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Long-lost film adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe story discovered in an attic

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A long-lost adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart has been discovered in the attic of a Scottish home, having been missing for more than 50 years. 

Jeff Wells originally purchased the 16mm film in 1984 in a junk shop when he was working as a nurse in Brighton, according to The Times. He has since moved to Drunmore in Scotland, where the film was stored in the attic of his home until October of last year, when he cleaned out the area and decided to sell the item.

After some research, however, he discovered that it was, in fact, a unique intact copy of the 20-minute 1953 film directed by J.B. Williams and starring Stanley Baker, produced by Adelphi Films. 

Baker, best known for his role in Zulu (1964), is the sole actor in the film, playing the story’s guilty protagonist, who commits murder and believes he’s gotten away with the crime, until the sound a heartbeat coming from what he thinks is underneath the floorboards threatens to drive him mad. 

Mr Wells said: “I was stunned when I saw it was the same one I had. I really couldn’t believe it. I thought that it can’t possibly be the one I have they are looking for. Its discovery was a happy accident.”

Kate Lees, the current head of Adelphi, says the company had given up hope of finding a copy of the film. “It’s a really good film,” she said. “It’s very spooky, gothic and scary and it’s well directed. Stanley Baker is terrific. My father said what a good film it was and he was a very discerning critic. He didn’t like a lot of our films.”

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The British Film Institute has now restored and digitised the film so it can be viewed online. It will be available free on the BFI Player for two weeks from Friday before being reserved for subscribers. It is being released alongside several “horror curios” for the Halloween season, such as 1955’s Cross-Roads, which stars Christopher Lee as a vengeful ghost. 

Josephine Botting, a BFI curator, said: “It’s always exciting when a missing film comes to light and an addition to the catalogue of the British producer Adelphi and the filmography of Edgar Allan Poe is a wonderful discovery. We’re delighted to be preserving the 16mm print and to make the film available online to new audiences via BFI Player in time for Hallowe’en.” 

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