Archive for August 1st, 2011

Nightfall #5: “The Telltale Heart”

Richard MonetteThe second adaptation of the series, this one also by Len Peterson (from his 1965 script for CBC Mystery Theatre), is one of the all-time classic horror stories: Poe's Telltale Heart, featuring actor Richard Monette (photo left).

The original story is quite short and gives no real details. No names. No locations. Just the thoughts of the killer as he is driven to his crime by the Old Man's blue eye, and his attempt to cover it up.

Peterson takes those few details and weaves an expanded story that Poe himself might have written. Set circa the 1840s (in the last years of Poe's lifetime), we are told the story of how Old Man Weatherby, a widowed New England farmer, hires the wandering Alfred Bane to help him around the stead. Bane and the Old Man get along well and Bane certainly comes to love him, though Weatherby's social beliefs prevent him from doing more that treating him as a greatly-appreciated hired hand. But this isn't what comes to bother Bane. No, what comes between them is the Old Man's eye. A wandering orb with a blue film over it. Bane becomes obsessed with this eye and, believing that it it a sign of evil that has possessed his employer, decides to kill him in order to save him from it's evil influence.

From there, the we follow Poe's original story of murdering the Old Man by suffocating him with his mattress, then dismembering the body and placing the pieces between the slats under the floorboards. Only when confronted by two local police officers who inform Bane that Weatherby's eye was like it was because he had lost sight in it several years earlier, does the guilt of his crime come to haunt him in the form of hearing the Old Man's beating heart coming from under the floor, driving him so mad that he freely confesses his crime to the lawmen.

I had never read the original story and this was my first exposure to it in any form other than the very basic premise. So when I actually read the story after hearing this episode, I was surprised at how little detail there was. Because of that, Peterson's adaptation feels more like the definitive story because its setting and characters just seem to me like elements Poe would have used.

(This was the third Len Peterson NIGHTFALL script my radio drama troupe, The Post-Meridian Radio Players, performed live.)


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The Telltale Heart

Air Date: 8/01/1980
Writer(s): Len Peterson (based on the short story by Edgar Allen Poe)
Production Location: CBC Toronto
Producer: Bill Howell
Featuring: Richard Monette, Frank Perry, Sean Mulcahy, Sandy Webster
Commercial Synopsis: There's more than poetic justice when a New England farmer mistakenly hires a psychotic killer out of the goodness of his heart.  (NPR)


If you like what you hear, please contact the CBC Shop and encourage them to release the series!

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