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In an onscreen foreword, the filmmakers acknowledge the contribution of Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1834 novel, The Last Days of Pompeii, was used for "physical descriptions" in the film. Hollywood Reporter news items add the following information about the production: Although the picture was originally intended as an early Technicolor production, it was shot in black and white due to time and budget constraints. In July 1934, producer Merian C. Cooper announced that he was giving up plans to shoot the picture in Italy. RKO then planned to film at Prudential Studios in Los Angeles, but ended up leasing space at its own Path Studios in Culver City. Cameraman Eddie Linden and technician W. H. O'Brien supervised the filming of Mount Vesuvius miniatures, which began in mid-May 1935. Aloys Bohnen, who was assigned to do art work on the production, was a portrait and mural painter. At the start of production, RKO announced its intention to film two foreign language versions of the film, one in Spanish and one in French. Actors Preston Foster and Gloria Shea were to repeat their lines in each language. It is not known if these foreign versions were ever made. During filming, RKO, fearing that the production was becoming too costly, lopped off $35,000 from the budget. The final cost of the production was announced at approximately one million dollars. Hollywood Reporter production charts add Betty Alden to the cast, but her participation in the final film has not been confirmed.
Many films have been made from Bulwer-Lytton's novel, including several silent Italian productions, such as the 1926 movie, L'Ultimo giorno de Pompeii, which was directed by Amleto Palermi; a 1948 French/Italian co-production, Les derniers jours de Pompeii; and a 1959 German/Italian/Spanish version, which was directed by Mario Bonnard and starred Steve Reeves and Christina Kauffman.