The Tell-Tale Heart
directed by Ernest Morris
(Alpha, 1960)

There's not a whole lot of suspense in this one, as everyone over the age of 5 knows the story. The filmmakers do try to shake things up a bit with strange twists at both beginning and end, but the merits of an introductory warning to close your eyes and open them only after the beating heart stops beating is about as campy as they come -- and the ending is somewhat annoying in its own right. Still, at least the effort was there to throw in something of the unexpected to an extremely familiar tale.

In this incarnation of Edgar Allan Poe's famous short story, a lovers' triangle leads to the tell-tale murder. It's never pretty when a shy librarian starts pitching woo, but hermit-like Edgar Marsh (Laurence Payne) works up the nerve to ask out a woman who just moved in across the street from him. Betty (Adrienne Corri) isn't much of a looker to my eyes, and she's sort of a strumpet, what with her disrobing nightly in front of an open window right there on a busy thoroughfare and all, but Edgar is quite hooked on her. His best friend Carl (Dermot Walsh) helped talk him into making his move, so Edgar can't wait to introduce him to Betty. The poor dope is quite blind to the fact that Carl and Betty (who wasn't exactly enamored with Edgar to start with) can't take their eyes off one another from the very start.

Then comes a night when, from his vantage point across the street, he spies the two of them together in Betty's bedroom (the woman apparently doesn't own a curtain) -- these two may dress like Victorians, but they certainly don't act like Victorians. Well, you know the rest: Edgar kills Carl, starts hearing that infernal heartbeat, etc.

It's a perfectly average film with decent heart-beating special effects, but it's just hard to get excited about a perfectly average film of a story universally embedded in the minds of viewers (especially when it dates back to an era in which blood and gore were still kept to a minimum).

by Daniel Jolley
22 April 2006

Buy it from