The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959) Harry Belafonte Goes Apocalyptic

Poster For '‘The World the Flesh and the Devil'

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.

The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959) Harry Belafonte coal miner trapped in cave

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?

The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959) george washington bridge car block jammedThe World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959) Harry Belafonte Manhattan skyscrapers

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!

The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959) Sarah Crandall (Inger Stevens) feet watching last girl alive

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)

The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959) Harry Belafonte last man on earth tear drop

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.

The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959) Harry Belafonte mannequins flat mates collectingThe World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959) Harry Belafonte serenades lady guitar singing

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.

The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959) Benson Thacker (Mel Ferrer) noir gun fight high noonThe World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959) Harry Belafonte noir style shootout rifle gun

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.

Mikey Wolf

12 thoughts on “The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959) Harry Belafonte Goes Apocalyptic

  1. I had no idea that Harry Belefonte was such a prolific actor. I always thought of him as an extremely gorgeous Dezi Arnaz type. I’m in!
    As for the post apocalyptic movie favorite–hmmm, I love Zombieland. I love the original Planet of the Apes. I love all of The Mad Max stuff…I guess Mad Max: Fury Road is my all time favorite post apocalyptic film. Bad Ass…Excuse my language.
    I like your style Mikey. Your taste is different, in a good way–not like the way my wonderful Mom meant it when she called something different. Ha! Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Charlize Theron was so tough and easy out shined our Max.
      TBH when I heard it announced I had my doubts that it would be any good. Then when reading George Miller was back behind the helm and dude had brought us one of the craziests sequels to a talking pig movie ever (Babe In The City) and can even add darkness to a sickly sweet dancing happy penguin. Yeah we were always going to be in safe hands, right!!! I was a little nervous going into the cinema. No one was expecting the runaway madness of this Wacky Races road trip carnage. I’ve seen it 3 times now, love it.
      Me too on Harry, I had absolutely no idea, he has been an unexpected pleasure to discover his acting chops took him into dark places.
      Oh you are too kind Pam, that’s is very nice to say. Thanks you.
      ps yes Zombieland is too much fun (Woody and his twinkies) and the whole Planet of the Apes saga is tremendous, even loved the series. But yeah it’s all about the Charlton really. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post 🙂 I have seen this film, but it has been a long time. I read somewhere that some people consider this film to have something of a surface theme related to racism. What is your opinion on that? Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah the film explores loneliness, jealousy and human needs, whilst adding a thoughtful social commentary on race and politics.
      There was a nice, against the time, opportunity which I would of liked to of seen but unfortunately they chickened out.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Had to actually check if this was here in the movie room and YES it is. Haven’t seen it so looks like I’ll have to remedy that and it’s funny as I’m looking at the images I thought of The Omega Man and there you mention it.

    Liked by 1 person



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