Friday, January 18, 2013

THE STORY OF MANKIND (1957)

In 1957 humans invent the "Super H-Bomb" sixty years ahead of time, so now the "High Tribunal of Outer Space" must convene to decide whether humans are worth keeping around or should we just be allowed to blow ourselves up.  Taking the side of the humans in this pathetic court room drama is poor Ronald Colman as The Spirit of Man.  On the other side is dapper Vincent Price (probably the only actor to get out of this disaster unscathed) as The Devil a.k.a. "Mr. Scratch".  Both sides present evidence for their case.  The Spirit of Man spouts off moralistic soliloquies about Joan of Arc, Moses, Shakespeare, early Christians, Alexander Graham Bell, Sir Isaac Newton and reads from the Bible (vomit!) while The Devil makes a much more convincing argument by showing Nero, Hitler, Cleopatra, Khufu, Attila the Hun and talking about stuff like genocide, slavery and the Salem Witch Trials.  Good thing he didn't mention AX 'EM or we'd all be dead right now.  Anyway, as expected, the High Tribunal of Outer Space's final decision is a total cop out complete with a "Is This The End?" flashing across the screen in giant red letters.

As much of a train wreck as all that sounds it's actually more dull than anything else.  The historical events are all short with background sets that look like they were just slapped together with stuff found laying around the studio, there's a bunch of mysterious stock footage (even though I think the burning train came from DODGE CITY) and the actors all look pretty embarrassed.

Worth a watch for the curiosity value, but I'd be much more interested in reading about how this misguided turd ever got green-lighted in the first place?  Also what was the budget and did it make any money at all?  What did audiences and critics back in 1957 think?  I've done some searching but about all I can find is a write-up in the book "The Fifty Worst Films of All Time" where they quote Newsweek as saying "...some of the weirdest casting ever committed".  A 44-year-old Hedy Lamarr as 19-year-old Joan of Arc or Harpo Marx as Sir Isaac Newton...yeah, I agree.
"The Great Clock of Outer Space"