Add a Review

  • Joseph Schildkraut and Roman Bohnen (both sadly forgotten today) give two brilliant performances in an updated version of Edgar Allen Poe's tale. A young man (Schildkraut) is constantly tortured mentally and physically by an old man (Roman Bohnen). Finally he kills him...but keeps hearing the old man's heart beating. Well-directed, acted and very good use of sound. Well worth catching. TCM is showing a beautiful print of this in between movies--that's probably the only way to see it. Good luck!
  • This is a very good adaptation of Poe's classic story "The Tell-Tale Heart", with a good, tense atmosphere and a fine leading performance by Joseph Schildkraut. It does very well in capturing the psychology and suspense of the original.

    The story is adapted just slightly from Poe's story, in redefining the relationship between the two main characters at the beginning. It was probably a good decision to do so, in that it makes the characters' motivations work better for a screen version of the story. The rest of the story sticks closely to the original, and it relies heavily on Schildkraut, who does an excellent job even while barely speaking. Roman Bohnen also does a good job in portraying the other main character.

    The sound effects and visuals are used resourcefully and, in combination with Schildkraut's performance, they make for a memorable portrayal of a very troubled man. Jules Dassin deserves praise for bringing it all together so well.
  • Ron Oliver5 January 2002
    A much abused young man, driven to desperation & murder, hears his conscience rebel in the beating of THE TELL-TALE HEART.

    Edgar Allen Poe's story is turned into a short subject gem, with the magnificent performance of Joseph Schildkraut & the inspired direction of Jules Dassin. This is a prime example of what can be done in a very limited time frame - here, 20 minutes - when inspiration & bravado are used to interpret a great story. The original has been altered & expanded somewhat to explain more fully the reasons for the murder and to create sympathy for the killer. Schildkraut's depiction of growing guilt & Dassin's creation of an oppressive atmosphere do the story more than justice.

    Dassin would go on to become a celebrated features director. Schildkraut, already an Oscar winner, would enliven cinema & television roles with his talent for many years.

    Often overlooked or neglected today, the one and two-reel short subjects were useful to the Studios as important training grounds for new or burgeoning talents, both in front & behind the camera. The dynamics for creating a successful short subject was completely different from that of a feature length film, something akin to writing a topnotch short story rather than a novel. Economical to produce in terms of both budget & schedule and capable of portraying a wide range of material, short subjects were the perfect complement to the Studios' feature films.
  • Trying to find a translation to the screen of Edgar Allen Poe's work that doesn't involve Roger Corman? Try this short film, made by Jules Dassin, a director who was highly regarded in his time, and is nowadays mainly remembered for Rififi. It's pretty simple: 30-year old apprentice Joseph Schildkraut kills his cruel master. But the heartbeat of the dying body will be his downfall when the police come over. What's that rhythmic ticking sound: the clock? Dripping water? Or is it...(bum bum bum) the HEARTBEAT OF A DEAD MAN?

    It's a pretty slim story. The 20 minutes are just right; Dassin concentrates on atmosphere; every shot contributes to the story and mood. It's totally absorbing and gripping, depending greatly on shots from a subjective POV. Schildkraut is hypnotic as the nervous killer; it's really his movie. It might sound corny, but, as done, it's a grippingly serious short; it can be seen in between features on TCM sometimes. That, at least, is how I saw it.
  • telegonus15 August 2001
    A brilliant and stylish adaptation of the Poe story, filmed sparely, with great sound effects. Joseph Schildkraut plays the man driven mad by his evil deed, and he is magnificent. This is the way Poe ought to be done, not in the snickering, campy way he was adapted years later.
  • This is a stunningly beautiful version of the story with exquisite black-and-white cinematography and great performances in what is pretty much a two-person film (until the end). Dassin does a superb job all around and Schildkraut is amazing. I caught this on TCM -- THANK GOD FOR TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES! This should be available on DVD!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I finally saw this tonight on Turner Classic Movies.

    Edgar Allan Poe's stories are always "expanded" for the movies, be they films by Roger Corman or films that are older (even by D.W. Griffith, whose silent movie "The Avenging Conscience" is also based on "The Tell-Tale Heart". The effects are mixed. Corman's films are not liked by everyone, but some of them are quite good (I like "The Masque Of The Red Death", for example). But it actually goes beyond the effect of the Poe original. Poe is trying to show that you can't escape your fate or death. Prince Prospero and his guests think themselves safe from a deadly plague in their countryside castle. At the end they all die. But Corman turned it into a study of sadism, making Prospero (Vincent Price) an evil tyrant. His effects were good, and Price ate up the role properly - but was it Poe? No it wasn't.

    Poe's best short stories are influenced by his artistic sense of words and their sounds. It is little wonder that he is the only leading American fiction writer who was also a major poet (though Melville comes close). "The Tell - Tale Heart" starts off by being a monologue of the person who has committed the crime in it. The rhythm of his sentences and the choice of words show the speaker is high-strung at best, and unstrung at worst. He is constantly denying his mental problems, and is at great pains to put the blame of his crime on an abstract cause (the deformed eye of the old man). But after he commits the crime, the sound of the "thump-pump" of the heart's beat is brought to the reader by the words used, and the description of the sound. Gradually the reader can hear what the narrator can - so his final explosion at the end is a relief to him and the reader.

    Here, this twenty minute short, was a showcase for Joseph Schildkraut to play the killer. His motive is changed so the audience can sympathize with him, but his actions are expanded by his increased nervousness under the gaze of the old man's two friends, the police officers. He tries desperately to control his fears amidst the rising sound of the beat. At one point he stops Will Wright (one of the two policemen) from drumming on a table because it is what he wrongly thinks is the source of the beat noise. He even covers the spot where the remains are buried with a chair, but he can't remain still. So he finally gives away his horrible secret.

    Jules Daissin, later the director of "Riffifi", "Topkapi", "Never On Sunday" (which he starred in) and "The Naked City" was starting out when he directed this film. Given the speed of the movie (20 minutes - which is about the length of time it takes to read the short story original), he gets a lot of mileage with the spartan sets and the performance of Schildkraut. The result is a very well done short - and one of the few times a Poe short story is done in a way similar to what it's literary original was like.
  • A 30 year old Man is the live-in worker for an old man since he was 14. The old man constantly berates him and he finally snaps. One night, he kills the old man. Then he starts to hear a constant beating from everywhere. Two men shows up looking for the old man and he starts to fall apart.

    Joseph Schildkraut is pretty good as a haunted man. This MGM produced Edgar Allan Poe short is more or less a testing ground for director Jules Dassin. It takes advantage of good camera work. One can really feel the constant beating of the tell-tale heart. It's a well-made cinematic exercise.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is an appallingly horrible adaptation on so many levels. It's shameful what they did to Poe's perfect story of insanity, delusion, paranoia, and guilt. ALL of that is missing from this short 20-minute film. (**SPOILERS** ahead for anyone who might not know the story.) First, they changed the whole beginning to justify the murder and make the killer slightly sympathetic on some level ~ and make the victim UNsympathetic. The crazy, irrational premeditation is totally missing from the film. Secondly, there is no sense of foreboding and no terror. No suspense; no creepy internal monologue; no dread. The police in this film arrive already suspicious, which makes no sense and doesn't work at all. This misses the whole point of the story and is a critical FAIL! Lastly (and most importantly), the film has totally cast away all of Poe's brilliant words and syntax. There are sentences and phrases I still remember to this day that are not even given lip service in the film! Ridiculous! Yes, film adaptations take liberties and make changes for a different medium, but to completely dismiss almost everything from the source material is almost a worse crime than the cold-blooded murder in the story! (I kid.) They don't even use the final line of the story, which is one of the great lines in literature. They changed it to some bland, watered-down line that has none of the chilling punch of the story. If you've never read the Poe story, I probably sound as crazy as the protagonist to you right now, but if you have read the story and cherish it as much as I do, I'm sure you'll feel my pain.
  • Tell-Tale Heart, The (1941)

    *** 1/2 (out of 4)

    Oscar winner Joseph Schildkraut stars in this adaptation of the Poe story. He plays the young man who murders an abusive old man but soon begins to hear his heart beating. This is my favorite story from Poe so I try and watch each version of it that I can and this here is certainly one of the best that I've seen. This was directed by Jules Daissin, who would later make Brute Force and Riffifi, so you know there's talent involved here. He does a very good job with the material and that's especially true when you watch the breakdown scene and how it's put together and edited. As the breakdown and heart beats keep pounding the director really builds up the tension. Schildkraut also does a fine job with the role as he too is responsible for building the tension up. He doesn't have too much dialogue but he doesn't need any as he really sells the character with just his looks.
  • Roger Corman,although he transferred a lot of Poe's short stories to the screen ,was not really faithful to the writer:sometimes fleshed -out to a feature length film proportions by the script writers ,the movies tended to cover what original stories existed in the first place ("premature burial" )Sometimes it was a mixture of several stories ("the pit and the pendulum").Corman's works are still fun to watch though.The late sixties attempt "Histoires Extraordinaires" aka "Spirits of the dead" saw the three directors Malle,Vadim and Fellini succumb to the same vices.Only Fellini played his game well,transcending Poe with end-of-the-world pictures and a breath-taking virtuosity.

    Jules Dassin's rendering of one of POe's famous short stories is a different matter ,because it deals with Poe and Poe only.If you've read the novel,you will feel this maleficent atmosphere dear to the American writer.The pictures show the influence of German expressionism with its use of shadows and light;the soundtrack,with its relentless thump makes you feel it is your own heart which is pounding.Roman Bohnen 's performance compares favorably with the best of those of Peter Lorre.Only 20 min where fear is a man's best friend.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Schildkraut, the young shop worker, is being made very, very nervous by the old man with the one staring EYE. The old man treats him like dirt, insults him, humiliates him. The young worker hates him -- and hates that EYE. Finally he's driven beyond the point that most of us would consider "very, very nervous." He's irretrievably mad, in fact.

    He enters the old guy's room and strangles him, then buries the body under the floor. (This is familiar stuff, I know, if you've read the story.) But something is bothering Schildkraut. Once in a while he still hears the determined thumping of the old man's heart from underneath the planks. During a visit by the sheriff, inquiring after the mean old curmudgeon, Schildkraut goes completely wacko and gives himself and the deed away.

    It's not bad, not insulting. It's an inexpensive short. Schildkraut does okay by the role and it was directed by Jules Dassin, who was to go on to bigger and sometimes better things. I think it's a little slow and would have benefited from occasional narration of excerpts lifted from Poe. It just occurs to me, how closely this resembles a tale from "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."
  • The Crime Doesn't Pay series was an MGM short series that would retell some tale of crime and show how the guilty are always punished. Forget that this is not the case, the censors demanded such an ending, so that was the ending you always got. Sometimes the series would talk about career criminals, sometimes it would be an ordinary person swept up in extraordinary circumstances, thinking that they could get away with murder or larceny or some other serious crime.

    This is a little different. It is an adapted dramatization of Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart". In Poe's story you do not know why the person telling the story has decided to kill the old man, but you do get the feeling the guy is insane because he protests so much that he isn't. The source of his malice seems to be a milky eye that the old man has, which the narrator/murderer seems to focus in on as some source of evil.

    In this dramatization, Joseph Schildkraut plays a weaver's assistant who is being physically and emotionally abused by the old weaver. From the dialogue it is ascertained that Schildkraut's character came to work for him when he was 14 and never worked for anybody else - probably an orphan. So the weaver is established as a cruel person. When the assistant kills him in the middle of the night to escape his torment, he may have hidden the body well, but he didn't think through an alibi at all. He has no story for where the old man might have gone and when he is coming back, or why he might never come back. Also, the weaver lets out a scream as he is being killed which a neighbor hears and this brings the authorities the next morning.

