The Depression-era spectacle of Felix E. Feist’s DELUGE

It’s been nearly 90 years since RKO’s Deluge first raged across the silver screen, leveling the concrete modernity of 1933 to rubble and inviting audiences to ponder the consequences, but its history, beyond those first furtive months of general release, has been a troubled one. Indeed, one could argue that Deluge‘s history was troubled almost from the beginning.

Author S. Fowler Wright was responsible for the film’s eponymous source material, but little of the novel’s preoccupation with interminable personal introspection or post-calamity sexual politics would find their way into the RKO film. Though Wright had been shopping a self-written screen treatment for Deluge around Hollywood on his own in the early 1930s, it was to go unproduced. After purchasing the story for film development in February of 1933, K.B.S. Productions’ Samuel Bischoff hired scenarist John F. Goodrich (The Last Command) to adapt it for the screen. Deemed unfit for production for reasons that go unpublished, Goodrich’s screenplay was eventually to be re-written by Warren Duff (Angels With Dirty Faces) and an uncredited Joe Traub (The Death Kiss; Traub, as Variety reported, was brought in “to insert laughs”). By the end of May ’33 financing had been secured through distributor RKO and Deluge, under novice director Felix E. Feist (Donovan’s Brain) and the producers of K.B.S., began production.

RKO appear to have had few ambitions for Deluge, excepting that it be made cheaply and help to pad their ever-imperiled bottom line. K.B.S. felt differently, with the result that Deluge swiftly overwhelmed its low B-picture budget. As Feist toiled away in the field, the run-ins with his penny-pinching producers helping to pad the margins of the Summer trades, Deluge‘s hired effects talent were busy running up the tab. Pioneering effects director Ned Mann (later renowned for his work under Alexander Korda) was purportedly given carte blanche to manufacture the film’s singular highlight; the utter annihilation of New York City by earthquake and tidal wave; and cost K.B.S. backer RKO a small fortune in the process. By mid-August Deluge was in the can, but at well more than double the anticipated expense.

On September 15th 1933 Deluge went into regular release, and though often noted for its novelty, swiftly developed a reputation as a poor earner at the box office. Good showings (like a whopping $15,000 take during its run in Chicago’s 2,600-seat State-Lake Theatre) were few and far between, and the Autumn trades are full of instances in which Deluge “disappointed”, or worse, was a “miserable flop”.¹

Deluge continued to fizzle, often as the bottom half of a B-picture double bill, through much of 1934, and with the founding of Herbert Yates’ Republic Pictures the stage was set for the film to slip into obscurity entirely. Desirous of special effects and other stock for their film serials, Republic moved to purchase the special effects takes from Deluge from RKO outright, with one historically relevant caveat: that Deluge itself be pulled from circulation. And so it was for some fifty years. Deluge‘s epic disaster footage lived on, cobbled into Republic serials like S.O.S. Tidal Wave and King of the Rocket Men, its production (illustrated with fantastic images of Ned Mann and his crew strolling among their plaster replica of New York City) spotlighted in the occasional book or magazine, while the film languished, unpreserved through RKOs final mid-century upheaval and ultimately feared lost.

Deluge first re-emerged in the 1980s, when a release print of the Italian-dubbed version (La Distruzione del Mondo) was unearthed from a private collection. This was eventually subtitled and restruck, granted the odd theatrical screening and a short-lived VHS release², but the film, as originally produced in English, remained as obscure as ever.

. . . Until now, that is. Following the discovery of a 35mm nitrate dupe negative, France’s Lobster Films have restored Deluge in its original English, allowing the film to be seen in the closest approximation of its original form that has been available in nearly a century. The restoration thrilled attendees at various festival screenings in late 2016, and Kino Lorber have made it available to wider audiences still, courtesy of new Blu-ray and DVD editions released in February of this year.

As for Deluge itself, it remains a distinct curiosity among 1930s film productions. While spectacle was the order of the day post-Depression, end of the world scenarios were a rare sight in cinemas of the time.³ In this sense Deluge was well ahead of its time, even if a century of post-civilization fiction has left it feeling more than a little rote. The narrative follows lawyer Martin (Sidney Blackmer, Tammy and the Bachelor), who is separated from his family by a world-ending cataclysm, and the bond that forms between him and fellow survivor Claire (Peggy Shannon, Turn Back the Clock), a record-setting swimmer whom he discovers beached at his doorstep. Together they combat a rapacious criminal element and eventually rediscover civilization in the form of an unsubmerged rural town, but complications arise when it is discovered that Martin’s missing family, long presumed dead, are also alive and well there.

