The Tell-Tale Heart

(USA 1953)

I caught The Tell-Tale Heart as an extra at Music Box Theatre’s screening for Reel Film Day. Directed by Ted Parmelee and narrated by English actor James Mason, it’s a nifty modern take on Edgar Allan Poe’s famous 1843 short story about a murderer haunted by his victim’s heartbeat, which he hears from underneath the floorboards where he hid the body. Paul Julian’s design and Pat Matthews’s animation is shadowy and surreal, nicely depicting the horror and the madness of Poe’s classic. Boris Kremenliev’s score adds an eerie Twilight Zone feel.

This short has the distinction of being the first cartoon to earn an ‘X’ rating. However, it appears the rating, assigned by the British Board of Film Censors in the UK, had more to do with religion than obscenity ( It had to be the dark occult nature of the story,  as there is nothing remotely sexual here.

In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed The Tell-Tale Heart “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry (

Production: United Productions of America

Distribution: Columbia Pictures

7 minutes
Not rated (USA)

(Music Box) A

Reel Film Day: A Celebration of 35mm Cinema