Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Tell-Tale Heart (1954) Film Review
The Tell-Tale Heart
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
A Columbia short from 1954, this animated version of the classic Poe chiller remains one of the best adaptations of his work to date. At a spare seven minutes, it respects the simplicity of a tale whose horror stems from a sense of inevitability. Its noirish perspective pays tribute to the detective thrillers popular at the time but the essential character of the story is never overwhelmed.
James Mason was perhaps the only narrator of horror fiction who could give Vincent Price a run for his money. Here he plays the part of an unseen madman - who naturally believes himself sane - compelled to confess his crimes and attempt to justify them. It was the eye whose presence he couldn't stand; it was the heart that later drove him to act; but what drives him to recount his experience? This is the unseen piece of the puzzle and the source of the tale's lingering power.
Though Poe's prose was sometimes lurid, its visualisation here is spare. Pale, spidery hands reveal human fragility; shadows form and reform, sometimes plunging us entirely into blackness. There's a dalliance with the surreal as the structure of the house seems to gape open before an unabashedly symbolic moon. Carefully paced, keeping that all important rhythm, the film presents little visual motifs and auditory hints at the heartbeat before it begins.
With archetypal horror like this, there's little need for sophisticated technique, and The Tell-Tale Heart makes excellent use of the basics. It's a creepy little treat perfect for introducing an evening of scary films.Reviewed on: 15 May 2012
If you like this, try:The Raven