There’s little of significant interest to be found in Deluge‘s post-disaster melodramatics, an indifferent and mercilessly spare distillation of the novel’s original narrative that hits upon the major points, but little more – with only 67 minutes at its disposal, the film has little time for else. The Bronson Canyon-bound siege that dominates the middle third of the running time is a serviceable piece of action for the time, with some violent pre-Code appeal besides (Shannon hacking lead baddie Fred Kohler to death with a pike is the ferocious non-effects highlight of the film), but the rest is passable at the best of times. Much of this is down to Wright’s novel, which has not aged at all well in its politics since it was first published in 1928. The film deftly sidesteps the author’s most controversial subject (the novel’s polygamist finale, in which Martin’s estranged wife and Claire both opt to devote themselves to him), substituting a visually poetic, if substantively disturbing alternative. Here Claire, vowing to die rather than lose Martin to another woman, flings herself back into the sea as her distressed beloved looks on, ending Deluge on a note of tragedy.

Deluge ultimately appeals more in its bits and pieces than as a whole. Shannon holds up well, even as the screenplay can’t decide quite what to do with her. Claire is at once headstrong and driven and utterly dependent, a confusing quality that persists across the novel as well (in which she regularly effaces herself in light of Martin’s righteous male superiority, regardless of any evidence to the contrary). She is also the most exploited element of the film, second to the effects, her scant dress, implied nudity, and binding a frequent object of the film’s affections. Blackmer stumbles through the awkward scripting well enough, his occasional Southern inflection adding interest to an otherwise disposable performance, but serves the film best in a purely visual sense. The image of his lonesome figure, shocked by and dwarfed within a landscape now sparse and alien, is iconic, and closely echoes the finale of Geoff Murphy’s 1985 sci-fi The Quiet Earth.

Still, it’s Deluge‘s effects production which remains its prime selling point, even if it seems almost entirely dissociated from the rest of the film when viewed in context. Feist frames the action with scenes of a meteorological community (headlined by Samuel Hinds, The Boy with Green Hair, and Edward Van Sloan, Dracula) in turmoil, assured by the increasingly ominous evidence that something awful is on the verge of happening. It’s a novel sequence, wholly contained as it is within the film’s first reel, and the flickering montages of stock footage and Bible-thumping evangelists that divide the drama remind of those found within Abel Gance’s troubled 1930 effort La Fin du Monde (a truncated and bizarre hour-long version of which would release to American screens in 1934). When the inevitable disaster strikes it does so in grander fashion than had ever been seen on screen before. The impossible upheaval Mann constructs echoes the similarly implausible disasters of Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 and the more recent spectacle of San Andreas, but retains a wondrous phantasmagoric aesthetic all its own. It’s amidst all that crumbling plaster that Deluge finds its place as art.

Deluge is ultimately more a blip than a milestone, more curiosity than classic, but the momentousness of its present reemergence is no lesser for that. Lobster Films’ restoration is not perfect, dictated as it is by the state of the materials in question (there are splice-y segments here and there, and the new restoration lacks both an opening insert shot and the first line of the picture), but one doubts Deluge will ever play better. Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray and DVD editions are well worth it for those curious, offering the restored Deluge with informed commentary from Richard Harland Smith and alongside the low budget 1934 drama Back Page, also starring Shannon.


¹ A rare exception was reported in Variety from Tokyo, of all places, where Deluge thrilled audiences on a double bill with Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights in February of 1934. One suspects that the theatre had more to do with the film’s success than Deluge itself did, in this case. The cinema in question was the historic 4,000-seat Nippon Gekijo (iconically demolished in the 1954 Gojira), which was still riding a wave of public interest only three months on from its grand December 1933 opening.

² Wade Williams, who produced the first restoration and under whose name the VHS issue was released, continues to assert his control of all rights regarding the film Deluge via his website. To say whether such claims are legitimate or otherwise would go well beyond my realm of expertise, but neither the recent Kino Lorber video editions of the film nor the restoration upon which they are based make any mention of them.

