The Story Of Mankind

1957, Movie, NR, 100 mins

Review

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Irwin Allen, who has made some of the worst movies in history (and some of the most successful) displayed his talent for trash early with this awful effort. Loosely adapted from the 1921 best-seller by Van Loon, this dreary, poorly made film was Ronald Colman's last. According to the celestial powers that rule the universe, humanity stumbled upon the secret of the hydrogen bomb about 60 years too soon. The Supreme Tribunal, of which Hardwicke is the leader, is trying to determine whether or not to blow our paltry planet out of the skies. Price, as the Devil, lists all of the terrible, inhuman things man has done. On the other side is Colman, as the Spirit Of Man, who cites the good things done on Earth and asks for leniency. The rest of the movie is a series of unrelated incidents, using name stars, showing half-a-million years of history in 100 minutes (less the opening scenes). We get to see Groucho Marx, with his ubiquitous cigar, as Peter Minuit, buying Manhattan from the naive Indians led by Abraham Sofaer. Chico Marx is a monk; Harpo is Isaac Newton, who has not one, but a hundred apples fall on his head. (The Marx Brothers provide the only real humor in the picture, but Allen unwisely chose to put them in different scenes.) Hedy Lamarr is Joan of Arc--perhaps the most ridiculous miscasting. When she said "Attack" to her minions, audiences screamed with laughter at what was supposed to be an important historical moment. Peter Lorre is a maniacal Nero, Virginia Mayo is Cleopatra, and Marie Wilson is Marie Antoinette, shouting "Let 'em eat cake" in her Anaheim accent. You get the picture. The movie opened in Pennsylvania, did scant business the first week, worse business the second week, and by the third week, it was gone. No amount of advertising, discount tickets to students, or other lures could get the public in to see it. Undaunted by his failure, Allen went on and made many more movies, most of which used all-star casts, like THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, THE TOWERING INFERNO, THE SWARM, and VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, which he later adapted as a TV series. leave a comment

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The Story Of Mankind
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