Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora


As I read the plot for the above film, I realized that there are very few sci-fi films with blacks in starring roles, or any prominent roles at all!

It also seems rare that Black filmmakers wrap their stories in sci-fi lore.

If I'm wrong about any of this, I'm sure someone will say so!

I think the sci-fi genre provides filmmakers with a world of opportunities to explore issues of race and diversity... something to consider as you begin writing your next opus.

The above film, The World, The Flesh and the Devil, is one that I've never seen, nor heard of. It reads mighty appealing as yet another take on the "last man on earth" scenario we've seen as the basis for many stories, both in print and on celluloid.

However, this one was made in 1959, and stars Harry Belafonte, in the prime of his career.

Reading the plot outline, similarities to several recent "last man" settings should be immediately obvious:

African-American Ralph Burton (Belafonte) becomes trapped for many days underground in a cave-in while inspecting a mine in Pennsylvania. Eventually, he digs his own way out. Reaching the surface, he finds a deserted world. Apparently everybody on Earth has been killed in a war.

Traveling to New York City in search of other survivors, he finds the city vacant. (Although the bridge into New York is jammed with abandoned cars, no bodies are ever seen.)

Ralph busies himself restoring power to a building where he takes up residence. He regularly broadcasts on the radio, listening for other people.

Just as the loneliness starts to become intolerable, he encounters a second survivor: Sarah Crandall (Inger Stevens), a white woman in her twenties.

They become fast friends, but Ralph grows distant when it becomes clear that Sarah is developing stronger feelings for him. Despite living in a post-apocalyptic world, he can't overcome the issue of race that pervaded society before the disaster.

Things become vastly more complicated when an ill Benson Thacker (Mel Ferrer), a white man, arrives by boat. Ralph and Sarah nurse him back to health, but once he recovers, the white man sets his sights on Sarah and sees Ralph as a rival.

Cue staccato dramatic score here!

I'm definitely intrigued!

I searched YouTube for a trailer, and instead found the entire freaking film, divided into 10 ten-minute blocks of time (it's a 95-minute film); so you can head over there and watch them all, in small-screen glory, or you can wait until it's available on DVD (I was surprised it wasn't already; I read that Warner Bros is working on one).

If anyone has seen this, do share your thoughts...

Here are the film's second 10-minutes:


  1. Kwes Boogie said...

    You should check out "Welcome to the Terror Dome" by Ngozi Onwurah. You remember all those hip hop apocalypse songs? It's like that, but better then my description.

  2. Kwes Boogie said...

    Also, if you count TV animation, guys like Dwanye McDuffie and James Tucker have been doing sci-fi with the Justice League and Static Shock for a minute

  3. Invisible Hand said...

    Maybe it's more horror than sci-fi, but we can't forget Duane Jones in "Night of the Living Dead".

  4. The Obenson Report said...

    KWES - Thanks for the recs. Ngozi Onwurah's film is foreign to me. I'll try to get my hands on it and check it out.

    I'll also seek out the works of Dwayne McDuffie and james Tucker.

    IH - I don't think I ever saw "Night of the Living Dead;" but you're right, it's more horror than sci-fi. However, I could say the same thing about horror movies... not too many of "us" making or starring in them - good ones.

  5. Jaceeel said...

    I bought this last year and still haven't watched it. I just loved the title.

    I'm really interested in seeing Terrordome. I put it on my netflix queue (greencine only has a request). I always thought the mad max look of the califorina love video would have made a great movie.

    wait wait hold the phone you haven't seen Night of the Living dead? Then that must mean you haven't seen dawn and day of the dead. You should have a mini zombie marathon. include the return of the dead movies too.

  6. Invisible Woman said...

    @tao: I KNOW I didn't just read you haven't seen Night Of The Living Dead! What tha hell man? You better go out and rent it before writing another post, stat!

    On another note, the studio didn't want a Black lead for that film, and George Romero fought them on it--quite a bold move as he was an unknown at the time...I guess he had his reasons.

  7. The Obenson Report said...

    Alright, alright...! I got my hands on a copy and watched it yesterday.

    Didn't realize it's in the public domain. There are several different distributors with releases of it.

    The entire film is even on the Internet for download!

  8. Invisible Woman said...

    What didja think?

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