³ Journalist and script doctor Ferdinand Reyher was working on a screen treatment of M.P. Shiel’s bizarre last-man novel The Purple Cloud under various titles (Purple CloudThe Last Man, and End of the World) throughout the decade, but no film resulted. His work was eventually credited as the source for writer and director Ranald MacDougall’s The World the Flesh and the Devil, from HarBel and MGM in 1959. Also unmade was Cecil B. DeMille’s production End of the World, which was to be a $400,000 adaptation of Wylie and Balmer’s novel When Worlds Collide. The film was announced in the trades in mid-1933, but just as quickly disappeared – Paramount cancelled the project before it had really begun, reportedly on account Deluge‘s thematic similarities, and DeMille switched focus instead to his historical epic Cleopatra.


A very brief note: I used Archive.org’s collection of historic issues of Variety *a lot* for this article, and thought it deserved a shout-out all of its own. Those curious are encouraged to set a few hours aside and dive into an issue or three.

All Brand New! An Important Film of Our Age Starring Russ Tamblyn, Kumi Mizuno, and… Kipp Hamilton?

Tokusatsu Tuesdays is a regular feature relating to Japanese special effects entertainments and their associated whatsits, and a bridge, so to speak, between ExploderButton.com and its sister site, Eiga · Bouei


Just a short write-up for all of you this Tuesday. The artwork shared below comes courtesy of a trade ad Toho placed in the September 14th 1966 issue of the industry publication Motion Picture Herald, in which it serves as the back cover image (which is great, as it means I didn’t have to dismember the entire mag just to get a decent picture of it). The sharp two-tone design is a variation on the key poster image Toho produced to advertise the film to international buyers, and which served as the basis for the final theatrical poster art in territories like France and Spain.

The film itself should need little introduction. 1966’s 「フランケンシュタインの怪獣 サンダ対ガイラ」War of the Gargantuas, the kind-of sort-of sequel to the prior year’s 「フランケンシュタイン対地底怪獣バラゴン」Frankenstein Conquers the World, received significant distribution both in theaters and on television worldwide and remains one of the best-known and beloved of Toho’s special effects productions. Toho have a fine all-region Blu-ray available, albeit in Japanese only, and an inexpensive domestic DVD is available which features both the Japanese and American versions.

Toho’s international key art speaks well for the film’s charms – two monsters locked in a duel to the death, the military amassed against them and the fate of a city in the balance. The film’s opening attraction – a malevolent giant octopus – even makes an appearance. Perhaps my favorite thing about the piece, however, is how also-ran guest star Kipp Hamilton finagles a third-place credit, right behind genuine stars Russ Tamblyn and Kumi MIZUNO. Hamilton appears briefly to regale audiences with War of the Gargantuas‘ enduring anti-classic lounge tune “The Words Get Stuck in my Throat“, before running afoul of a not-so-jolly green giant. The lamentable number is shared, below the ad, in its DEVOlved version.

Val Guest’s WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH headed to uncut Blu-ray from Warner Archive

Hammer’s 1970 follow-up to the creature classic One Million Years B.C. (itself arriving on Blu-ray from Kino later this year) will reach Blu-ray from Warner Archive in February. A new master of When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth‘s international theatrical version has been minted just for the occasion, which should please fans of the film’s kitchy blend of Academy Award-nominated special effects and anachronistic prehistoric cheesecake.

From Warner’s announcement:

After Raquel Welch conquered the screen in One Million Years B.C., Hammer Studios followed up with When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, written and directed by Val Guest (The Quatermass Xperiment) and based on a story by J.G. Ballard (Crash). Victoria Vetri stars as Sanna, rescued from ritual sacrifice by Tara (Robin Hawdon), a member of a rival tribe. Her survival coincides with the mysterious formation of a new “fire” in the sky: the moon! Sanna’s old tribe blames her for this affront to the sun; Sanna flees their wrath and Tara follows. Their shared adventures loom as large as the giants who once ruled the earth!

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth will receive a BD50 treatment with DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio and English SDH subtitles. The film’s theatrical trailer is the only slated extra.

The Harryhausen Legacy: Mysterious Island (1961)

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1961′s Mysterious Island begins with one of the great scenes of fantasy-adventure cinema. Imprisoned by Confederate forces in the midst of the Siege of Richmond near the end of the Civil War, Union Captain Cyrus Harding and his underlings, freed slave Corporal Neb and the cowardly Herbert Brown, decide to make a daring escape by the unlikely means of an observation balloon. With Union war correspondent Gideon Spillet and Confederate operator Pencroft in tow the men escape their cell and commandeer the balloon, only to launch themselves into the midst of ‘the greatest storm in American history’. Aloft for days and trapped on a steady course Westward, the escapees are savaged by weather and circumstance until the balloon itself finally gives way, ripping under the pressure of gale-force winds and plunging its crew towards the tumultuous Pacific and a mysterious, uncharted speck of land.

