This is a film by writer, and director Ranald MacDougall who wrote screenplays for such films as The Unsuspected 1947, Possessed 1947, Mildred Pierce 1945, and The Naked Jungle 1954.
With writing credits to M.P. Shiel from their novel “The Purple Cloud”, Ferdinand Reyher’s “End of The World” and co-written by MacDougall. Harry Belafonte is an uncredited producer of the film.
With an incredibly evocative score by Miklós Rózsa (Spellbound 1944, Double Indemnity 1945) and a Noirish framework by cinematography Harold Marzorati, it’s an edgy adventure for Noir and Sci-fi fans alike.
This could be considered a Socio-Noir experience, as it deals at times frankly with the issue of race and gender, while not as critically as it might be dealt with today, for its time, it approaches the subject matter with a narrative that starts the conversation.
Filmed with gritty realism, set in an urban milieu with characters who are flawed and in conflict with each other and their surroundings.
Harry Belafonte plays Ralph Burton a miner trapped under the city for several days as a result of a cave-in. After days of isolation and deprivation, he manages to dig himself out of his underground grave.
Soon after he discovers that the entire population of Earth has been destroyed by nuclear holocaust.
He ventures to New York City and stumbles upon a once thriving metropolis that is now a desolate urbane wasteland, not unlike the landscape that Charlton Heston’s Neville faced in post-apocalyptic L.A.
Much like Neville, Ralph sets up a home for himself but is suddenly thrown into flux by the discovery of Inger Stevens as Sarah Crandall, the last surviving female on Earth.
The World, The Flesh and The Devil is an allegorical journey about desolation, survival, human nature, sacrifice, and the evolution of men and women trying to define themselves.
Thrown into the mix of this newly formed friendship between the only living black man and white woman, intrudes a third character Mel Ferrer who plays Benson Thacker a white entitled privileged male who has somehow navigated a small boat into the NYC harbor.
The triangle is formed and the tensions play out in a script that might have been penned by Rod Serling, who often took on the issue of race, class, and at times, but less so, gender with his thoughtful philosophical Sci-fi television show The Twilight Zone.
The two men struggle over who will be the dominant male suitor… who will take ownership of Sarah as if she weren’t already the last female on earth, her sexuality becomes amplified, her body thus systematically objectified to the nth degree, and does she even have a say in choosing neither of the men at all…white or black!
Try and catch this lesser-known post-apocalyptic tale filmed way back in the late 50s!
“This is New York, as no man has ever seen it. Empty, deserted, it’s teaming millions gone…! This is the setting for the most unusual picture ever filmed. The most daring idea or attempted in motion picture entertainment. The last three people alone in the world. What are the emotions of this girl? Facing a future that no woman before her has ever known. What of the man torn by basic human emotion as they stand on the brink of the unknown? Here is the film that crashes through time and the future. It may stun you, and shock you, but above all, it will grip your imagination as no film has ever done!”
“What would you do if you were one of the last three people on earth!”
Benson Thacker: I have nothing against negroes, Ralph.
Ralph Burton: That’s white of you.
Stay real! – MonsterGirl