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The Story of Mankind (1957)

4.9
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Ratings: 4.9/10 from 633 users  
Reviews: 25 user | 9 critic

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

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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The Spirit of Man
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High Judge
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Spanish Envoy
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Marie Wilson ...
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Storyline

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

Plot Keywords:

devil | the devil | court | outer space | nero | See more »

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Drama | Fantasy | Sci-Fi

Certificate:

See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

8 November 1957 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A História da Humanidade  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When Ronald Colman was asked if the film was based on a book, he replied, "Yes. But they are using only the notes on the dust jacket." See more »

Quotes

Indian Chief: How.
Peter Minuit: Three minutes, and leave 'em in the shell.
See more »

Connections

Edited from King Richard and the Crusaders (1954) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Campy Classic 'Judgment Day' Tale!
29 November 2000 | by (Las Vegas, Nevada) – See all my reviews

Irwin Allen's production of 'The Story of Mankind' has been called one of the worst films ever made, a film so bad that it has NEVER been released on video, and barely ever appears on television (and only then in a VERY abbreviated form.) This is UNFAIR! While the film is intentionally (and sometimes unintentionally) campy, it has many milestones that make it worthy of respect. First, it is Ronald Colman's final film (he died a year after the release), and he still shows the urbanity, the kindness, and the 'voice' that made him unique. Second, it is the last theatrical appearance of the Marx Brothers (although they appear separately), and Harpo plays the harp one last time, a bittersweet experience. Third, Vincent Price plays the Devil, and certainly no actor is more perfect for the role! Fourth, the film foreshadows Irwin Allen's later work, on television ('Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea', 'Time Tunnel') and in film ('The Poseidon Adventure', 'The Towering Inferno'). There are other milestones to this film, as well, but I think you can see my point!

The story is VERY loosely based on Henrik Van Loon's wonderful, witty history of the human race (which is a fabulous read, if you ever get the chance!) The 'basic' framework of the story has been changed into an 'End of the World' tale, set in the heavens. High Judge Cedric Hardwicke must decide whether or not Earth should be allowed to blow itself up, after the creation of a 'super' bomb. Two counsels are selected; for the Prosecution is the Devil (Vincent Price), sly and sarcastic, and pleased that God's ultimate creation has fallen on it's face; for the Defense is the Spirit of Mankind (Ronald Colman), an entity that carries the essence of all of Man's achievements, both good and bad.

As both sides present their cases, the 'history' of the world is played out, using Warner Brothers' stock footage and guest star cameos. Among the most memorable of these cameos are Virginia Mayo as a vampy Cleopatra, Peter Lorre, a lazily derranged Nero, Hedy Lamarr as a pious Joan of Arc, Harpo Marx miming Sir Issac Newton, Groucho Marx leering and wisecracking as Peter Minuit, buying Manhattan Island, and Dennis Hopper as a WAY over-the-top young Napoleon!

Throughout the proceedings, Price and Colman (who had appeared together seven years earlier, in 'Champagne for Caesar') trade barbs over Man's worthiness, in exchanges both funny and sadly true, at times!

'The Story of Mankind' is NOT classic cinema, but it is fun, and has a kind of charm uniquely it's own. It should NOT be forgotten!


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