Buoyed by the descending bass and percussive clash of one of Bernard Herrmann’s finest fantasy scores, I remember thinking that this sequence was the most suspenseful, thrilling thing I had ever seen when I first chanced upon the film as a young child. The idea of these men, casting themselves out into the elements toward some unknown, foreboding locale was harrowing stuff, and as their epic adventure unfolded I was filled with dread excitement. As they dangled from the balloon’s rigging over a seething sea I wondered with fatal curiosity, how would they survive, and who among them? And what if they did make it to that strange island. What then?

Of course Captain Harding and his rag-tag band of castaways do make it to the island, and what follows is a potent mix of survival adventure, science fiction, and fantasy that thrills me just as much today as it ever has. Mysterious Island may follow the Vernian adventure on which it is based with only a middling accuracy, condensing and consolidating its events in an economical fashion and taking some pretty judicious liberties with it along the way, but it’s tough to complain when such diversions include the lovely Beth Rogan and her abbreviated lace-up goatskin dress (the height of Victorian fashion, I’m told). Oddly enough it’s one of the film’s many deviations from source that has gone on to make the film so beloved as it is – a sci-fi plot thread that could almost be of Bert I. Gordon’s invention, but which is elevated to the level of pulp genius under the creative auspices of effects wizard Ray Harryhausen – but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Though with some obvious variation, Mysterious Island actually follows the basic circumstances of Verne’s story quite faithfully. Captain Harding and his fellows find themselves castaways on an uninhabited volcanic island, and are forced to allay those philosophical differences that plagued them in the civilized world so that they might join forces to survive. Through human ingenuity the five manage to scrounge together a rather satisfying existence, feasting on the island’s often bizarre fauna and taking up permanent residence in a comfortable cliff-side cave they call Granite House. Along the way they are aided by unlikely coincidences, like the discovery of a trunk loaded with supplies – tools, weapons, and even a copy of The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. After a brief tangle with cutthroat pirates ends in the inexplicable destruction of the pirate vessel the source of the coincidences is revealed. The island is the home port of none other than Captain Nemo, who was thought lost in a maelstrom some years before. With his submarine Nautilus inoperable Nemo was forced to continue his mission for global peace from the confines of the island and its surrounding waters, stalling his terrorist action against the world’s military fleets in favor of eradicating of the root causes of human strife through scientific invention.

Though ostensibly escapist adventure, there are some underlying themes in Mysterious Island that, though largely ignored today, must have held broad appeal in a time of Cold War and civil rights unrest. Nary half a decade after Rosa Parks and Brown v. Board of Education Mysterious Island prominently features an African American (a freed slave fighting for the Union, no less) with the same rights and privileges as his white peers – a fixture of Verne’s novel granted a newfound timeliness in the film adaptation. Indeed, the screenplay by John Prebble, Daniel B. Ullman and Crane Wilbur also simplifies the politics of the Civil War, purposefully conflating its noble struggle to free men with the contemporary Civil Rights Movement. In the context of an ongoing Cold War, Mysterious Island offers the hope of reconciliation among political ideologies by virtue of the relationship between Captain Harding and Confederate soldier Pencroft, each of whom begin the film as a prisoner of the other only to set aside their philosophical differences for a greater good. So, too, does the character of Nemo offer hope, in converting a destructive weapon (the submarine Nautilus) into a tool for peace – if contemporary science could create the atomic and hydrogen bombs that threatened the world, then perhaps it had the power to save the world from them as well.

All that said, Mysterious Island is still ostensibly an escapist adventure with overtones of fantasy and science fiction, and that which lends it thematic weight also serves as a catalyst for some of its most exciting moments. Captain Nemo’s efforts to eradicate human suffering through science have left his island teeming with an assortment of gigantic flora and fauna, from harmless overgrown plants and oysters to the giant crabs, honeybees and flightless birds that threaten the existence of Harding and his castaways. It’s a plot thread concocted purely to take advantage of the talents of effects artisan Harryhausen, who had more or less perfected his stop motion process (now touted as Dynamation) with the color spectacle The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. In 1961 Harryhausen was at the top of his game, precisely blending live-action back and foreground plates with his meticulously crafted stop motion armatures to create spectacular special effects scenes that even the more obscenely budgeted epics of the time couldn’t match.

