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The Story of Mankind (1957)

The devil and the spirit of mankind argue as to whether or not humanity is ultimately good or evil.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Sir Isaac Newton
Spanish Envoy
Pharaoh Khufu
Napoleon Bonaparte


The council of elders of outer space is deliberating on a very important subject: Must mankind be allowed to survive, or is it so esentially evil that it must be destroyed? A devil and an angel act as prosecutor and defense for the human race, and the movie presents in a very interesting way a series of episodes of the human history. What will be the final veredict? Innocent, or Guilty? Written by Jose Beltran-Escavy <pepe@prince.pe.u-tokyo.ac.jp>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


No Greater Cast Ever! Rarely So Vast An Undertaking! See more »


Drama | Fantasy | Sci-Fi


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Release Date:

8 November 1957 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La historia de la humanidad  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


Peter Lorre only has 2 lines. See more »


Sir Isaac Newton published his famous paper outlining the law of gravity in 1666, but in the sequence in which Harpo Marx plays Newton he performs on the harp Stephen Foster's song "Beautiful Dreamer," written in 1864 -- almost two centuries later. See more »


The Spirit of Man: Adam begs to be excused. He is indisposed.
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

The Story of Mankind in under 2 hours
7 August 2011 | by See all my reviews

The technological development of the H-Bomb has caused the court of heaven to put mankind on trial.

Should man not be-allowed to proceed with his new invention or should he be allowed to blow himself to eternity? Somewhere in outer space (for it could hardly be held in heaven) the trial of the centuries takes place. Arguing for allowing man to blow himself up is Scratch (Vincent Price). Arguing for the goodness of mankind is The Spirit of Mankind (Ronald Coleman).

Scratch and Mankind then take the court (and the audience) on a tour throughout history showcasing some of the most interesting and important events and people that have shaped the world in which we live. The premise of the film is similar to a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where Picard and the Enterprise crew have to defend the obliteration of mankind from a high powerful being known as Q who has put mankind on trial.

It is a film that touches on philosophical and theological issues but is more interested in highlighting historical events so it doesn't become a deep spiritual film filled with profound thought and insight. It starts out with an interesting premise, but as it travels along through history, although still interesting, seems somewhat respective and begins to be a tad bit tedious and thus maybe a little bit boring.

Of the more interesting moments includes Groucho Marx as Peter Minuit who swindled Manhattan Island from the Indians and Harpo Marx as Isaac Newton. Chico Marx plays a monk advising Christopher Columbus about why sailing across the world would be a bad idea. How can you go wrong with the Marx Brothers.

Overall 'The Story of Mankind' is interesting enough to watch especially if it is in a history class. It could have kept the hosts and perhaps could have had more engaging portraits of history. It has a fun premise and some good dialogue between Scratch and Mankind. But as an intriguing and gripping film about history it would be better to go with 'Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure'.

What does the court decide in the end? At the very least they decide to end the film.

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