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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 »


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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>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

17 December 1953 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Det skvallrande historia See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

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 The Tell-Tale Heart (1953) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Chilling and Disturbing in Every Regard
4 October 2018 | by elicoppermanSee all my reviews

Part of the appeal of watching classic animated shorts is discovering gems that are not like the typical comedic cartoon variety. UPA's adaptation of The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe is one of them, so much so that the film was actually given an X rating by the British Board of Film Censors. As of now, it is at #24 in the 50 Greatest Cartoon book and has been deemed culturally significant by the NFR. As for what I think, it still remains one of the creepiest shorts I've ever seen.

As the film tells the famous story in a brief manner, it manages to capture the raw mood and chilling atmosphere from Poe and translate it very well for the screen. What makes the film stand out is the visual style itself, since it focuses more on gothic backgrounds and stylized designs rather than character acting. However, it fits within the point of view of the main character (voiced superbly by James Mason), since the short is meant to provoke anxiety through the eyes of a madman.

The surrealistic visuals emulate the fear factor to recreate the perspective of the main character and let the audience imagine that they're in his shoes. Whenever the main character does something wrong or horrific, we feel the paranoia in him, the tone is that claustrophobically frightening. Even the music works well on its own, going from quiet and menacing to loud and bombastic depending on the scene. Overall, if you haven't seen this short, definitely give it a watch. It may make you feel nervous watching it, but why would you say it will make you mad?

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