Classics Stories by Edgar Allan Poe Narrated by James Mason in a 1953 Oscar-Nominated Animation & 1958 Decca Album

Some enthu­si­asts of 19th-cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can psy­cho­log­i­cal hor­ror mas­ter (or, in a very real sense, 19th-cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can psy­cho­log­i­cal hor­ror inven­tor) Edgar Allan Poe find his work best read aloud. Thus we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured Poe deliv­ered in the grav­i­tas-filled voic­es of such not­ed thes­pi­ans as Vin­cent Price, Basil Rath­bone, Christo­pher Walken, Christo­pher Lee, and James Mason. Mason did the read­ing (above) as a nar­ra­tion for a 1953 ani­mat­ed short The Tell-Tale Heart, adapt­ing Poe’s 1843 sto­ry of the same name, which drew both an Acad­e­my Award nom­i­na­tion for Best Ani­mat­ed Short Film and — per­haps more in line with the Poe sen­si­bil­i­ty — a rat­ing of “X” from the British Board of Film Cen­sors.

James Mason Poe

WFMU man­aged to dig up even more Poe as read by Mason, three tracks of which they post­ed to their blog one Hal­loween, all with “creepy and dra­mat­ic organ stylings by Bud­dy Cole, who no doubt wore an Inver­ness cape for the occa­sion.” They come from a 1958 release from Dec­ca Records, fea­tur­ing Mason’s read­ings of not just “The Tell-Tale Heart” [MP3] but Poe’s cryp­tic fable “Silence” [MP3—below] and haunt­ing final poem “Annabel Lee” [MP3—bot­tom]. (The flip side of the album offers some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent, in the form of Agnes Moore­head “and a sup­port­ing cast” per­form­ing Lucille Fletcher’s radio play “Sor­ry, Wrong Num­ber.”)

Opin­ions on who reads Poe most effec­tive­ly will dif­fer from lis­ten­er to lis­ten­er, but if you’d like to make a par­tial but direct com­par­i­son for your­self, sim­ply line up Mason’s ren­di­tion of “The Tell-Tale Heart” on a playlist with the ones we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly post­ed by Christo­pher Lee, Basil Rath­bone — and of course, Iggy Pop. It may have become Poe’s best-known sto­ry in the first place by hav­ing retained its impact over all these 172 years, but hav­ing such a range of per­for­ma­tive per­son­al­i­ties inter­pret it can’t hurt in keep­ing it as eerie as ever.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Iggy Pop Reads Edgar Allan Poe’s Clas­sic Hor­ror Sto­ry, “The Tell-Tale Heart”

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

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” Read by Christo­pher Walken, Vin­cent Price, and Christo­pher Lee

Hear Orson Welles Read Edgar Allan Poe on a Cult Clas­sic Album by The Alan Par­sons Project

Edgar Allan Poe Ani­mat­ed: Watch Four Ani­ma­tions of Clas­sic Poe Sto­ries

Down­load The Com­plete Works of Edgar Allan Poe on His Birth­day

Col­in Mar­shall writes else­where on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, and the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future? Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Simon Lépine says:

    … real nice !
    … vous allez faire grand plaisir à tous les ‘enthu­si­asts’, that’s for sure. Thank you !

  • Joseph Ciolino says:

    Do not care at all for this “re-telling,” of the sto­ry. The revi­sions lessen the effect of the sto­ry, for no pur­pose. Real­ly, just awful.

    Mason is mas­ter­ful of course. Best to find his full ver­sion of the sto­ry.

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