The Tell-Tale Heart (Ted Parmelee, 1953)

Ted Parmelee’s beautifully decrepit adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s story is a wonder, full of decay and madness in the mid-century modernist animation style typical to UPA. The Tell-Tale Heart was the first cartoon to receive an X rating (compliments of the BBFC); garnered an Academy Award nomination for Animated Short; counts Leonard Maltin, Jerry Beck, and Guillermo del Toro among its admirers; and was admitted to the National Film Registry for preservation in 2001. James Mason’s narration and the film’s final, unexpected POV shot are remarkable.

(I probably should have saved this for October, but why deny ourselves this impressive film? It deserves to be better known.)

5 Fingers (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1952)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents 5 Fingers.

criterion logoBased on the true story of a World War II spy in neutral Turkey, 5 Fingers follows an ambitious and extremely clever valet (James Mason) who tires of being a servant and forms a plan to promote himself to rich gentleman of leisure by selling top-secret information from the British embassy to the Germans, including details about D-Day’s Operation Overlord.  The Nazis, his British employers, Allied intelligence, and a Polish refugee Countess are all manipulated by the valet code-named Cicero, even as agents and counter-agents close in around him.  One of the best war thrillers made, 5 Fingers is woven with patriotism, weariness, passion, and greed, spearheaded by the critically acclaimed script and direction of Joseph L. Mankiewicz, a suspenseful score from Bernard Herrmann, and a magnificent performance by Mason as the tightly controlled spy maintaining his cool ambitions even as his plans deteriorate.

Disc Features:

  • New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • The music of 5 Fingers, an interactive essay by Christopher Husted of Bernard Herrmann’s estate
  • 1952 and 1955 Lux Radio Theatre performances of 5 Fingers with James Mason and his wife Pamela Mason
  • Operation Cicero, the 46-minute Hour of the Stars TV version starring Ricardo Montalbon and Peter Lorre
  • Inside Cicero, a new 30-minute feature on the real life Cicero, Elyesa Banza
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Philip Kemp, 1952 reviews by Bosley Crowther of the New York Times and Hollis Alpert of the Saturday Review, and behind-the-scenes photos of the film’s production

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