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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.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
... The Spirit of Man
... Joan of Arc
... Peter Minuit
... Sir Isaac Newton
... Monk
... Cleopatra
... Queen Elizabeth I
... Mr. Scratch - The Devil
... Nero
... Hippocrates
... High Judge
... Spanish Envoy
... Pharaoh Khufu
... Napoleon Bonaparte
... Marie Antoinette


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


The Story of Men and Their Women From the Beginning of Creation! 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?


Charles Coburn has 6 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 »


Peter Minuit: Now, this is my final offer, 24 dollars and not a penny more.
Indian Chief: Robbery! White man rob poor injun.
Peter Minuit: So, you think you're being robbed, eh? Be glad its not 300 years later. You might have been wiped out in the stock market. Now, is it a deal or isn't it?
Indian Chief: Robbery!
Peter Minuit: That's quite true, but, eh, is it a deal or isn't it?
Indian Chief: Deal.
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Edited from The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) See more »

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User Reviews

A mess, but it is a mess worth seeing
27 March 2011 | by See all my reviews

The Story of Mankind when I saw it was a movie I initially found difficult to rate. Mainly because it is a big mess. Having said that somewhat, it is a mess that is worth seeing.

The production values are hardly high art, but they are decent. The sets are okay, the costumes are interesting and the cinematography is not exceptional but not exactly cheap either. I liked the premise as well, and it started off decently with Sir Cedric Hardwicke presiding over things nicely. There is also some good performances. Ronald Colman gives far from his best performance, but he is very suave and convincing, Marie Antoinette is nicely coquettish and Agnes Moorhead chews the scenery with glee. It was also nice to see the Marx Brothers, Harpo and Chico aren't really that funny but Groucho is though there was the odd moment not to do with Groucho more to do with the writing and the way the characters were written that came across as more offensive than amusing. Best is Vincent Price, with his powerful voice and magnetic presence, he is gleefully wicked.

However, the direction falls flat as if it is unsure of which direction to go whether it wanted to be a history lesson or an exercise in camp. The dialogue is mostly absolutely abysmal, but it is so hard not to laugh at how bad it is. The film goes at an uneven pace with some segments faster than others or better acted and written. The characters are little more than stereotypes and caricatures and badly explored ones at that, and there are some unintentionally hilarious ideas incorporated into the story especially with Joan of Arc. I liked the leads and Moorhead and Groucho, but the rest of the cast are just bizarre. Peter Lorre though isn't too bad, perhaps too young and somewhat too effeminate too but there are some moments of unexpected poignancy, but Hedy Lamarr is woefully miscast as Joan of Arc and a very over-the-top Dennis Hopper does nothing with the role of Napolean.

Overall, The Story of Mankind is a mess, but it was worth watching and I personally wouldn't put it on my worst movies ever list. 4/10 Bethany Cox

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