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The Story of Mankind

The Story of Mankind (1957) starring Vincent Price, Ronald Colman, Cedric Hardwicke, the Marx Brothers (Groucho, Chico, Harpo), and many more

 In a nutshell,  The Story of Mankind has humanity on trial for its’ very existence.   The Devil himself (played delightfully by Vincent Price) is the prosecutor.  The Spirit of Mankind (Ronald Colman) is the advocate, and Cedric Hardwicke as the Celestial Judge. Evidence is presented as a series of vignettes of various stars presenting famous historical moments.  Some moments are serious, and others more silly.  The Marx Brothers appear in their final film, although they never show up together.  Each brother has their own distinct scene.

  • Groucho appears as Peter Minuit, who cheats the Native Americans (Indians for those who aren’t politically correct) out of the island of Manhattan
  • Chico puts his false Italian accent to good use as a monk who is confidant to Christopher Columbus
  • Perpetually mute Harpo appears as Isaac Newton.  He discovers the law of gravity after being hit on the head by an apple

The Story of Mankind (1957) starring Vincent Price, Ronald Colman, Cedric Hardwicke, the Marx Brothers (Groucho, Chico, Harpo), and many moreThe scenes with Vincent Price are simply delightful to watch.  It’s hard to imagine someone else playing the role of the Devil any better.  The Marx Brothers are also good in their scenes as well.  But there’s a  lot of stock footage, with some of the scenes being frankly boring. There’s a reason it was included in the book,  The Fifty Worst Films of All Time.

Editorial review of The Story of Mankind

Here is the most far-out courtroom thriller you’ll ever see. The setting is outer space, the defendant is all of us and the issue is whether we should be allowed to survive. Defending counsel, the Spirit of Man (Ronald Colman), says yes. Prosecuting counsel, the Devil (Vincent Price), says no. And each presents historical evidence in vignettes that feature Hedy Lamarr as Joan of Arc, Dennis Hopper as Napoleon, Harpo Marx as Isaac Newton, plus Groucho, Chico, Virginia Mayo, Peter Lorre, Charles Coburn, Agnes Moorehead – 25 stars in all! Produced, directed and co-written by Irwin Allen (The Poseidon Adventure), this uncommon curio is Colman’s final film and the last time the three Marx Brothers appeared in the same movie.