Production info

The Story of Mankind
USA, 1957

Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Virginia Mayo, John Carradine


Scientists have developed a weapon, called the Super H-bomb, which if detonated will wipe out the human race entirely. A High Tribunal in The Great Court of Outer Space is called upon to decide whether divine intervention should be allowed to stop the bomb's detonation. The Devil prosecutes mankind while the Spirit of Man defends it. Both are allowed to take the tribunal to any period of time to present evidence for mankind's salvation or damnation. They take the tribunal from prehistory through ancient Egyptian, Greco-Roman, medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment and modern times, looking at historical figures played by a host of guest stars. The ancient Egyptian evidence takes us to the times of pharaoh Khufu, the great builder, but also to Cleopatra, who is portrayed as a petulantly girlish blond dame, the example of guilty pleasure!

Based on Hendrik Van Loon’s children’s novel, The Story of Mankind, the first winner of the prestigious Newberry Award for outstanding children’s literature. Director Irwin Allen latched onto Van Loon's novel to produce this rather wonderful gimmicky camp version of the story for a more adult audience. The film re-uses mass-scene footage from Howard Hawks' 1954 movie "Land of the Pharaohs" that equally features king Kheops, and some costumes from 1954 "The Egyptian".

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