Harry Belafonte is back again in the same year as Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) this time instead of a gun, he carries a Geiger Counter! Harry stars as coal miner Ralph Burton in this brillianty theatrical named film, The World, the Flesh and the Devil.
Tagline – It Will Grip Your Imagination As No Film Has Ever Done Before!
Ralph is inspecting the safety of the coal mine when low and behold the blooming cave tunnel comes down on him. Lucky to escape being crushed and drowned he settles in for the long wait to be rescued. With the sound of the pump, dripping water and his sanity starting to wain, he begins to sing to keep his morale up. “I don’t like it here, Foods got mouldy, I’ve got oldie, Nobody likes it here” five days later he realises no one’s coming and desperately decides to dig himself out.
Emerging into the light he excitedly proclaims his joy of escaping his ordeal to the sound of silence and desolation. Finding the coal factory deserted and completely lifeless, no one to rejoice his wondrous freedom. He’s oblivious to the fact he’s swapped one isolation for another, only one of a grand scale he could never imagine. For after many miles of his journey to New York city there’s not a single soul to greet him. Nothing but empty carnage of hundreds of abandoned cars blocking roads, bridges and intersections. What has happen to the world? Where on earth is everyone in this once vibrant and bustling capital city?
Ralph Burton has no option but to make a life for himself alone. He’s a resourceful man and sets up home in a nice apartment keeping active repairing a generator and discovering a radio station. With the addition of two mannequins, he now has some company, of sorts. He potters around the neighborhood saving priceless works of art and books from a library with a leaking roof. He may be alone but he’s keeping his mind active. Unbeknown to him, he’s being watched!
Sarah Crandall (Inger Stevens) has been alone for the same amount of time. Weary to reveal herself for obvious danger issues, she watches this intriguing black man as he goes about his everyday. And what with an unexpecting shocking event, Sarah is accidentally introduced to Ralph. One becomes two. Surely one more human would become a gooseberry? I guess if there’s now two survivors there is likely to be more? To spice things up after the two have become friends is Benson Thacker (Mel Ferrer)
How will they all deal with this strange forced joining. Sarah likes Ralph, Benson likes Sarah, Ralph is busy. Will we find out what happened to the human population of the world? One thing for sure it was some kind of radiation attack but by whom? Will we ever find out?
This was an excellent well written film that explores loneliness, jealousy and human needs. Whilst adding a thoughtful social commentary on race and politics. The sets are simply incredible as the whole of New York is shown to be completely void of human life. Eerily quiet and barren, the high rise buildings and skyscrapers loom in the background. The cinematography by Harold J. Marzorati leaves you with a foreboding darkness of the style of film noir. Expertly directed by Ranald MacDougall who I see was an amazing screenwriter with some top noir under his writing belt, Mildred Pierce, The Unsuspected, Possessed, The Breaking Point and the excellent comedy We’re No Angels.
It’s been a joy watching Harry Belafonte in the movies and I never knew he was in an apocalyptic World War Three, end of civilization film. The first hour is perfectly slow, building up his character and it was just a wonder to watch Harry Belafonte wandering around working out his settings. The introductions to the two newcomers is exciting and intriguing. My only nikpick would be the slight “Highnoon” bit and the cop-out of the end. There was a nice, against the time, opportunity which I would of liked to of seen, maybe I’m just a big softy.
One last thing! You can’t help but see comparisons lifted from this film in future “last Man On Earth” films? Well especially 1985’s The Quiet Earth and also 1971’s The Omega Man. Both exceptional films in their own right I must add and massive favourites of mine. Whether it’s Vincent Price, Cillian Murphy or maybe Howard Keel, do you have a favourite in the post apocalypse genre? Thanks for dropping into the wolf lair. Keep digging the movies.