The Story Of Mankind
Irwin Allen and Charles Bennett
Drama | Fantasy
How does one condense the history of mankind in an one hour and a half movie? Well getting Vincent Price to play the devil, Peter Lorre to play Nero and Dennis Hopper to play Napoleon Bonaparte of course. Did I mention the Marx Brothers? Here's the premise: The elder council of outer spaces is deliberating on a very important subject: should mankind be allowed to survive, or on the contrary should it be destroyed. In this trial to establish the fate of human kind the devil aka Mr. Scratch(played by Vincent Price) is acting as the prosecution, while the representative of human kind known as “The Spirit Of Man”(played by Ronald Colman) is acting as the defense. And so the prosecution and defense travel to every period of time since man's discovery of fire to point out the good and the bad.
If you excuse the kindergarten philosophy you can actually find this journey through time and constant debate quite interesting, even though you might actually find yourself sometimes siding with the devil, as the spirit of man kind rarely makes a good point. The exposition and dialogue in some segments is kind of clumsy if not laughably bad. An example of this was the segment that involves Cleopatra poisoning her brother, witch starts off with Cleopatra saying “Wanna drink something?” offering her brother the poisoned drink while her brother says “Yeah Sure!”. At the same time this is incredibly hilarious.
Speaking of hilarious, there are some great funny sequences, both intentional and unintentional. Overacting and melodrama are the main factors of the unintentional humor, the intentional humor mostly comes from The Marx Brothers, as you can imagine from a scene where Groucho Marx playing a pilgrim tries to swindle the Indians.
The directing is interesting, if you can forgive the overuse of stock footage, and there are some creative images(like the council's watch having the shape of the sun). As you can probably tell from the cast alone the director didn't lack creativity for this one. The acting ranges from terrible to mediocre to excellent. A great example of excellent acting you can see in the scenes in witch Peter Lorre plays Nero, where even though Lorre appears only for a few minutes he makes the role his own, expressing Nero's madness and torment. Another great appearance is young Dennis Hopper playing the role of Napoleon Bonaparte. Towards the end the movie gets really good, as it exchanges the childish philosophy with something relevant and meaningful, and if you can excuse some of clumsiness then you could have fun watching this.