“The Tell-Tale Heart” is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe first published in 1843. It is told by the Master who endeavors to convince the viewer of his sanity, while describing a murder he committed. The victim was an old man with a “vulture- eye” as the Master calls it. The murder is carefully calculated and the murderer hides the body by dismembering it and hiding it under the floorboards. Ultimately the Master’s guilt manifests itself in the form of the sound— possibly hallucinatory—of the old man’s heart still beating under the floorboards.
Steven Berkoff has been an undisputed theatrical legend since the 1970s. Throughout his extraordinary career as a theatrical rebrand, performer, writer and director he has railed against safe, mediocre and superficial theatre. His theatrical craftsmanship, his physicality and tremendous voice work has been honed to razor sharpness over a career spanning five decades and it is breathtaking to watch.
Film Festival Review - Tabloid Witch Awards, Santa Monica - 2017
Edgar Allan Poe's Tell Tale Hearthas been adapted too many times to track -- on stage, TV, radio, short films -- both as student and professional projects. But no one has ever tried to stretch Poe's brief tale into a feature length film. Until now.
Remarkably, the adaptation stays faithful to the source material. The final scene with the arrival of the police introduces some new dialog into the story, but Poe's first person narrative tale is stretched to feature length mostly by Berkoff's pregnant pauses and onscreen busywork.
The film is justly titled Steven Berkoff's Tell Tale Heart. As the madman obsessed with "the old man's eye," Berkoff is nearly the sole performer, dominating the film's 80 minutes in what is essentially a one man show. A heavy burden. Yet his presence is so magnetic and intricately nuanced that we are compelled to watch.
Berkoff avoids the temptation to chew scenery. His lunatic's psychosis simmers beneath the surface, then bubbles over as his speech quickens, tone intensifying, and then simmers down again. About to strike, but pulling back as he struggles to appear sane. Until the opportune moment.
More than any other film this year, Steven Berkoff's Tell Tale Heart's success or failure depended on its lead actor. In a sense, the film is Berkoff and Poe. And in Berkoff, Poe has received a memorable performance for his unforgettable work.