24 user 8 critic

The Tell-Tale Heart (1953)

A madman tells his tale of murder, and how a strange beating sound haunted him afterward.


Ted Parmelee


Edgar Allan Poe (story), Bill Scott (story adaptation) | 1 more credit »


James Mason
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »




Credited cast:
James Mason ... Narrator (voice)


One of the most discussed and imaginative cartoons of any era. It tells the famous Edgar Allan Poe story of the deranged boarder who had to kill his landlord, not for greed, but because he possessed an "evil eye." The killer is never seen but his presence is felt by the use light-and-shadow to give the impression of impending disaster. According to UPA, the art style was derived from Eugene Berman, scenic designer and ballet designer of NYC's Metropolitan Opera. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

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Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Rumors for years surrounding this film would have it being in 3-D. However, absolutely no trade magazines list the production as being in 3-D (even pre-filming announcements and in-production articles), and according to Grover Crisp, head of the restoration unit at Sony/Columbia, the original negative bears absolutely no markings that would indicate that the film had any 3-D origins. It is speculated, based on several collectors' memories, that the myth started when super8mm editions of the film were labeled with 3-D stickers by accident, around the same time that stickers were being put on the 3-D shorts that Columbia was releasing in that format. See more »


Narrator: For an hour I did not move a muscle. I could feel the earth turn... The eye... Hear the spiders spinning. In the house, the grinding grumble of decay. And then, something else. Dull and muffled, and yet... Of course! It was the beating of the old man's heart. He knew! So strong for such an old man. Louder then, and still louder, for all the world to hear, I know! I had to stop it!
[Narrator screams as he strangles the old man]
Narrator: Then it was over. The heart was still. The eye was dead. I was free!
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Version of Le coeur révélateur (1966) See more »

User Reviews

Picture Perfect Poe
18 August 2004 | by tostinatiSee all my reviews

An English teacher whose taste I generally respected despised this film. As a word person, she was no doubt bothered by the compression and elimination of so much of Poe's carefully wrought language.

But she overlooked one thing, in my estimation. Poe said everything in a short story should be toward one effect, and certainly, there has been no better attempt on film to achieve the kind of formal and emotional control Poe suggested was the story teller's goal than this animated short. She should have appreciated that.

The control of tone, light and color palette here is complete; the actors are hand-crafted; the voices and music are expertly orchestrated as in great radio drama; best of all, nothing extraneous or distracting seeps through at any point. (We clearly see only one face during this short. We never see the narrator, but see all that happens through a subjective camera.) While there is a ton of ham bone melodrama and story padding in Corman's Poe films, this film achieves just the right pitch, delicate and disturbing, maintains it, and then finishes simply. In today's context, UPA's Tell-Tale seems slightly dry, if not downright academic; Corman's films evoke not only Hollywood, with all that means, but low budget film making and drive-in culture as well.

I believe Poe would have appreciated UPA's effort and encouraged them to try others, like Cask of Amontillado and Masque. Given the chance, I think he'd have liked to tell Corman to just quit it.

10 stars. One of the great cartoons, ever.

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Release Date:

17 December 1953 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Det skvallrande historia See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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