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Tell-Tale Heart, The/Oval Portrait, The

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    Ian Jane
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  • Tell-Tale Heart, The/Oval Portrait, The



    Released by: Independent Entertainment
    Released on: 6/21/2011
    Director: Ernest Morris/Rogelio A. Gonzalez
    Cast: Laurence Payne, Adrienne Corri/Wanda Hendrix, Barry Coe, Gisele MacKenzie
    Year: 1960/1972
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    While most horror fans automatically thing Corman and Price any time filmed versions of Edgar Allan Poe come up, there's obviously quite a bit more to Poe movies than just the AIP pictures. Case in point, these two films now being released as a double feature from Independent Entertainment, often maligned and pushed aside thanks to shoddy recycled VHS transfers and poor quality releases. Independent Entertainment's double feature still shows some wear and tear but has the good sense to source the transfers from theatrical film elements, and the results are an improvement to be sure. But before we get techy, what about the movies?

    The Tell-Tale Heart (1960):

    This British production, directed by Ernest Morris and written by Brian Clement (of The Avengers fame) stars Laurence Payne as Edgar Marsh, a man who loses more than a little bit of his sanity when he sees the girl of his dreams, Betty Clare (Adrienne Corri who would later pop up in Vampire Circus), in the arms of his best friend, Carl Loomis (Dermot Walsh). Jealousy spurs him into a rage and he murders Carl that night in cold blood. Rather than go to the police, who would surely arrest him, Edgar instead decides to hide Carl's body under the floorboards in his house and move the piano overtop, essentially hiding him in plain sight.

    Of course, we all know what happens later that night, once Edgar tries to go to bed and is instead kept awake by the loud and ominous beating of Carl's heart…

    Quite a good adaptation of one of Poe's best stories, Morris' take on the tale has got plenty of atmosphere and benefits from some nice black and white cinematography and a great score courtesy of Tony Crombie and Bill LeSage. Payne is very good in the lead, playing the poor tortured soul with just the right amount of presence, while the film also proves quite intent on shocking the audience with some surprisingly strong gore effects. Well shot, well acted and surprisingly intense, this one holds up very well indeed.

    The Oval Portrait (1972):

    The second feature, directed by Rogelio A. Gonzalez in 1972, stars Wanda Hendrix as a woman named Genevieve Howard who bears a striking resemblance to a woman in a painting made a few years back. What she doesn't know is that the painting was done as an evil way to put a curse on anyone who comes into the house - and wouldn't you know it, the closer Genevieve gets to the painting the more it seems to be controlling her. With that said, the reason Genevieve has shown up in this old house in the first place is because a relative has died and she needs to be present for the reading of the will. Does someone know more than they're letting on in terms of what Genevieve stands to inherit, maybe trying to get her out of the picture? Or is the painting really cursed and Genevieve not acting of her own free will but under that of a supernatural presence?

    Not the fastest moving or most chilling Poe adaptation ever lensed, The Oval Portrait is still a fairly entertaining picture with some nice full color camerawork and a couple of memorable set pieces. Gonzalez's direction isn't anything fancy, the term workmanlike is probably quite appropriate to describe it, and Howard's performance tends to lean a little towards hammy but Les Baxter's score is great and it all builds quite nicely to a fairly satisfying conclusion.

    The picture, shot in Mexico, is certainly ambitious, even going so far as to throw in a Civil War battle scene, but tends to get bogged down at times with melodrama and as such, the pacing suffers. Regardless, the good outweighs the bad here so long as your expectations are held in check. Maybe not a forgotten classic, but entertaining enough in its own right.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Both of these films have been released before, but in far inferior versions. This release from Independent Entertainment still has its share of wear and tear to show off, but at least both films have been sourced from film rather than from worn out old tapes. The black and white The Tell-Tale Heart shows some occasional contrast blooming but is perfectly watchable despite minor print damage here and there, while the full color The Oval Portrait shows some minor color fading and chunky grain (16mm origins tend to do that) but is likewise perfectly watchable. Neither film benefits from the most extensive restoration work ever performed, but both are in decent shape here and are, again, vastly improved over previous offerings.

    In regards to the audio, both films get English language Dolby Digital Mono tracks, no alternate language or subtitle options are provided. Expect a bit of hiss and pop here and there and the occasional bit of distortion to creep into the mix, but the levels are properly balanced and you won't have any trouble following the dialogue. Like the video presentation, this isn't perfection, but it's not bad.

    Extras are slim, limited to menus and chapter selection on the disc, though inside the keepcase is a nice booklet of interesting liner notes from Tim Lucas that detail the history of the two productions and even manages to draw a Bava connection to The Oval Portrait (Bavaphiles will notice that it steals some music from Black Sunday).

    The Final Word:

    Two underrated big screen adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe's work are given a pretty decent rebirth on DVD thanks to Independent Entertainment. More extras would have been nice but the fact that even in the shape they're in here these transfers are so much better than previous versions should be reason enough for fans of these two films to want to upgrade.






















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