World, the Flesh and the Devil, The (1959)

The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959), directed by Ranald MacDougall.

Trapped in a mine for several days, Harry Belafonte digs himself out to discover the world has ended. He seems to be the last man on Earth. Everyone else has been killed by "atomic poison", radioactive dust with a short half-life. There are no bodies, but maybe that's just a movie convention.

He goes to deserted New York City. In a great scene he rings church bells and we get quick cut reactions from assorted stone lions. Then, in a reverse Crusoe moment, we have a shot of a woman's feet following him.

This is Inger Stevens, another survivor who spies on him for a while as he sets up house, electrifies a city block and starts cracking up. He throws a mannequin from a window and she thinks he's jumped and runs forward, screaming. Boy meets girl: what could go wrong?

The color line between them is strong. She warms up but he's not having it. He still has his pride and being an acceptable mate only because he's the last man on Earth is not very flattering. She has him cut her hair, which is awkward and intimate for both of them.

Third survivor Mel Ferrer, a man with attitude, appears and things get complicated. The men go for their guns.

The deserted city is well done and you can tell the makers of later films like The Omega Man (1971) and I Am Legend have watched this one. Stories about "relationships" tend to become soap opera and there is some of that here, but the plot keeps moving.

Miklós Rózsa score. I've been waiting for decades to see this again and it's a keeper. Yet another B&W scope film -- they're everywhere!

Warner Archive title, available for rent from ClassicFlix.

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