In 1849, the great American writer Edgar Allan Poe met a strange death in Baltimore. If you recall, Poe was discovered, either in a state of delirium or unconscious (accounts differ) and apparently wearing someone else’s tattered clothes, outside a tavern. He was taken to a hospital where he remained, unable to explain what had happened to him, until he died. (A post in our archive breaks down the strange circumstances surrounding his death pretty well.)

To mark the admittedly grim occasion, we are highlighting today the 1953 animated film version of Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” narrated by James Mason. Upon its release, the film was given a bizarre reception. In the UK, the British Board of Film Censors gave the film an “x” rating, deeming it unsuitable for adult audiences. Meanwhile, “The Tell-Tale Heart” was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in the US, though it ultimately lost to a Disney production. The film runs a short 7:24, and now appears in our collection of Free Movies Online.

Bonus: You can also download a free text version of Poe’s classic via Project Gutenberg, and then a free audio version from our list of Free Audio Books.

Many thanks to Mike S. for sending this our way. Have a great piece of Open Culture to share with your fellow readers? Get in touch here.

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Related Content:

The Mystery of Edgar Allan Poe’s Death: 19 Theories on What Caused the Poet’s Demise

5 Hours of Edgar Allan Poe Stories Read by Vincent Price & Basil Rathbone

Édouard Manet Illustrates Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, in a French Edition Translated by Stephane Mallarmé (1875)

Download The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe: Macabre Stories as Free eBooks & Audio Books


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  • YEsteHayes says:

    My students didn’t get the story. After we went over it paragraph by paragraph, I felt that I was feeding them the information. But after seeing the video the concept became clearier.

  • Harry Shaffer says:

    Not to put to fine a point on it, however the legal definition of an X rating in 1953 was no one under 17 years old admitted. If it was defined as unsuitable for adult audiences, who would be left to admit? Super adults?

  • Theotherkcraig says:

    I really think that this is one of the finest animations I have ever seen. I first encountered it around 1990 and finally found it again as an extra on the ‘Hellboy’ DVD. The design is haunting and perfect in tone. Mason’s delivery is precise and histrionic, yet this seems to be a forgotten gem in the world of animation. Thank you for posting it.

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