Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe night

TCM has been running horror movies every Wednesday in prime time this month, and this fourth Wednesday in October is seeing several movies based on works by Edgar Allan Poe. TCM didn't get The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe from Fox, but there is a fairly broad selection in terms of period. (Obviously, they're all horror movies.) One of the more interesting choices is The Tell-Tale Heart, which comes up overnight at 1:45 AM.

What's interesting is that unlike the others, this is just a two-reeler. It doesn't take away from the story only making it a 20-minute movie, either, since Poe was mostly writing short stories: something that only goes on for ten pages maximum can fairly easily be turned into a two-reeler without leaving stuff out. Another interesting thing is that this was made at MGM, which of course is usually known for its glitzy movies, a style which you'd think normally wouldn't go well with horror. But the reason this one works well is most likely down to its director, a young Jules Dassin at the beginning of his career. Dassin was also fortunate to have two very good if not "name" actors in the main roles, those being Joseph Schildkraut (who had won an Oscar a few years earlier for The Live of Emile Zola) and Roman Bohnen as the murderer.

The story, for those who don't know it, is simple; it is, after all, a short story. Schildkraut plays Bohnen's boss and housemate, and treats Bohnen worse than Ebeneze Scrooge treats Bob Cratchit. So Bohnen finally snaps and kills Schildkraut, burying the body under the floorboards. (You'd think somebody would notice the smell.) Bohnen has a guilty conscience, however, and every time he hears rhythmic beats, he begins to wonder whether it's the heart of the man he killed.

This version of The Tell-Tale Heart received a DVD release as an extra on a Thin Man box set. However, it's not the four-film set that TCM has taken to promoting, so you may have to do a bit of work to find it at Amazon.

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