually transcends its poverty row origins and gets some viewers’ blood flowing. Commentarian Richard Harland Smith calls it Toho-riffic. Good call.

However, if you want to see underwhelming hokeyness, stick around for the remainder of the film. Poorly directed and acted, it is rescued to some degree only by its pre-code thinking, and by the sexy presence of Peggy Shannon. Regardless, it’s still a treasure to have unearthed. By all accounts, the Lon Chaney/Tod Browning LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT is not a particularly good film either, but film buffs are drooling planet-wise at every hint of a possible print being in existence.

In March of 1933 there was KING KONG. By the end of the year RKO had financed and spit out DELUGE, aiming to follow up on the big ape with another mega-special-effects thrill-film while the public still clamored for more of the same. Both films featured over-the-top performances, but KONG’s worked somehow; DELUGE’s doesn’t. Still, it’s too fast-moving to be seriously off-putting, and the destruction sequences deliver, taking up a goodly chunk of the seventy-minute running time’s first-into-second act. It feels as if every frame of the disaster footage was used. RKO also rushed out SON OF KONG the same year, a very sweet film with, oddly, the best performances of the three even though it starred the same leading actor from the original KONG, Robert Armstrong.

Peggy Shannon looks just great in a bathing suit, though the only plausible reason why she’s found wearing one is because the film is pre-code. Which is fine – every positive element helps. In a few close-ups she even looks somewhat like Fay Wray. Listening to the commentary one will be disheartened by the quick wrap-up of her career, then her life.

Everyone watching the BluRay immediately commented that Fred Kohler had stepped right out of GREED. He does look exactly like our memory of Gibson Gowland, but in the acting category…oi!! Peggy’s the best of the batch. Commentary tracker Smith keeps referring to S. Fowler Wright’s book from which the film was taken, and his comparisons tend to strongly favor the book, even suggesting we read it when we can for a more enjoyable experience.

The film went missing for 50 years (RKO dumped it as part of a deal with Republic Studios to whom they sold the effects footage) before being incrementally unearthed. This is something I can attest to. When I was co-producing THE PROJECTIONIST in the late ‘60s, and we were scavenging for film clips to sprinkle into our narrative, we found a 35mm trailer for DELUGE in the bowels of The National Screen Service, and laid in our titles for ‘The Terrible World of Tomorrow’ over the titles on the trailer, thus enabling us to use shots from the lost DELUGE in our film, quite a coup at the time.

BACK PAGE, included as an Xtra, is an innocuous little tale of a city reporter making good in a small town, but Peggy Shannon is good in it. More is the pity.

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