The Story of Mankind (1957)

  |  Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi


The Story of Mankind (1957) Poster

The Devil and the Spirit of Man argue as to whether or not humanity is ultimately good or evil.


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17 November 2007 | bkoganbing
4
| Treasure Every Moment The Advocates Are Before The Judge
Irwin Allen's first venture into all star spectacle was one all star disaster. The Story of Mankind contains some of the most incredible casting decisions of all time. Virginia Mayo as the blond Cleopatra, Dennis Hopper chewing the scenery with Napoleon, Peter Lorre dining on the scenery for weeks as Nero, Marie Wilson as Marie Antoinette as a roadshow Marilyn Monroe, that's just some of them.

The film also is known for being the last film which featured all three of the Marx Brothers though they all have different roles. Chico plays a monk who is Christopher Columbus's confidante, Groucho euchres the Indians out of Manhattan island as Peter Minuit, and most astonishing of all, Harpo Marx as Sir Isaac Newton who discovers gravity when an apple conks him on the bean.

Holding all these portrayals together is a story where mankind itself is being judged. A super H Bomb is about to be discovered and let loose will do in the world's population. It's Judgement Day a coming.

But mankind has its advocates and detractors. Speaking for the prosecution is Old Scratch who's been bringing the worst out in man for centuries in the form of Vincent Price. But man has his good side as well and who better than Ronald Colman to demonstrate man at his most civilized best. Colman and Price plead their case before The Judge played by Cedric Hardwicke.

In those three individuals you have some of the finest speaking voices the English language ever knew. When the film is on them as they each bring out the exhibits for their case it's a pleasure to listen to. Then when the focus is on the individual stories, you want to scream in agony.

What was Irwin Allen driving at, I'm still trying to figure it out. Was he deliberately camping it up with some of these casting decisions? If it was satire, it just doesn't get off the ground.

This was Ronald Colman's farewell film and while it's hardly something I'd like to go out on, I can't think of any man who could have stated the case for civilization any better.

So when you see The Story of Mankind, fast forward through some of the exhibits and treasure every moment the advocates are before the judge.

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