The Big Clock (1948)

. I read half the book, watched the movie, read the lecture and finished the book. A strange order but it definitely managed my short attention span better. It was really interesting to find out some history on Fearing, especially his political and social beliefs. They really came through in the book and I found lots of quotes that I then proceeded to annoy friends and family with. I however did not so much appreciate the film, especially after the last half of the book. When I tried to imagine elements form the book in the film I realized they probably wouldn´t work anyway. In order for the “big clock”, as a ´metaphor for the capitalist system´ to work, the film would have to be narrative from Stroud´s perspective for at least half the time. They might have at least put in some narrative introduction about “the big clock”, then gone into the story at least. There are many elements of the film that make me think they just didn´t give viewers a chance to misinterpret. It may have also been a political decision or a social one, some of Fearing´s opinions about the machine and the clock could make allot of people angry or hurt (because they are in the machine and they are under the thumb of a clock), but those are the reasons I like him the most.

The film failed me in several ways, aside from the obvious loss of metaphorical clock. It annoyed me and almost seemed too easy as they replaced with a real clock and a heavy handed metaphor, overdone to a fault. Clocks being thrown, clocks being obsessed over. watches being checked, clock stopping – I was over it early on. I also found the film to have a couple too many comedic elements, ones I didn´t see in the book, or at least knew I wasn´t to laugh about. Patterson for example, instead of her character being an eccentric, non traditional, free loving, artist with 4 “Love children”, the film made her a maniacal woman, irresponsible mother, 3 time divorcee but certainly not without husband, no never. She just chased him away with her nuttiness, and in a sappy “crazy lady pulls the husband home by the ear” finale, she gets her happy and socially..mostly,, acceptable home back (presumably). In the book she was at least dignified with a first person narrative so we could get to know her better. Also, Patricia, was made straight or curios rather than “Liz” – and Janoth was no longer a sexually frustrated potentially gay man – more effects of censors, though they probably never intended to leave that in anyway. Lasltly, and the point at which I lost allot of respect for the film was the goofy closeups of the antique store owner when he sees “the killer” and passes out, comically stuffed into a display.

The book just sort of ended and the movie ended suddenly and seemingly haphazardly. One thing that was great about the Janoth character in the book was his knowledge that he might still actually be found out. In the film he was almost completely clueless to the end when his taxi had been traced. The reaction of the president of a huge corporation? To maniacally shoot Hagan, the man who had covered up everything for him, and ran off to his accidental death – more like the idiot described in the book than the smug, manipulative snob in the film. The film did remedy the really drawn out description of Stroud´s work on several occasions. I did find the relevance in it at times bust mostly I had to choke my way through pages upon pages of “Newsways this and Crimeways that, Personalities this! and The Sexes that” – I swear the book might have been 100 pages shorter had most of that been left out. In all other aspects the book was great and the lecture a definite encouragement to find his poetry. Im always interested in work by blacklisted, socialist and communist writers and directors, one more to add to a list of favorites.

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