In Mysterious Island his work feels like a response to the big bug pictures that had been so popular in the years just prior, with Harryhausen answering the poor travelling matte grasshoppers of Beginning of the End and the monolithic composited arachnid of Tarantula! with a few gigantic creepy crawlies of his own. In the film’s most famous sequence, stills of which populated no end of children’s monster books in my youth, Harding and his crew are forced to do battle with an enormous land crab – a scene which concludes with the castaways dining on the beast after it falls into a hot spring. Truer to the giant bug pedigree are a host of car-sized honeybees, which trap young heartthrob Michael Callan and hottie Beth Rogan in the mother of all honeycombs. Later on Harryhausen takes a moment to reference both Verne’s giant squid and his own past work, as a walk on the sea floor leads to a life-and-death struggle with a colossal chambered nautilus. More than just an homage to the sensational squid attack from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, itself entering film history in Disney’s spectacular adaptation, the creature design closely resembles that of one of Harryhausen’s own creations – the mammoth city-smashing cephalopod of 1955′s It Came From Beneath the Sea.

Aside from Harryhausen’s considerable stop-motion talents, Mysterious Island also serves as a colorful showcase for all manner of practical visual effects techniques. Filmed partly on gorgeous coastal Spanish locations and partly on the sound stages of England’s Shepperton Studios, Mysterious Island bridges the considerable gaps between A and B and expands its fictional locale with exceptional matte paintings, composite and miniature work. Indeed, the epic balloon escape that so thrilled me as a child is accomplished through a succession of opticals and process shots, the transparency of which do nothing to impede the experience. With modern expectations in mind there is the temptation to label such vintage effects methods as crude or unrealistic, but as I grow older I become more acutely aware of just how overrated realism is in cinema – especially with regards to such overtly fictional stuff as this. While there’s a concerted effort by the technicians to ensure that the various mattes and miniatures match to the scale sets and locations the effects themselves are more suggestive than literal, the cinematic equivalent of the illustrated plates published in the stories and novels that came before. As such I’d suggest that those tempted to question the methods by which human conflicts with gigantic arthropods and impossible transcontinental balloon trips are related are perhaps missing the point of the experience, and would do well to occupy their time elsewhere.

For my money Mysterious Island is fantastic, beautiful stuff, and a pitch-perfect example of the lost art of fantasy filmmaking as it once was. It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than fifty years since it originally premiered, but the taught direction of Cy Endfield (Sands of the KalahariZulu) and a screenplay that’s both wittier and more substantial than I remember have certainly helped it to age more gracefully than it might have otherwise. Much as the novel from which it was (freely) adapted has become a classic of literature, Mysterious Island deserves its place as classic of cinema escapism. For those keen on the rousing genre excursions of old it’s an absolute must-see.

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Behind the Scenes: Wind Velocity 75 Meters 「風速七十五米」

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Ginza is swept up in a massive storm surge in the finale of Daiei’s Wind Velocity 75 Meters.

We Western tokusatsu fanatics are blessed in that, with some rare exceptions, the majority of Japan’s golden-age science fiction and fantasy output has been available to us in some format or other from the get go. Godzilla and Gamera graced both cinemas and the small screen the world over, along with their horde of contemporaries. With the advent of home video more has become available still, and the number of classic Japanese special effects genre films that can’t be found somewhere is dwindling.

This is all well and good for science fiction, fantasy and the like, but they were far from the only special effects cinema produced in Japan during its golden age. Others like the film covered today have never been released outside of Japan, excepting perhaps a brief run in a regional Japanese theater here or there. To the best of my knowledge Daiei’s 1963 effects drama Wind Velocity 75 Meters / 「風速七十五米」 has never seen a major theatrical, television, or even video release beyond its native shores, where it was recently re-issued by Kadokawa at bargain price. It doesn’t even appear to have an IMDB listing, which means it may as well not exist at all in so far as the English-speaking world is concerned. It’s a shame, really. Wind Velocity 75 Meters may not be the most exciting stuff around, but for the effects hound it’s still plenty neat.

