The theme of The Story of Mankind is every good has its bad and every bad has its good. The powers that be up in heaven have heard the news that men on earth have discovered the Super H-Bomb. The bomb, as calculated by the Devil was not supposed to be discovered until the year 2016. The powers that be of the High Tribunal hold a meeting to discuss whether the bomb should go off and if mankind is worth saving. Mr. Scratch (Vincent Price), the Devil, comes to the hearing. He of course wants the bomb to go off. News comes that Adam could not attend the hearing and has instead sent The Sprit of Man (Ronald Coleman). The judge sends Sprit through time since the dawn of man.
Each defendant brings witnesses to the stand. Scratch brings forward Pharaoh Kufu who told him (Scratch) he would give him the souls of a million men to build his pyramid. Scratch makes this a demonstration of man’s stupidity to a follow a single crazy man. Sprit brings up Moses and what he did for the people of Israel. Then Scratch points out that soon after The Ten Commandments were made people broke them. Going through classical history they come across Cleopatra and her double cross of Antony, Nero killing several people. They tell the story of the founding of America and how the Europeans swindled the Indians out of their land all the way up to World War I.
In his last defense Spirit says that despite civilization falling to pieces during the Dark Ages that may be a history more set in myth there are still stories of faith that come from it. King Arthur and the crusaders all believed in something. He mentions the heroic Joan of Arc (Hedy Lamaar) and her heroic bravery against the English. Scratch counterpoints that Joan’s story showed how God turned his back on his people and let Joan die senselessly.
The High Tribunal rules that mankind is worth saving.
The cast was very good. Ronald Coleman and Vincent Price were perfection in their parts. I could not imagine anyone else but Vincent Price as Mr. Scratch. He had the voice and he had the looks and mannerisms to pull off playing the Devil. Coleman was a gentleman and a brilliant actor he is what I can believe the Spirit of Man is like. Groucho Marx stole the whole film as Peter Minuit swindling land from the Indians. He was so funny, so many of the things he says he you have to listen carefully for and when you hear them you just laugh. Peter Lorre played Nero and nailed it. Hedy Lamaar was actually not that good. The way she played Joan of Arc was a little weird like she was on something or not in her right mind at the time.
I really liked The Story of Mankind. It reminded, in certain ways, of the excellent silent film Leaves From the Book of Satan which was about how in every major event in history the Devil was always there. Humanity has never been perfect. The Story of Mankind was released in 1957. This was when during The Cold War and the Red Scare. Mankind was falling apart more than it ever had before. I feel this was a perfect film to have been released at this time when the whole world was on the brink of destruction and faith in humanity was crumbling. The Story of Mankind is a very good film that I highly recommend seeing.