37 – The World, The Flesh and The Devil (1959)

 “I have nothing against negroes, Ralph.”

 “That’s white of you.”

You know what they say two is company, three is a crowd, even if you are the last three people left on earth. The World, The Flesh and The Devil must be one of the most “ahead of their time” movies ever made! Back in a decade where the Sci-Fi genre almost exclusively existed of cheesy outer space invasion movies and tacky B-monster flicks, “The World, the Flesh and The Devil” brings an emotionally devastating and deeply discomforting portrait of human life in a post apocalyptic world

Typically the last man on earth story has him battling deformed vampires or zombies  whereas this is merely a socially engaging drama, unafraid to cover taboo topics like interracial rivalry, cultural differences, selfishness and mental collapsing. Quite courageous and ambitious aims for a low-budgeted movie, and I don’t at all intend to claim “The World, the Flesh and the Devil” is a masterpiece or anything, but it’s definitely an intriguing and praiseworthy effort with a reasonable amount of monumental sequences, horribly void locations and great acting.

The first thing to talk of is the void cityscapes, this was my first viewing of this film, and I found New York in this film even more eary than other films in this genre, you honestly do believe this is an entirely empty city that our protagonists inhabit (see clip below). The films narrative starts when a Pennsylvania coal miner Ralph Burton (Harry Belafonte) is inspecting some tunnels when a collapse almost buries him alive. Five days later, realizing that rescue efforts have halted, Ralph digs his way out. He finds no people anywhere, and reads newspaper headlines about a cataclysmic disaster . Ralph makes his way to New York City, crossing the Hudson by foot because the bridges and tunnels are jammed with abandoned cars. Giving up hope of finding anyone, he moves into an apartment and rigs up a power source for his lights.

Then Sarah Crandall (Inger Stevens) shows up. She’s been following Ralph around, afraid to make contact with him. Sarah and Ralph are delighted to find each other, but the relationship doesn’t get past the tentative stage because Ralph has no faith in the future of an interracial relationship.Some might argue against , however this is easy to say from a 21st century viewpoint, perhaps a Pennsylvania black coal miner who had been oppressed all of his life would still feel he had to live by these rules even after society had broken down. He instead sets up a daily radio broadcast to search for other survivors, claiming that he’ll find an appropriate man for Sarah. The fellow who does arrive in a small boat is Benson Thacker (Mel Ferrer), a nice-enough white guy who immediately stakes his claim on Sarah. The trio quickly devolves into a lopsided triangle: Ben wants Sarah, Sarah thinks she prefers Ralph, and Ralph refuses to make up his mind. With the world on reboot, should the existing racial “rules” be kept or abandoned?

As I said in my opening foreword, these post apocalyptic films deal with the most human of stories, never more so than in this film and that of my next as a coincidence (or maybe slip these two in before the start of blockbuster season ), this deals with the racial tensions of the time more so than the backdrop of the apocalypse, it merits its place on this list for that alone, and could easily be adapted to tell a similar story of any decade and any country. So therefore why not spend 95 of your remaining minutes before the apocalypse with this movie.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE_gkuOqIzs&feature=related

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2 Responses to “37 – The World, The Flesh and The Devil (1959)”

  1. I’ve seen this one ages ago and it is indeed a very advanced movie for it’s time. You sir have an excelent taste in movies. I’ve found some great recommendations on your blog. I don’t know if you have mentioned The Dead (2011) and it’s sequel shown on the London screamfest last year The Dead 2 India (2013). First one was awesome, sequel looks promising trough trailer. Thanks for such cool blog content and greetings from Slovenia.

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