His hideous heart

>> Wednesday, October 28, 2009

October 28th of my favorite month, and I haven't done anything for it. At least not on the blog. I've been watching horror movies throughout the month, and reading horror stories, too--but I haven't reviewed any on the blog or anything like I did last year.

So let's see if I can do better than that for the last few days of the month--some kind of commemoration of the best month of the year, the month of sweet-scented falling leaves and haunted evenings.

This evening: from 1953, Columbia Pictures/United Productions Of America presents Ted Parmelee's adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's 1843 classic "The Tell-Tale Heart." Although Parmelee's short was nominated for an Oscar, I personally find it a little bit literal and ordinary at times, and I think it loses some effect from the disclaimers on the front end--though it's possible they were the result of the movie bizarrely receiving a restricted Adults-Only rating in Britain. On the other hand, what makes this short beyond awesome can be summarized in two words:

James Mason.

Writers Bill Scott and Fred Grable wisely hew close to Poe's original words in their adaptation--the script is essentially Mason doing a near-reading of the short story (with a few minor alterations), and Mason's reading is pitch-perfect. "Lyrical intensity" seems like a bit of a cliché, but when people talk about prose having it, Poe's the writer they're talking about whether they're specifically talking about him or not, and "Heart" is a brilliant little example, with its cadences capturing the way the anonymous narrator's OCD devolves into homicide. Take those textual rhythms and channel them through James Mason's mellifluous voice... well, yes, it is wonderful to hear.

"The Tell Tale Heart":




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