Penned by TAGUCHI Kozo and TAKAIWA Hajime and directed by TANAKA Shigeo, Wind Velocity 75 Meters is a drama of romance, corporate intrigue and tragic crime set around Ginza’s neon billboard boom. The story concerns the young heir (TAMIYA Jiro) to a Nagoya contracting firm who’s looking to hit it big in Tokyo’s bustling construction scene and weed out the competition. Unfortunately for his ambition, he falls for the competition’s daughter (KANO Junko) instead. Meanwhile his father (SUGAI Ichiro), unbeknownst to the son, is gunning for his rival’s top-dog position through less than reputable means – espionage, sabotage, and even murder, all perpetrated by a sociopathic asthmatic henchman (TAKAMATSU Hideo). A reporter (UTSUI Ken) investigates the incidents, but has other things on his mind – a super typhoon is brewing in the Pacific, and Ginza is square in its sights!

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Effects director TSUKIJI Yonesaburo posing with a work in-progress – a replica of Toho’s iconic Nichigeki Theater.

Wind Velocity 75 Meters is one of several big-budget typhoon melodramas produced by Daiei at the turn of the decade, and a direct reference to the 1959 Ise-wan Typhoon, a mega-storm that swept from one end of Japan to the other with maximum wind-speed of 75 meters per second. As a plot device the typhoon here isn’t especially well integrated. It just sort of happens once the drama has reached its zenith, dispensing a bit of cosmic justice but serving mostly as a showcase for the Daiei effects department, here under the guidance of TSUKIJI Yonesaburo (Warning From Space / 「宇宙人東京に現わる」 ). Despite representing only a few minutes of the film’s 88 minute running time Daiai’s publicity team relied heavily on Wind Velocity 75 Meters‘ effects production to turn admissions. Indeed, the film’s trailer devotes nearly as much time to scenes of destruction as the film itself!

Though in all ways subservient to the drama (I suppose this is how it should be, whether I came to the show for construction world intrigue or not) Tsukiji’s effects direction is superb, and stands toe to toe with anything produced by the Hollywood majors at the time. The centerpiece is the depiction of a devastating storm surge, which courses through Tsukiji’s miniature Ginza with brutal force. As the water rises even KINOSHITA Chuji’s ace score gives way, letting the power of the effects (with an assist from sound designer NISHII Kinichi) speak for themselves. It’s a hell of a thing, and shared for the benefit of my readers at the end of this article.

A note on the behind-the-scenes stills provided here – all are sourced from Kadokawa’s reissue DVD, which offers quite a few more besides. Those interested in the film are heartily encouraged to pick the disc up. For a Japanese import it’s very reasonably priced, and the quality of the presentation is lovely. There’s a catch, of course. Audio is Japanese only, and there are no subtitles.

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Overhead view of the miniature Ginza.
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ABOVE: Stars Utsui, Tamiya, and Kano tour the effects stage for the publicity department. BELOW: Super-Giant Utsui rests an arm of steel on the Ginza skyline.

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41 Hours of Terror: Eye on The Final War 「第三次世界大戦 四十一時間の恐怖」 circa November, 1960

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Effects artisans put the finishing touches on their model of San Francisco’s famous Golden Gate Bridge in this behind-the-scenes still for Toei’s The Final War (「第三次世界大戦 四十一時間の恐怖」, World War III: 41 Hours of Terror), published in LIFE Magazine’s issue from November 28th, 1960 (available in full digitized form here). The model was summarily demolished – see below – for the film’s final act, along with comparable representatives from Tokyo and Moscow.

Unfortunately LIFE doesn’t really offer anything else of note beyond its pair of photographs, devoting only a paragraph of text to the production, which would arrive in the US by way of a dubbed television version some years later. It does refer to the film under an abbreviated version of its original title, however – 41 Hours of Terror (both the IMBD and Eirin film database insist upon lending it the English title World War III Breaks Out).

I’ve no idea why The Final War‘s producers settled on San Francisco and its iconic landmark as the only representative of the US to be destroyed on-screen – most others of its kind spend their ordinance budget leveling models of New York. The Golden Gate Bridge had been demolished by a ‘space torpedo’ in Toho’s big-budget Battle in Outer Space nary a year prior, and one wonders if that sequence might have provided some inspiration. Whatever the case, the behind-the-scenes still shows the model to be a gigantic affair, far larger than the in-film footage would ever indicate. The Final War was obviously no small affair for Toei, whose stature in the industry would only increase through the remainder of the ’60s.

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Above: Production still of the destruction of the Golden Gate Bridge. Below: The same moment, as near as can be found, seen from a slightly different angle in the film itself. 

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