Generic Radio Workshop Script Library (BACK)

Series: Miscellaneous Single Episodes
Show: The Chase and Sanborn Hour: The Tell-Tale Heart
Date: Jan 30 1938

CAST:
HOST, Don Ameche
MURDERER
OLD MAN
OFFICER

HOST:

... Born an English gentleman and trained for the British diplomatic service, our guest Boris Karloff forsook the conference tables of Europe to win international fame before the cameras of Hollywood. For, ever since his memorable performance in the picture "Frankenstein," Mr. Karloff has been the world's most popular maker of chills and thrills. He's also one of the screen's finest actors. And tonight we offer a dramatization of one of Edgar Allan Poe's most famous and exciting stories, "The Tell-Tale Heart." Mr. Karloff will be the man whose experience this is, the man who-- But let him tell his own story.

MUSIC:

FOR AN INTRODUCTION ... THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

MURDERER:

I will tell you the story -- just as it happened to me. Just as it happened, you understand? Perhaps you'll say I'm mad, but I'm not. I'm nervous, yes. Very, very nervous. But how can you say that I'm mad? Now just listen. Listen how calmly I can tell you the whole story -- everything that happened.

I didn't hate the old man; I loved him. He never did anything to me. He never insulted me, never said anything about me. I wasn't after his money and he had plenty of it. I don't know what it was.

Yes. I think I do. It was his eye. An eye like a vulture. A pale, blue eye with a film over it. It was the evil eye. Whenever I saw it, my blood ran cold. I had to destroy it.

I laid my plans carefully. Every night at midnight, I opened the door of his room -- oh, so gently. I didn't want to wake him. He would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust in a dark lantern and focused a single ray upon that vulture eye -- that evil eye. Would a madman have worked so cautiously, so carefully as that?

For seven nights, I found the eye closed. But on the eighth night as he lay in his bed, I opened the door -- slowly, very slowly. [X]

SOUND:

DOOR HINGES CREAK

MURDERER:

But the door creaked and it waked him. I could hear him sit up in bed. But I just stood there, not making a sound.

SOUND:

FADE IN ... A HEAVY, DESOLATE WIND BLOWS, IN BG

MURDERER:

After a long while, I opened the door a little wider.

SOUND:

DOOR HINGES CREAK

OLD MAN:

Who's there?! (NO ANSWER) Who's there, I said!

MURDERER:

Are you frightened? What are you doing now, old man? Aren't you saying to yourself it's only the wind in the chimney you hear? You're awake. You're not dreaming.

OLD MAN:

But who--? What is it you want?

MURDERER:

You're saying to yourself it's only a mouse crossing the floor, aren't you? But you're wrong.

OLD MAN:

What - what is it?

MURDERER:

Every night at midnight, I must see your eye. But every night it has been closed.

OLD MAN:

Go away! Go away!

MURDERER:

For seven nights I have gone away. Seven nights -- you never knew about that, did you?

OLD MAN:

I have money. Enough for both of us. Take it! Take it all!

MURDERER:

It's not that; I don't want that. It's your eye, old man! I want your eye.

OLD MAN:

Take that light away! Don't shine that light on me!

MURDERER:

Your evil eye!

OLD MAN:

You're mad! Go away! Go away!

MURDERER:

Now I see it! Now I see it in this light! There it is -- wide open with that hideous veil over it -- a vulture's eye!

OLD MAN:

(SHUDDERS) I've been kind to you, haven't I?!

MURDERER:

Yes, yes! But I must destroy that evil eye or it will destroy me.

OLD MAN:

Take that light away! You're mad, I tell you! You're mad!

MURDERER:

Mad? My mind was never clearer nor my senses sharper in my whole life.

SOUND:

THUMPING! OF BEATING HEART ... THEN IN BG

MURDERER:

What's that? (NO ANSWER) Don't you hear that? That - thumping? What is it? Wait. Sssshhhh!

SOUND:

THUMPING GROWS LOUDER ... IN BG

MURDERER:

I have it! It's your heart. Your accursed heart. (INCREASINGLY HYSTERICAL) Stop it, I tell you! Stop it beating like that! Do you hear me?! I said, stop it or you'll wake the neighbors! Stop it! Stop it or I'll stop it for you!

MUSIC:

FOR A MURDER ... TOPS THE SCENE VIOLENTLY ... THEN FADES IN INTENSITY FOR A TRANSITION ... THEN IN BG, OUT AT [X]

MURDERER:

Now if you still think me mad, you'll change your mind when I tell you of the pains I took to conceal the old man's body after I'd done away with that awful eye.

The night was still young, but there was so much to do and I had to work fast. I took up three planks from the flooring of the room and hid the old man so cunningly that no human eye -- not even his -- could have detected anything wrong. How could a madman have thought of all that? [X]

But the important thing was that I was free! Free! Free of that awful eye! There was the old man right under my feet. Right under the floor! But his cursèd heart was still.

SOUND:

CLOCK CHIMES THREE OR FOUR TIMES, UNOBTRUSIVELY BEHIND--

MURDERER:

I was dancing a little jig to celebrate when--

SOUND:

HEAVY KNOCK AT DOOR

MURDERER:

(BEAT) Who's there?

OFFICER:

(FROM BEHIND DOOR) Open the door in the name of the law!

MURDERER:

Who is it?

OFFICER:

(FROM BEHIND DOOR, IMPATIENT) The police!

SOUND:

DOOR UNLOCKED AND OPENED

MURDERER:

Oh! Officer! It's rather early for a call, isn't it? However, won't you come in?

OFFICER:

Sorry to disturb you, but some of the neighbors heard a scream. Report was sent in to headquarters.

MURDERER:

Someone heard a scream? From my house?

