The Story of Mankind (film)

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The Story of Mankind
The Story of Mankind 1957 Film.jpg
1957 US Theatrical Poster
Directed by Irwin Allen
Produced by Irwin Allen
George E. Swink
Screenplay by Irwin Allen
Charles Bennett
Based on The Story of Mankind by
Hendrik Willem van Loon
Starring Ronald Colman
Vincent Price
Music by Paul Sawtell
Cinematography Nicholas Musuraca
Edited by Roland Gross
Gene Palmer
Cambridge Productions
Distributed by Warner Brothers
Release dates
  • November 8, 1957 (1957-11-08)
Running time
100 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Story of Mankind (1957) is an American fantasy film, very loosely based on the nonfiction book The Story of Mankind (1921) by Hendrik Willem van Loon.[1] The film was directed and co–produced by Irwin Allen.[2]

Production background[edit]

The film 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. This was the last film picture to feature the three Marx Brothers (and their only film in Technicolor), although they are seen in separate scenes rather than acting together.[3] This was also the last film of star Ronald Colman, the last film of character actor Franklin Pangborn, and the last American film of Hedy Lamarr.

The Story of Mankind was listed in the 1978 book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time.[4]


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.

Scratch and the Spirit of Man 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.

Ultimately the tribunal is asked to rule. The high judge, facing Mr. Scratch and the Spirit, with a large assemblage of peoples in their native costumes behind them, declares that the good and evil of Mankind is too finely balanced. A decision is suspended until they return. When they do come back they expect to see a resolution of humanity's age old struggle with itself.


Home media[edit]

Warner Home Video released the film as part of its Warner Archive made-to-order DVD line on July 20, 2009 in the United States.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]