Category Archives: tell-tale heart

The Tell-Tale Heart 1941

This is a one-reeler from 1941, adapting the classic Edgar Allan Poe tale, and starring Joseph Shildkraut and Roman Bohnen. Both performers are staggeringly brilliant in their roles as the narrator and the old man, especially Bohnen who particularly frightening.

Whereas the original story is a monologue of madness, this Doane Hoag screenplay is a slightly updated full drama with dialogue. This is a sad state of affairs as we can sympathize with our murderer, and his motivations, at first, something I think Poe never had in mind. It kinda really made me wonder what was in Hoag’s head.

The use of the verb ‘quit’ in the dialogue is unintentionally hilarious in light if its use in Brokeback Mountain. It’s very difficult to stay with this short film once that exchange is had. That said, and ignored, this is a brilliant twenty-odd minutes of atmospheric intensity.

The work as full drama over monologue transforms it incredibly into almost a completely different piece. Still the use of sound and imagery are phenomenal. Cudos to director Jules Dassin, who would go on to make The Canterville Ghost, Topkapi and Never on Sunday. Worth seeing if you get a chance. TCM has been showing it in between some features this month for Halloween.