The Tell-Tale Heart (1953 American film)

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The Tell-Tale Heart
Promotional poster
Directed byTed Parmelee
Produced byStephen Bosustow
Screenplay byBill Scott
Fred Grable
Based onThe Tell-Tale Heart
by Edgar Allan Poe
Narrated byJames Mason
Music byBoris Kremenliev
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
December 17, 1953
Running time
7:24 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Tell-Tale Heart is a 1953 American animated psychological horror short film produced by UPA, directed by Ted Parmelee, and narrated by James Mason. The screenplay by Bill Scott and Fred Grable is based on the 1843 short story of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe; the British Board of Film Censors made this the first cartoon to receive an adults-only X certificate in the United Kingdom.


The plot focuses on a murderer whose increasing guilt leads him to believe he can hear his victim's heart still beating beneath the floorboards where he buried him. Seen through the eyes of the nameless narrator, the surrealistic images in the film help convey his descent into madness.


Paul Julian served as both designer and color artist for film, and Pat Matthews was the principal animator.

In May 1953, pre-production started on The Tell-Tale Heart, which originally was intended to be a 3-D film,[1] it is not known if the film was animated in this fashion, but it was not released in 3D. There is no reference to 3D in a technical trade review.[2] Furthermore, the leaders on original prints of the film do not indicate it ever was part of a pair of 3D prints.[3]


The film was the first cartoon to be rated X, indicating it was suitable only for adult audiences, by the British Board of Film Censors,[4] it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film but lost to Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom from Walt Disney Productions.[5]

In 1994, animation historian Jerry Beck surveyed 1000 people working in the animation industry and published the results in The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals, in which The Tell-Tale Heart ranked #24.[6]

In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.[7]


The short is included as a bonus feature on the first DVD release of Hellboy, it is also included, with commentary by Leonard Maltin and Jerry Beck, on disc 2 of The Jolly Frolics Collection.


  1. ^ Advertisement for Columbia Pictures, BoxOffice Magazine, June 6, 1953
  2. ^ BoxOffice Magazine, October 24, 1953, p. 10
  3. ^ Original release print of The Tell-Tale Heart, Columbia Pictures, Copyright 1953
  4. ^ The Tell-Tale Heart at the Big Cartoon Database
  5. ^ 1953 at The Oscar Site
  6. ^ Beck, Jerry,The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals. Atlanta: Turner Publishing 1994. ISBN 1-878685-49-X
  7. ^ National Film Preservation Board website

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