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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The World, the Flesh and the Devil can be found here.
Ralph Burton (Harry Belafonte) and Sarah Crandell (Inger Stevens) find themselves the last two survivors in New York City following the unleashing of a radioactive isotpe dust that spread around the globe and decimated the world's population. Tensions flare when Ralph (who is black) and Sarah (who is white) are attracted to each other. Things become really complicated when they discover a third survivor, Benson 'Ben' Thacker (Mel Ferrer), who is white and who sees Ralph as a rival for Sarah's affection.
It is based on two sources: (1) the novel The Purple Cloud (1901) by British writer Matthew Phipps Shiel and (2) the screen story "End of the World" by American author Ferdinand Reyher. The screenplay was written by American screenwriter Ranald MacDougall (who also directed the movie).
It strikes most every viewer that, with the world's population destroyed, there are no dead bodies shown anywhere in the movie. The prudent viewer then asks: Where did all the dead bodies ago? The only clue given in the movie is the newspaper headline that reads: MILLIONS FLEE FROM CITIES! END OF THE WORLD and the recorded announcement on the tape at the radio station noting that everyone had evacuated the city. This would account for the thousands and thousands of cars that Ralph sees piled up on the Washington Bridge and in the Lincoln Tunnel, all supposedly containing dead bodies (although none were shown). However, in M.P. Sheil's The Purple Cloud, on which the movie is based, everyone dropped dead instantly when the gas hit. In another book, Apocalypse Movies (2002), author Kim Newman states that the film 'has humanity all but exterminated in a war fought with radioactive gas. Buildings are left intact, but people are instantly vaporized.' The most logical conclusion, then, is that everyone tried to get out of the city but were instantly vaporized when the radioactive isotope dust hit.
With Ben gunning for him, Ralph has no choice but to arm himself with a rifle and run. As he passes through the United Nations Plaza, the incription on the Isaiah Wall catches his eye. He stops to read: 'They shall beat their swords into plowshares. And their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. Neither shall they learn war any more.' (Isaiah 2:4) Ralph decides to stop running, throws down his rifle, and walks back to meet up with Ben. When Ben sees him, he fires off a few shots but misses Ralph totally. Unable to shoot an unarmed man who refuses to fight, Ben throws down his rifle and walks away. Alerted by the gunshots, Sarah comes running up to Ralph, who tells her that he's decided to go away, but Sarah refuses to let him go. Instead, she offers him her hand, then calls to Ben to join them. She offers Ben her other hand, and the three of them walk up the street together as 'The Beginning' flashes across the screen.
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