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The Story of Mankind

Theatrical poster to The Story of Mankind (1957)
Directed by Irwin Allen
Produced by George E. Swink
Irwin Allen
Written by Hendrik Willem van Loon (book)
Irwin Allen
Charles Bennett
Starring Ronald Colman
Vincent Price
Music by Paul Sawtell
Cinematography Nicholas Musuraca
Editing by Roland Gross
Gene Palmer
Distributed by Warner Brothers
Release date(s) November 8, 1957
Running time 100 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Story of Mankind is a 1957 American fantasy film, based on the nonfiction book The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon, which is notable mostly for its campiness, and for featuring an ensemble of notable Hollywood performers in the last years of their careers. The film was former publicist Irwin Allen's first attempt at directing live actors after his documentaries The Sea Around Us and The Animal World.

Like Allen's previous two films, it features vast amounts of stock footage, in this case, battles and action scenes culled from previous Warner Bros. costume films, coupled with cheaply-shot close-ups of actors on much smaller sets. It was the last motion picture to feature the three Marx Brothers, but individually in separate scenes, and the last film of star Ronald Colman and of character actor Franklin Pangborn.



Scientists have developed a weapon, called the "Super H-bomb", which if detonated will wipe out the human race entirely. A "High Tribunal" in "The Great Court of Outer Space" is called upon to decide whether divine intervention should be allowed to stop the bomb's detonation. The Devil (Vincent Price), who goes by the name of Mr. Scratch, prosecutes mankind while the Spirit of Man (Ronald Colman) defends it.

Price and Colman are allowed to take the tribunal to any period of time to present evidence for mankind's salvation or damnation. They take the tribunal from prehistory through Egyptian, Greco-Roman, medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment and modern times, looking at historical figures played by a host of guest stars, most of which are either wildly miscast, or play their roles tongue-in-cheek.


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