The Tell-Tale Heart (1991)

*. This is little more than the filming of a stage version of Poe’s famous story, literal to the point of being a recitation by the narrator (played by Michael Sollazzo). It’s directed by Scott Mansfield, the founder of Monterey Media, who has done a number of independent projects like this.
*. The one bit of cleverness is in the way the narrator continues to address the audience and tell his story even while the events of the story are going on around him. In itself, however, this is nothing surprisingly new, and it does nothing to exploit the story’s dominant passion, which is the obsession and paranoia of the narrator and his mad insistence that he is not mad.
*. I thought the moment when the one policeman directly faces the camera and addresses what seems to be us as the Inspector might have been a clever wrinkle, but I don’t see where they did anything further with it. Too bad.
*. I mentioned the narrator’s mad insistence that he isn’t mad. This is a paradox that had to be developed more. The narrator here is too restrained and the part underplayed, without any of the manic energy you have to feel he’s unsuccessfully trying to keep the lid on.
*. The voice does sort of fit with the décor though, which may be historically accurate but which doesn’t fit with the brooding sense of interiority and terror — what the narrator describes as “the death watches in the wall.” The house here looks like a cozy b&b.
*. I wonder if it’s too long at 25 minutes. Ted Parmalee’s 1953 film and Annette Jung’s 2006 version both only run around 8 minutes. Even Jules Dassin’s film, which is a free adaptation, was done in 20 minutes. It’s not that there’s not enough material here to make a longer film out of, but that there’s such a thing as a short-story aesthetic that depends on being succinct. If you dawdle the whole thing starts to come undone.
*. Gore is hinted at, but not seen. Madness is dramatized, but not felt. There isn’t any suspense to speak of. I came away thinking that I’d actually like to see this version of “The Tell-Tale Heart” live on stage sometime, in a small local theatre where it would have a cozy immediacy. As a movie, however, it’s not worth bothering with unless you’re a student with a paper on it due the next day.

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