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  Tell-Tale Heart, The Beat It
Year: 1960
Director: Ernest Morris
Stars: Laurence Payne, Adrienne Corri, Dermot Walsh, Selma Vaz Dias, John Scott, John Martin, Annette Carell, David Lander, Rosemary Rotheray, Suzanne Fuller, Yvonne Buckingham, David Courtney, Richard Bennett, Joan Peart, Elizabeth Paget, Frank Thornton
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Edgar (Laurence Payne) wakes up screaming in his bed after yet another nightmare, and his housekeeper bursts in to see what is wrong, along with his good friend Carl (Dermot Walsh). He assures him all he needs is a snort of cocaine which he keeps in a handy box, but his problems run deeper than that, for his mind is wracked with mental anguish, and going out into the evening to a local bar doesn't help. Maybe he could do with female company, except the only women he is approached by are the prostitutes in the area, who he recoils from in horror, which leads him stumbling out back into the night...

Ah, but there might be a lady for Edgar, if only she realised it herself in this, a somewhat loose and expanded version of Edgar Allan Poe's short story. As with much of his work, this lasted barely a few pages in his published writings, but when it came to the movies they tended to embellish as much as they possibly could to take the plot up to at least eighty minutes or so, longer if they could get away with it. So here the lead could be Edgar Allan Poe, or he could be "Edgar Marsh" - he gets called both at different points - but mostly the thing it had in common with the original was the murder and that beating of the infernal heart.

That meant madness aplenty, so that was faithful at least, but the old man of the short was nowhere to be seen, and nobody had an eye on the narrator, which meant probably the best incarnation was the 1953 animated one from U.P.A. with the impeccable James Mason narrating, and that lasted around seven-and-a-half minutes whereas this relentlessly padded out yarn took ten times that to play itself out. So if you acknowledged this rare British Poe adaptation was going to make up most of its own story instead of sticking to the source, the diehard purists aside was it going to entertain you if you were seeking one of the pretenders to the Hammer horror market?

This hailed from those masters of the British B-movie the Danziger Brothers, "masters" probably because they made so darn many of them, though the most interesting name on the credits as far as genre went was Brian Clemens on screenwriting duties, sharing them with Eldon Howard, this before he went on to television and The Avengers broke new ground in the medium and his later return to the movies with And Soon the Darkness and Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter among others. Certainly his habit of seeing how much he could get away with was exhibited here, with a rather more bloodthirsty setpiece or two than its contemporaries might have attempted, and that included Hammer.

Therefore when Edgar starts to hear the beating of the heart belonging to the character he has murdered and concealed under the floorboards of the house he lives in, he cuts it out of the corpse's chest to bury it at a location outside, and we are not spared the gory details, nor when the killing occurs or the eventual surprise fate of the criminal. We were meant to feel sorry for poor old Edgar, or we would if he didn't have "loser" written all over him and his attempted wooing of Adrienne Corri's Betty who lives across the way and Edgar spies on in creepy Peeping Tom manner, rendering his show of affection towards the woman veering from pathetic to overbearing in the space of more than one scene. Betty would have to be crazy herself to want to get involved with him, which is likely why she shows far more interest in Carl, sending Edgar on his downward spiral of insanity which builds to a twist ending lifted straight from Dead of Night, whose influence was still being felt fifteen years later. In its overwrought ways this Tell-Tale Heart was amusing enough, but a little under-distinguished.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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