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Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Story Of Mankind (1957)

When mankind invents a weapon, a super H bomb, capable of destroying the entire planet, a celestial court convenes to decide whether mankind should be allowed to blow itself up or prevent the bomb from detonating. The Spirit Of Man (Ronald Colman) argues for mankind's survival while The Devil (Vincent Price) argues for mankind's destruction. Each uses examples from the history of mankind in their pro and con arguments. Directed by Irwin Allen, better known as the producer of disaster films like TOWERING INFERNO and POSEIDON ADVENTURE, this is a bad movie of spectacular proportions. Not only is it tedious but it's an ugly looking film. The budget was spent on its massive "all star" cast and the footage consists of tacky sets and stock footage from the Warners library (including LAND OF THE PHARAOHS and HELEN OF TROY). It's based on the award winning children's book by Hendrik Van Loon and it comes across as an amateurish pageant of history. That being said, for film buffs there is some pleasure in spotting familiar faces in the cast playing historical figures. Among them: Hedy Lamarr as Joan Of Arc, Virginia Mayo as Cleopatra, Dennis Hopper as Napoleon, Agnes Moorehead as Elizabeth I, Peter Lorre as Nero, Harpo Marx as Isaac Newton and Charles Coburn as Hippocrates. Also with Cedric Hardwicke, Groucho Marx, Marie Windsor, Cesar Romero, John Carradine, Cathy O'Donnell, Marie Wilson, Edward Everett Horton, Henry Daniell, Franklin Pangborn, Chico Marx, Francis X. Bushman and Dani Crayne as Helen of Troy.

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