#69) The Tell-Tale Heart (1953)


#69) The Tell-Tale Heart (1953)

OR “UPA: Unique Poe Adaptation”

Directed by Ted Parmelee

Written by Bill Scott and Fred Grable. Based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe.

Class of 2001


The Plot: James Mason lends his voice to this Edgar Allan Poe classic about an unreliable narrator who murders “the old man” due to his obsession with the man’s slightly deformed eye. He has committed the perfect murder, but will his conscience let him get away with it?

Why It Matters: The NFR mentions Ted Parmelee’s directorial work, as well as the animation of Paul Julian and Pat Matthews, and James Mason’s narration. Interestingly, there are no superlatives (good or bad) regarding any of the work done by the aforementioned. The description just says they worked on the film. Weird.

But Does It Really?: “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a young animation studio proving that it can not be pigeonholed as the studio of “Gerald McBoing-Boing” and “Mr. Magoo”. The film succeeds in not only being a new style of animation for UPA, but also in being very creepy. I give it a pass, and cite it as the reason I’m not sleeping tonight.

Wow, That’s Dated: The whole film has a surrealistic, moving storyboard feel to it. Very ‘50s.

Seriously, Oscars?: “The Tell-Tale Heart” was nominated for Best Animated Short, losing to Walt Disney’s significantly less scary cartoon “Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom”. This was one of four Oscars Walt Disney won that night, which is still the record for a single night.

Other notes

  • Even the credits are unsettling.
  • Is there a better marriage between actor and text than James Mason and The Tell-Tale Heart? This performance is a serious example of why the Oscars need a voice-over category.
  • Anyone know who the other voices in this short are?
  • Did you know that Edgar Allan Poe wrote the original “Tell-Tale Heart” on a dare? That’s not true, but wouldn’t it be amazing if it were?


  • The Tell-Tale Heart has been adapted for film many times, but any version longer than this one is just Padding City.
  • This diorama;

Further Viewing: This is as good an excuse as any to mention Eddie Izzard as James Mason as God. It’s towards the end of this clip, but it always makes me laugh.

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