Friday, March 18, 2011

Jack Seabrook on Fredric Brown's "The Night the World Ended"

Jack Seabrook has written a great article over at Barebones E-Zine on a television adaptation Fredric Brown's "The Night the World Ended" made for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The original short story, which first appeared in the January 1945 issue of Dime Mystery and was reprinted in both Mostly Murder and Carnival of Crime, is among my all-time favorite Fredric Brown stories. The plot concerns several newspapermen who pull a prank on the town drunk: they print a phony newspaper headline saying the world is going to end that night just to see what he'll do. It encapsulates so much of what Brown did best: interweave philosophical inquiry and existential irony in a dark, suspenseful, and absolutely fun short story. Bizarre, compelling, disturbing, and even a reference to Martins! Yup, it's all there. "The Night the World Ended" is, in my opinion, Fredric Brown at his best.

As Jack Seabrook notes in his article, the television adaptation "is more sad than suspenseful." While they make a number of changes to the story, I still found it very enjoyable, and I think the show still captures the cruelty and humor of Brown's original story.

For a more in-depth analysis, be sure to read Seabrook's article. Seabrook is the leading authority on all-things Fredric Brown, and he wrote a biography of the author called Martians and Misplaced Clues: The Life and Work of Fredric Brown. Seabrook's other articles at Barebones include:

Fredric Brown's "Arena" and The Outer Limits

Fredric Brown: Two Lost Stories by Guy Fredric Brown

Fredric Brown: Night of the Psycho

Fredric Brown: The Deadly Weekend

The Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode originally aired on April 28, 1957. There were a couple of great lines in the episode. These two were my favorites:

"Every joke's got to have a pay-off. This joke's got to have a pay-off, too."

"A guy tries to do right the last night of his life and nothing goes right"

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