Getting to the end of this year's Halloween Countdown, and also the celebration of what would have been Vincent Price's 100th birthday, we've got a real horror story for you tonight that I couldn't do without getting sick, so one of our pals has volunteered to fill in while I go ralph!
It is I, Greg Goodsell, once again with a highly forgettable epic called THE STORY OF MANKIND, an all-star debacle that is approximately 70 percent stock footage from earlier costume epics with well known actors pressed into ill-matched historical roles! The music in this film SUCKS, but ye folks at Lucky 13 have handily compiled a collection of this stinker’s tin-eared dialogue for your delectation! Enjoy?
Harry and Michael Medved of "Golden Turkey" infamy saved a spot for THE STORY OF MANKIND in their 1978 book "Fifty Worst Films of All Time." One Internet scribe declared, "At last, a motion picture that is every bit as horrible as the STORY OF MANKIND!" I wouldn't be THAT bold, but as we shall soon see, this flick ain't no walk in the park!
The original novel "The Story of Mankind" by Hendrik van Loon is in fact a rather dour book aimed at middle school children. THE PLOT: Mankind develops a "Super H-Bomb" that can destroy everything a little bit earlier than anyone anticipated, and so a heavenly tribunal must decide if humanity is worth saving!
SIR CEDRIC HARDWICKE can scarcely contain his disdain at the proceedings in his role as the High Judge!
This line of human witnesses looks nothing less than the world's most boring costume party! Hold that thought …
The incomparable VINCENT PRICE is caught red-handed as “Mr. Scratch,” prosecutor of all mankind! Vinnie at least looks good, and he’s aided and abetted by his silent assistant, played by Nick Cravat.
Screen icon Ronald Colman plays the "Voice of Mankind," who acts as humanity's attorney. This was Colman's final film role, in a picture that was notorious for ending a lot of careers! ‘Tis a far better thing, indeed.
Vinnie and Ronnie look particularly bored while attending the synagogue of their choice.
If there is any reason to see this film, it’s for Helen of Troy’s (DANI CRAYNE) club-footed dance amidst all the stock footage of warring Romans. To make this scene as painless as possible --- Dani was spared any lines.
The Queen of the Nile Cleopatra (Virginia Mayo) poisons her brother in just one of the film’s many unintentionally hilarious scenes. After downing his Mickey Finn, Cleo's brother leans over just like this and then she just nonchalantly pushes him out of his chair, dead!
THUMP! Just like that! What did I tell you?
"It's so good to be a BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITCH!"
Screen great PETER LORRE has every right to look upset. Cast as the Emperor Nero, he has only TWO lines, and his wild orgy consists mainly of people throwing flower petals at each other!
While Rome burns, a devout Christian family awaits to be martyred by some Centurions! THE STORY OF MANKIND leans rather heavily on the Judeo-Christian way of things, ignoring most other of the world's religions!
Yes, that's DENNIS HOPPER as Napoleon Bonaparte! It's disconcerting to see a figure so closely associated with American independent cinema appearing in major studio bombs like this one!
In all seriousness, the young Dennis Hopper reportedly studied at the feet of both Vincent Price and Boris Karloff on the set in order to learn as much as he could about acting. Here, Vinnie prepped the Young Hoop for one of his more memorable future roles -- "#?!@ this Heineken shit! PABST BLUE RIBBON!"
Sissy par excellence EDWARD EVERETT HORTON (kiddies remember him as the voice of TV's "Fractured Fairy Tales") as Sir Walter Raleigh! Horton may have heard a who, but he had NO LINES in this one-shot appearance. Not even one of his trademarked, "Oh ... dears!"
FINALLY, some genuine, sincere laughs with GROUCHO MARX as Peter Minuet, the man who swindled the Indians out of Manhattan Island for $26 in worthless trinkets. The only true bright spot in the picture, this scene still has major wardrobe issues. Check out Groucho’s collar …
If somebody else were to cast HARPO MARX as the father of physics, Sir Isaac Newton, it would be hailed as "quirky" and “avant-garde" but here it's just.... it's just ... EEeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhh.
STORY OF MANKIND is noted as the last time the three Marx Brothers would appear in the same film -- HOWEVER, they share NO scenes together. CHICO MARX is supposed to be in here somewhere as a Monk, but I didn't see him!
AGNES MOOREHEAD gives an atypically bad performance as Queen Elizabeth I. Berating Spanish envoy CESAR ROMERO, she squeaks out every third word!
We could list all the terrible scenes in this stinker all day and for the better part of the night, but the Joan of Arc section (starring the lovely HEDY LAMARR as the Maid of Orleans) is hands down THE WORST. Minimalist sets, wretched scripting and acting and Joanie is interrogated by SANTA CLAUS at one point!
This shot calls to mind the military scenes in PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, i.e. actors standing in front of a painted sky backdrop. Come to think of it, this flick's reliance on extensive stock footage is very much in the manner of Saint Edward D. Wood Jr.'s GLEN OR GLENDA?
"Saint Michael came to me in a vision, he told me to take back France, and then he opened his robe, and this giant, phallic beam of light come forward and bathed me in a beautiful light! And then he told me to buy non-perishable food in bulk and vote for Herman Cain! Can I go to the bathroom, now?"
"Gosh! You people are unforgiving little snits, ain't ya?"
Vinnie reflects the film's audience reaction to all the stultifying speechifying going on around here!
AUSTIN GREEN as Honest Abe, just a hair removed from the greasy waxworks you find in many roadside museums. "Four score and seven years ago ... or was that seven score and four years ago? LINE!"
No story of mankind is complete without genocidal L'il Adolf, played here by Bobby Watson, who went on to play the Lovable Hun in at least two other films, THE 4 HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (1962) and ON THE DOUBLE (1961)!
Now, how much would that Doomsday clock fetch on eBay today?
At last! Ethnocentric, racist, very poorly made and stuffed with footage filched from superior films, THE STORY OF MANKIND – the film, is finally over! We wish this really was the end, but director Irwin Allen would go right on wasting major acting talent in roles far beneath them in his disaster films such as THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, THE SWARM and WHEN TIME RAN OUT in the Seventies and Eighties! Oh, the humanity!