THE TINGLER (1959) – The Dungeon Review!
I just picked up The William Castle Film Collection; a five disc set which features all eight of the Columbia Titles, the full length documentary Spine-Tingler: The William Castle Story and all sorts of special features. It was my intention to nibble on this collection and watch one here and there and really savor it. So much for good intentions! I started with the documentary which instantly made me want to watch one of the films which turned into watching two films. So you’re getting a William Castle hat trick. The Tingler features PERCEPTO which sadly does not translate to DVD home viewing. In theatres however PERCEPTO allowed certain “more sensitive” audience members to feel what the characters on screen allegedly feel. This wonder of technology was achieved by putting buzzers under random seats in the theatre. The only way to stop The Tingler is to scream! Open your mouth and let one rip as Castle himself recommended. Add some planted audience members who pretend to faint and are carried out by doctors and you get so much more than just a movie! Come on! How fun is that?! William Castle does a brief introduction which also serves as a public service announcement. Don’t forget…screaming will save your life!!
Pathologist Dr. Warren Chapin conducts autopsies on executed convicts. He notices a similarity among many of the deaths that suggests they may have been scared to death. Chapin believes that a powerful creature created by fear manifests itself on the spine leaving it cracked. He nicknames the phenomena The Tingler and is desperate to prove his theory true. He gets a chance to do so after meeting Ollie Higgins and his deaf, mute wife Martha. He learns that screaming can paralyzes the creature and effectively kill it. But what if a person could not scream?
When your film has a completely ridiculous premise it helps immensely to have Vincent Price as your lead man. Regardless of how silly the subject matter Price always takes the material seriously. I love Vincent Price and his awesome delivery! He makes just about any film watchable if you ask me! In The Tingler you get to see Vincent Price having an acid trip! An acid trip in 1959! At one point in the film we see Dr. Chapin reading “Fright Effects Induced By Injection Of Lysergic Acid LSD25 – A Preliminary Report.” According to the Castle documentary The Tingler was the first film to feature the use of acid as a drug. The fine over-the-top theatrics by Price during his “trip” is not to be missed! All the cast are good but Judith Evelyn who plays deaf mute Martha Higgins is a real standout. Martha of course doesn’t utter a word the entire film. Martha and her husband Ollie own a repertoire theatre that plays silent films. The intense and animated Martha seems as though she may be a star of the silent screen herself. Martha faints at the sight of blood, which Dr. Chapin refers to as psychosomatic blackouts. Martha inevitably provides the good doctor with what he needs to prove his theory. Making for some colorful interaction is Patricia Cutts who plays Dr. Chapin’s wife Isabel. She openly cheats on her husband and enjoys reminding him that without her he’d have nothing. Isabel does not play a large part in the story but the banter between the couple is amusing. He introduces his wife to a black cat he had planned on using as an experiment and asks her if the two perhaps has already met in some alley somewhere. Zing! Great characters, fun banter and a wacky outlandish premise…check!
It’s unlikely The Tingler is going to scare anyone. In fact, The Tingler itself is hilariously bad. You can literally see the wires that move the terribly fake creature. When it moves it couldn’t possibly look more unnatural. The Tingler resembles a rubber backbone with two long tentacles on its head which conveniently wrap nicely around a human arm or throat. It’s pretty amusing seeing Vincent Price pretend to struggle with The Tingler which is supposed to be as strong as vice grips. The close up shots are fun, but it’s the silhouette shots that really tickled me. When The Tingler is first removed from a spine it is done behind a screen. Even obscuring The Tingler doesn’t help its cause. Watch out for the theatre silhouette scene; it is a real humdinger!
I suppose enjoyment of this sort of film relies on your tolerance of cheese and The Tingler is finely aged cheddar! I really enjoyed The Tingler; it’s quirky, charming and a lot of fun! Recommended!
Dungeon Rating: 4/5
Directed By: William Castle
Starring: Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts, Pamela Lincoln, Philip Coolidge