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USA 1956
produced by
W. Lee Wilder for Planet Filmplays/United Artists
directed by W. Lee Wilder
starring John Bromfield, Lon Chaney jr, Victor Jory, Tessa Pendergast, Barbara Nichols, Eric Coverly, Vincent Chang, Theodore Purcell, Vere Johns, Jack Lewis, Arnold Shanks, Clyde Hoyte
story by Myles Wilder, screenplay by Joel Murcott, based on The Gold Bug and The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, music by Albert Elms, songs by Clyde Hoyte

Tell-Tale Heart

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Captain Brannigan (John Bromfield) is a loser with a capital L He runs a moderately successful turtle fishing business on Jamaica, but loses the little money he ears at gambling, he is a moderately successful womanizer, this way alienating the one woman (Barbara Nichols) who really loves him, and he is on the constant run from his creditor (Vere Johns), who threatens to impound his ship, the Manfish. That he hasn't long gone down is only thanks to his first mate, Swede (Lon Chaney jr), who seems like a half-wit most of the time and who takes way too much abuse from Brannigan, but he also holds his business together for him, and he is also truly in love with the Manfish - even though she's not even that good a boat.

Then though, Brannigan finds half a treasure map, and though he cannot make out what it's saying, he knows it must lead to a large treasure. And he even knows who has the other half: The Professor (Victor Jory), a guy who he has recently been fighting with over a woman, Alita (Tessa Prendergast). He approaches the Professor concerning a joint treasurehunt, but it becomes quite clear that the two men will never get along from square one, and Brannigan leaves no doubt that he would much rather kill the Professor than to work with him, but the professor leaves nothing to chance, burns the treasure map - and now the only way to get to the treasure is via the Professor's brain. So it's a battle of brawns against brains, but much more than that, it's a fight over who's the alpha male and will win the trophy, Alita, who makes it very clear she will go with the gold.

After quite a few hardships, Brannigan, the Professor and Swede actually find the treasure on a dessert island, and now Brannigan wants to make good his plan of killing the Professor - but amidst all the gold they have found, there is also a second encoded treasure map, so it seems Brannigan will need the professor a little longer.

The Manfish arrives back in Jamaica to get some provisions, and Swede and Alita are soon off to sell part of the treasure to have the necessary money to do so. In the meantime, the Professor leaps upon the opportunity to kill Brannigan. But once the deed's done, hiding the body in an operating port is a whole other issue. It takes quite a while before he is able to tie Brannigan to a gastank and sink him into the harbour unseen - and even then, gas bubbles from the tank hit the surface every few seconds, as if it was a heartbeat. And people show up all through the night to ask for Brannigan.

The next morning: Brannigan's creditor shows up with the police to legally impound the Manfish, but Brannigan's of course not present, only the Professor, who gets more erratic by the minute and tells everybody Brannigan has bolted. Swede, who knows every nook and cranny of the Manfish, soon notices a gas tank is missing, and he also sees the gas bubbles hitting the water surface, heartbeat-like. He is quick to make the connection and retrieves the body of his dead friend from the water in no time.

The Professor is arrested on the spot, but Swede manages to pay off the creditor with the money he made from selling part of the treasure ... and to his surprise, the boat is suddenly, and legally, his.

And the treasure?

The Professor has fastened it to a line and thrown it overboard. Without knowing that, Swede just cuts the line when it slows down the Manfish, handing a fortune in gold over to the sea never to be found again.


Billy Wilder's lesser talented brothr W.Lee Wilder spent his less successful filmmaking career mainly making low budget movies, often of the sci-fi/horror variety, many of which have become minor cult movies today, but usually for all the wrong reasons. Manfish though is a pretty decent effort. Sure, it has only little to do with the Edgar Allan Poe short stories it's supposed to be based on, and it was clearly and visibly done on a low budget - but for a change, it does feature a pretty good story, with surprisingly fleshed out characters and a moral dilemma only rarely found in B movies of the era. And the lack of a decent budget and rather crude filmmaking techniques of Mr Wilder actually contribute to the rawness of the story for a change. And the authentic Jamaica sets of course don't hurt one bit either. A surprisingly good film, actually.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD