Monday, September 1, 2008

The Tell-Tale Heart (1953, UPA)

One of my favorite scary animated shorts is UPA's 1953 adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart". Actor James Mason (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Salem's Lot, etc.) narrates an abridged version of Poe's original text, told with beautiful, sometimes surreal images in limited animation and effects. I'll assume you're familiar with the story and won't recap it here. But do take a look at the outstanding art in these screen caps, and trust me that it's even more compelling in motion.

Our narrator's hand, catching a moth.

The old man.

And the old man's eye...

Our narrator bides his time, waiting to hatch his evil plan.

The murder is depicted in a series of quick images. The patterned blanket swirls and twists.

The aftermath. Temporary peace for our murdering narrator.

And now the clean up begins.

Police arrive.

A nervous mishap threatens to reveal his crime.

Rather than ending cold when the narrator confesses his crime in desparate madness (as in the original text), here the opening line is reprised as a coda that reveals our narrator is telling his story from a cell.

"True, I am nervous. Dreadfully nervous. But why do you say I am mad?"

This masterpiece (and it is) is buried among the extras in, of all things, the "Hellboy" 2-Disc Special Edition DVD (buy it here). Apparently director Guillermo Del Toro is a big UPA fan and insisted on smuggling "The Tell-Tale Heart" and a few "Gerald McBoing Boing" shorts on this release just to make them available. Thanks, Guillermo!

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