    Schildkraut shows what a fine actor that he is as he is pretty much the center of attention throughout. Recommended as a showcase for Schildkraut's acting and the fine special effects for 1941.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The title "The Tell-Tale Heart" here makes it already obvious that here we have another version of the famous Edgar Allen Poe story. It runs for 20 minutes and is in black-and-white because it is from the days of World War II and by now already over 75 years old. The director is Jules Dassin and this was his first career effort a long time before his 2 Oscar nominations. Lead actor Joseph Schildkraut, however, already had an Oscar when he played the main character here. Funnily enough he is older playing the Young Man than the actor playing the Old Man. This is the story of a worker who gets humiliated again and again by his master and one day he won't take it anymore and kills him. However, his decency backfires when guilt gets the better of him as he keeps hearing the old man's heart pounding and slowly goes insane. No word really on the two detectives as they added virtually nothing. It's all about Schildkraut. But the film was a bit too theatrical at times for my taste, also the line delivery, and I think this could have been told with better focus in 12 minutes too, so it had a length here and there. It is overall not my favorite from Poe, also not the way it was depicted here and that's why I give this third of an hour a thumbs-down. Not recommended.
  • This particular horror tale is certainly among the most filmed of Edgar Allan Poe's writings and, is one that, like "A Cask Of Amontillado" that I mentioned earlier, I first got acquainted with during my childhood days from an illustrated, abridged collection of Poe stories; I have watched a number of adaptations of it myself (both short and feature-length) and yet another, emanating from 1960, will follow presently. With a plot so familiar by now as to hold no surprises and, being a production of notoriously staid MGM, this 20-minute version is not particularly chilling – apart from the old man's blank eye. It is, however, given a stature of its own via the notable credits (sadly, it proved director Dassin's sole foray into the genre) and a superb central performance from the reptilian Joseph Schildkraut.
  • ONCE AGAIN, WE have been most impressed and amazed with the wide ranging numbers subject matter and quality that has been injected into the field of the Short Subject. Most commonly viewed of these being that of the Comedies (Laurel & Hardy, 3 Stooges, Joe McDoakes, Our Gang, Pete Smith, etc.), we seem to be all too unaware of the multitude of other treasures in this category.

    IN ADDITION TO their role of providing film exhibitors with inexpensive or even free fodder with which to fill out their programs, shorts also provided the studios witha sort of experimental lab. New ideas could be employed in the making of a short and up and coming and inspiring Directors could be tested and found.

    THIS MAY WELL BE the case in point with the production of THE TELL TALE HEART. Director, Jules Dassin, would soon become one of the most important filmmakers of the Post World War II era. Among his output we have: BRUTE FORCE, THE NAKED CITY, THIEVES HIGHWAY and NIGHT AND THE CITY.

    AS FOR THIS short film, itself, it has much to recommend it. First of all, the cast of Joseph Schildkraut, Roman Bohnen, Will Wright (uncredited) and Oscar O'Shea (ditto), was most effective in conveying the horror and eerie mood throughout. A sort of underplaying lent itself to the prevailing feelings of loneliness, isolation and frustration.

    ONE OTHER QUALITY that we noticed is how the films 2 reels (20 minutes) are so skillfully used. There is naught a wasted moment nor is there any overly long presentation of any aspect of the story. In what may well have been a great coincidence, Mr. Dassin and company may well have given us a key to future productions. What we mean is that intentional or not, this production of THE TELL TALE HEART may be viewed as a sort of blueprint for the half hour television dramas that we seen so frequently over the years. Titles such as Rod Serling's THE TWILIGHT ZONE and NIGHT GALLERY, ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, ONE STEP BEYOND and THE OUTER LIMITS are extreme examples of this notion.

    ADAPTED FROM THE story by Edgar Allen Poe, we're sure that he would be well satisfied with the final screen product.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    . . . Poe's THE TELL-TALE HEART bears more resemblance to a muncher of the corny cob than something from the famed "Master of the Macabre," eerie horror and spine-tingling suspense do NOT seem to be the goal of its makers. Rather, this TELL-TALE HEART mainly serves as a 1940s plea for the American Basic Right now referred to as the Miranda Warning. If you expand the latter to include your Right to a Counsel such as "Jack Cochran" (famous for saying, "If the accused has to sit, you must acquit"), THE TELL-TALE HEART can be seen as a clarion call for all the Rights enjoyed by the Dylans, Osamas, and Travises of Today. Statistics indicate that the majority of class bullies go on to law enforcement careers, and the cops brow-beating the bullied "servant" during this live-action short clearly have been engaging in this sort of abuse against the Common Man all their lives. However, like many films with a political ax to grind, entertainment niceties such as sound plotting, witty dialogue, a coherent tone, and passable acting get dumped out the window with the bathwater from THE TELL-TALE HEART.