OFFICER:

We don't know where it came from; they couldn't say.

MURDERER:

Oh, I see. Then - then why did you come here?

OFFICER:

We've looked in several houses. Why should we make an exception of yours? The scream may have come from here.

MURDERER:

Why, yes! Yes, I suppose it might have! You see, I - I had a rather bad nightmare tonight and perhaps I screamed in my sleep.

OFFICER:

Yes, I suppose that's possible. Do you mind if I have a look through your house? Purely a matter of duty, y'understand.

MURDERER:

Why, of course not. Look anywhere at all. I pride myself on always being willing and ready to cooperate with the police. Where would you like to start?

OFFICER:

Let's start in this room over here.

MURDERER:

By all means.

OFFICER:

Whose room is this?

MURDERER:

An old man, who lives with me, sleeps here.

OFFICER:

Where is he now? This bed has been slept in.

MURDERER:

Yes, I know. I - I slept there tonight.

OFFICER:

Where's the old man?

MURDERER:

He left for the country -- oh, fully a week ago.

OFFICER:

This old man. You and he got along well? Had no quarrel?

MURDERER:

Oh, we're the best of friends.

OFFICER:

I see. Any of his stuff here?

MURDERER:

Of course. All his money, his clothes, his jewelry, everything. You'll find them all right here.

OFFICER:

Why didn't he take his belongings to the country with him?

MURDERER:

He was going away for a rest. Rather a long rest I would say. It's very quiet where he is now. He knew he wouldn't need his money or clothes or jewelry, so he left them with me. I was his closest friend.

OFFICER:

I see. Well, everything seems to be in order.

MURDERER:

Thank you. I - I thought you'd find it that way. I - I'm rather a quiet person, you know.

OFFICER:

Yeah, you seem to be. I'm sure anybody'd swear you were an honest, law-abiding citizen. Well, I must be on my way.

MURDERER:

Oh, no, no. Please don't hurry. You've done your duty. You've searched the neighborhood and found nothing wrong. Now you must be fatigued. Let me give you a glass of wine. I have it right here.

OFFICER:

Well, that's nice of you. Don't mind if I do. A glass of wine on a night like this doesn't go amiss.

MURDERER:

Here we are. Here we are.

SOUND:

WINE IS POURED

OFFICER:

Ah, that's fine.

MURDERER:

Sit down, officer.

OFFICER:

Thanks.

MURDERER:

No, no, no, not there. Let me place your chair for you.

OFFICER:

Oh.

MURDERER:

There. (BEAT) Do you like the wine?

OFFICER:

Oh, it's excellent wine, sir. Oh, uh, by the way. Er, merely as a matter of curiosity, where was the old man when you saw him last?

MURDERER:

Oddly enough, right where you're sitting.

SOUND:

THUMPING! OF BEATING HEART ... IN BG, QUIET AT FIRST, THEN GROWING LOUDER AND LOUDER DURING FOLLOWING--

OFFICER:

Say -- you feeling all right? You look pale.

MURDERER:

(NERVOUS) I'm all right.

OFFICER:

Can't sit still, can you, sir? What's the matter? Nerves trouble you?

MURDERER:

Well, I - I do have rather jumpy nerves. (CHANGES THE SUBJECT) Do you - do you find the wine good?

OFFICER:

Oh, yes. Yes, indeed. It's excellent wine. About the best port I've ever had.

MURDERER:

Pardon me, officer. Do you hear anything?

OFFICER:

Oh, I thought I heard a shutter banging a minute ago.

MURDERER:

No, no, not that. I - I guess it's just my ears. A sort of -- throbbing.

OFFICER:

No, I didn't notice anything. Say, this wine--

MURDERER:

Oh, yes! The wine! I take particular pains with my cellar. I always try to-- Wait! Are you sure you don't hear that?

OFFICER:

Not a thing. Maybe it's the wind; it's very windy outside.

MURDERER:

Yes, perhaps that's what it is, the wind! Do you know, I always think I--! (INSISTS) I hear it, I tell you! Don't you?!

OFFICER:

I don't hear anything. Now sit down or you'll upset your nerves. And don't talk so loud; I can hear you perfectly; it's quiet in here.

MURDERER:

Why are you smiling -- smiling at me?! I hear something! You don't hear it, you say?

OFFICER:

I'm not smiling. It's your imagination, I think.

MURDERER:

(INCREASINGLY HYSTERICAL) My imagination. It's not, I tell you! Here! I know what it is! It's here! Right in this room! I can hear it throbbing - throbbing! Here! Here! Here!

SOUND:

CRASH AND SPLINTER! OF WOOD AS MURDERER SMASHES CHAIR ... THROBBING HEARTBEAT GROWS EVEN LOUDER ... CONTINUES IN BG

OFFICER:

(COOL) Smashing that chair won't help, sir.

MURDERER:

It will! It will, I tell you! I stopped it once! I stopped it, I tell you, and I'll stop it again!

OFFICER:

And I can't hear a thing. No throbbing, nothing.

MURDERER:

There it is! It's louder! Louder! Laugh! Go ahead! Smile! Smile, but I can hear it! Listen! Louder! It's getting louder!

OFFICER:

Perhaps, sir, you'd better tell me now.

SOUND:

THROBBING HEARTBEAT HITS A PEAK

MURDERER:

(PAUSE) I did it! I did it! I can't stop it! Tear up the planks! His heart! Right there, I tell you, go ahead! Tear up the planks, then you'll hear it! You'll hear it, too! It's his heart! His heart, I tell you! It's the beating of his accursed heart! (TEARFUL) The heart that won't be still.

MUSIC:

FOR A FINISH

SOUND:

APPLAUSE ...