Ahh, now I am actually fairly hopeful about today’s movie. After all, if you are doing a movie based on Edgar Allan Poe, then, at the very least, the plot should be pretty good. I remember my first introduction to Poe was through a pocket sized book, though pocket sized might be a bit misleading, and “The Tell-Tale Heart” was one of the stories included in the book. Now this story has been made into a movie several times over the years and I have never seen any of them before now. Let’s see how good this version of the movie is as I watch The Tell-Tale Heart (1960).
The plot: Edgar Marsh hears a thumping sound and heads downstairs to his study. Thinking it might be a metronome sitting on a table, he quickly smashes it but the thumping persists. Bending down to look at the floorboard underneath, he imagines it moving in time with the beating and quickly runs upstairs. The next day, he is visited by his friend Carl Loomis, who gives him some snuff and begs him to see a doctor but when Edgar refuses, he says to contact him if he needs anything. That night, Edgar heads to a bar and a woman starts flirting with him but he quickly heads back home, as he is too shy. The next day, as Edgar is looking at some erotic pictures, he notices a young woman, Betty Clare, moving into the building next door and becomes infatuated with her. In the morning, Edgar speaks with Betty’s landlord to find out some information about her, then heads to the flower shop where she works and starts to speak to her but his shyness causes him to run off soon after. Edgar goes to see Carl to get some advise on how to talk to women and the next day, Edgar meets Betty on her way to work and asks if he can escort her there, then invites her to dinner. Betty accepts and they go to dinner but Edgar is unwilling to say much about himself and they end up leaving early. As Edgar escorts her home, he attempts to forcibly kiss her at her doorstep but she manages to push him away and quickly slam the door on him. The next day, Edgar approaches Betty at her work and apologizes for his behavior, claiming her beauty was too much for him to resist, and asks that she accompany him to dinner as a way to apologize. Betty is hesitant but eventually agrees to join him for dinner again. As they get a drink after some dancing, Edgar sees Carl and invites him over to join them, and Betty and Carl become attracted to each other. The next day, Edgar and Carl are playing their weekly game of chess when Betty stops by to return a book that Edgar loaned her and as they talk about their plans for the following evening, they invite Carl when he says he has nothing planned. The next night, Betty and Carl keep sharing glances at each other, while Edgar is unaware of their growing attraction. After they leave the club, Edgar returns home and sees Betty undressing in her room when Carl approaches behind her and they start kissing before heading to the bed. In the morning, Carl gets dressed and ready to leave Betty’s room, saying he doesn’t want to be seen by anyone. Betty knows he means Edgar and they discuss Edgar, as well as their feelings for each other, and Carl says he plans on telling Edgar about them and hopes that their friendship will not suffer for it. That evening, Carl is summoned to Edgar’s house by Edgar’s maid, who says that Edgar has been locked in his upstairs room all day and won’t speak to anyone but Carl. After dismissing her, Carl heads upstairs to check on Edgar, who asks him to pour him a drink from the bottle by the window. As Edgar talks about the room, Carl realizes that the window looks directly into Betty’s room and realizes that Edgar must have seen them last night. Turning around, Carl sees Edgar brandishing a fire poker and Edgar begins bludgeoning him to death with it. Several days later, Betty is worried about Carl’s disappearance and goes to the police to voice her concerns but the police say that, given Carl’s past nature, he simply ran off with some woman. Betty goes to see Edgar to see if he has heard anything and he says no, then voices his suspicion about the level of concern she has for Carl but Betty plays it off, not admitting that they were lovers. Later that night, Edgar’s guilt starts messing with his mind, as he hears a leaky faucet and a constant beating in the house. As he looks at all of the various items moving in sync with the beating, Edgar rips up the floorboards in the room to reveal Carl’s body and assures himself that he is dead. Edgar decides to take the body out and bury it somewhere else so that it is not there haunting him. When he returns, he goes to wash his hands but he collapses from the guilt over what he has done. Betty hears the commotion from Edgar’s house and when she looks out her window and sees Edgar leaning over the wash basin, she realizes that he must have seen her and Carl together. The next day, Betty speaks with Edgar’s maid, who confirms that Carl had stopped by the house the day that he disappeared and that Edgar wasn’t feeling himself that day or the days since. Betty goes to the police about her suspicions but they think that Carl had gone there simply to borrow some money and Edgar was too embarrassed to discuss the matter. When Edgar leaves the house, Betty sneaks inside and starts looking around for proof that Edgar killed Carl, eventually finding the bent fire poker, then manages to sneak out when Edgar returns. Betty takes the fire poker to the police, who think she is just trying to find anything to justify her beliefs but the Chief Inspector notices some hair and dried blood on the poker and suspect that she might be telling the truth. Meanwhile, Edgar continues to hear the beating sound in his house and finding himself being driven mad by the continuous beating so he leaves the house and begins wandering the street. The next day, the police are waiting at Betty’s place for Edgar to come back and when they see him, they ask him if he would answer some questions about Carl’s disappearance. Edgar invites them inside and they proceed to ask him questions, but Edgar is distracted by the beating sound, which continues to get louder and louder. Driven mad by the beating, Edgar tells the police they know he killed Carl and tries to run but the police are forced to shoot him and he falls onto the spiked end of the stair rail, impaling himself in the chest. As he screams in pain, Edgar is suddenly woken from the nightmare he was having by Carl and he starts to explain about his dream when he looks out his window and sees a woman, who looks like Betty from his dream, arrive at the house next door and Edgar quickly looks at Carl in horror.
Surprisingly enough, this was a pretty good movie. The acting was good, with Laurence Payne doing a great job of playing Edgar and showing the stages of his paranoia after he kills Carl. I also liked Adrienne Corri (Betty) and Dermot Walsh (Carl), as they were a great focal point for Edgar’s emotions, both the love for Betty and the jealousy at Carl. The plot did deviate from the original story some, making it about a love triangle as opposed to a man killing the old man he lives with due to the old man’s “evil eye”. It did manage to keep most of the ideas, such as the neighbor calling the police to report the crime, as well as the general theme of guilt driving a person mad that was a focal point of the story. The tone and drama in the movie were very good and did an excellent job of helping move the movie along and keeping you interested in watching it. It’s not a perfect theatrical version of the story but definitely one that is worth watching.
Rating: 4 out of 5