The World, The Flesh, and The Devil

Year: 1959

Production: Sol Siegek-Harbel / MGM

Director: Ranald MacDougall

Starring: Harry Belafonte, Inger Stevens, Mel Ferrer

Screenwriter: Ranald MacDougall

Based on The Purple Cloud (1901) by M.P. Shiel

95 minutes; B/W


As in Arch Oboler's Five (1951), this wordy film tells of a tiny group of survivors in a nuclear-bomb-ravaged USA. In this case there are three: a young White woman, a Black man and a cynical adventurer (White and male). The film is evocative, as in the Black man's entry into empty metropolis (although no explanation is offered for the lack of bodies) and in the final hunt through the deserted streets of New York. The plot is simple: Black man finds White woman but hesitates to form a relationship with her; White man finds both of them and wants woman, who is willing ro remain with Black man; a running duel takes place between the men. Eventually they realize the futility of it all, and the film ends with all 3 walking off (rather daringly for the time) hand in hand. The script is more sophisticated than the banality of the plot would suggest, but the treatment of the racial theme is embarrassingly tentative, and compromised by the use of so handsome and light-slinned a Black as Belafonte. There were just 2 survivors in Shiel's novel.

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