The Tell-Tale Heart 1953
Film Review by John M. Miller
The Tell-Tale Heart is one of the most unusual and memorable animated shorts produced by a major studio during the Golden Age of theatrical animation. The daring and expressive short begins with a rare text disclaimer: "The film that you are about to see is based on a story told a hundred years ago by America's greatest master of drama and suspense... This story is told through the eyes of a madman... who, like all of us, believed that he was sane." This spoiler both explains the point-of-view of the story for the dull-witted members of the audience as well as acting as an alert that the content was to be taken seriously, not humorously. In 1953 a dramatic cartoon was a rarity indeed.
The Tell-Tale Heart contains very little animation. It was designed by Paul Julian as a series of detailed, manic paintings and visually tells the story from the subjective view of the crazed man who murders an old man because of his "evil eye." The first-person narration is delivered by James Mason--an inspired choice--and writer Bill Scott does not take a single line directly from the story, though the language is very much in the Poe vein. The visuals are brought to life with sweeping camera moves and eerie light and shadows that are constantly in play.
When the short was near completion, it was decided that the studio should create a 3-D version. Stereoscopic films were at their height of popularity that year, as every major studio rushed to release features and shorts in the format. Disney, Paramount and Warner Bros. had produced cartoons in 3-D and Steve Bosustow decided this subject would be ideal and that the process would add to the eerie effect. Extra work was required, of course; as Adam Abraham writes...