“This War — it is a Deluge of Blood drowning a World of Hate!”
On the eve of World War I, two friends (George O’Brien and Gwynn Williams) meet a beautiful young German girl (Dolores Costello), who O’Brien marries; when both men enlist, Costello becomes prey to the evil intentions of a Russian official (Noah Beery), who accuses her of being a spy when she refuses his advances. Meanwhile, in a parallel story set during Biblical times, Noah (Paul McAllister) and his three sons (George O’Brien, Gwynn Williams, and Malcolm Waite) build an ark as defense against an impending flood sent by God, who is angry that a king (Noah Beery) has turned himself into a false god.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Biblical Stories
- Michael Curtiz Films
- Silent Films
- World War I
After years of making silent films in his native Hungary, Michael Curtiz was given a chance to direct this epic Hollywood disaster flick, which remains an historical curiosity simply for its status as a hybrid silent-talkie film (with just a handful of scenes utilizing the Vitaphone process to record voices). Unfortunately, the movie itself is disappointingly “hybrid” in another way: rather than focusing exclusively on its titular topic (which is what most audience members would surely be curious to see), the first hour or so of the screenplay is spent telling a decidedly insipid “modern” tale set during World War I, meant to draw tenuous parallels between the horrors of War and the rampant godlessness which brought lethal flooding to all but a handful of God-fearing folk during the Biblical era. However, it’s not until we see our lead actors donning Biblical garb and experiencing life under the rule of evil King Nephiliu (Beery) that the action becomes truly exciting — particularly, of course, once the Great Flood unleashes its power upon the heathens. This sequence is remarkably dramatic, and one shudders to think about the lives that were purportedly lost during its filming.
Note: As in Clarence Brown’s Flesh and Fantasy (1926), there is some undeniable homoerotic tension between the two lead actors in this film (O’Brien and Williams); was this sort of male bonding viewed differently in an earlier era, I wonder?
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Fine cinematography
- Impressive historical sets
- The highly effective flood sequence
No — though the flood sequence is certainly impressive, and worth a look. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.