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The Story of Mankind

USA 1957
produced by
Irwin Allen for Cambridge Productions/Warner Brothers
directed by Irwin Allen
starring Vincent Price, Ronald Colman, Hedy Lamarr, the Marx Brothers (= Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx), Virginia Mayo, Agnes Moorehead, Peter Lorre, Charles Coburn, Cedric Hardwicke, Cesar Romero, John Carradine, Dennis Hopper, Marie Wilson, Helmut Dantine, Edward Everett Horton, Reginald Gardiner, Marie Windsor, George E. Stone, Cathy O'Donnell, Franklin Pangborn, Melville Cooper, Henry Daniell, Francis X.Bushman, Jim Ameche, David Bond, Nick Cravat, Dani Crayne, Richard H. Cuttig, Anthony Dexter, Toni Gerry, Austin Greene, Eden Hartford, Alexander Lockwood, Melinda Marx, Bart Mattson, Don Megowan, Marvin Miller, Nancy Miller, Leonard Mudie, Burt Nelson, Tudor Owen, Ziva Rodann, Harry Ruby, William Schallert, Reginald Sheffield, Abraham Sofaer, Bobby Watson, Angelo Rossitto
screenplay by Irwin Allen, Charles Bennett, based on the novel by Henrik Van Loon, music by Paul Sawtell

Moses, Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, Nero, Joan of Arc, Christopher Columbus, Shakespeare, Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln, Hitler, Hitler (Bobby Watson), Marx Brothers

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Man has invented the super-H-bomb 50 years early and now wants to launch it to destroy pretty much everything, so the case of humankind is brought to the High Tribunal of Outer Space (lorded over by Cedric Hardwicke). Mankind is defended by the Spirit of Mankind (Ronald Colman) in court while the Devil himself (Vincent Price) pleads for mankind's destruction. To state their case, both the Spirit and the Devil move through history, chronicling the achievments and misdeeds of humankind, which are often found side by side.

Like in the Stone Age, when the concepts of good and evil developed, in Ancient Egypt, where evil pharaoh Khufu (John Carradine) had the pyramid's built while Moses (Francis X.Bushman) led his people to the promised land, in Ancient Greece, where the Trojan war was fought and modern philosophy was developed. Next, it's off to Ancient Rome and the stories of Caesar (Reginald Sheffield) and Cleopatra (Virginia Mayo), Nero (Peter Lorre) and the dawn of Christianity ... which leads us directly to the Dark Ages, to Joan of Arc (Hedy Lamarr) and ultimately to the rennaissance. Enter Christopher Columbus (Anthony Dexter) - who's for some reason adviced by Chico Marx -, who directly leads to the exploitation of the American natives, on to Queen Elisabeth I of England (Agnes Moorehead) fighting Spain and supporting Shakespeare (Reginald Gardiner). Then Peter Minuit (Groucho Marx) buys Manhattan from the Indians and Isaac Newton (Harpo Marx) discovers gravity while playing a harp. This ultimately leads to the American Revolution, the French Revolution, Napoleon (Dennis Hopper), the American Civil War, and both World Wars (with Bobby Watson playing Hitler one last time).

Up until now the trial could have gone either way, but when the Spirit of Mankind presents his last two exhibits, a kid and a bible, he has won the council over for his cause. But while man is left off the hook this time, he is also given a stern warning for his own future.


The Story of Mankind is frequently quoted as one of the worst films of all time, which quite frankly it isn't. Sure, it's a film that's terribly undecided whether it wants to be a comedy or a tragedy, a message movie or light-footed entertainment, and it's representation of mankind's history is as moronic as it's misleading. Also, the idea of casting the three Marx Brothers in a film and not letting them do a single scene with each other doesn't exactly spell genius.

But that said, one can't deny the film's very likeable camp value, one can't deny the gusto Vincent Price puts in his intentionally over-the-top performance, and the film's weird interpretation of human history is nothing if not funny - unintentionally so, I give you that, but funny nevertheless.

Basically, The Story of Mankind is a movie not to be taken seriously, even if it was (partly) meant that way. That doesn't make it a masterpiece, I give you that much, but it's at least brainless entertainment - which is more than I can say about a lot of films ...


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD