Schlocktoberfest #19: The Tingler
Castle films… a mainstay of the ’50s and ’60s… this guy would do anything to get people in the seats. He’d send skeletons on a string, over the audience. His masterpiece was The Tingler, in Scream-o-rama. Using a secret gimmick called Percepto, he guaranteed you’d be scared out of your seats…
Now, William Castle and Vincent Price make a winning, super cheesy combination. You’ve got one of the greatest voices in cinema, with that devilish face, and the king of the gimmicks. So what do they do this time? They put hand buzzers in the seats. A shocker indeed! Then they come up with a cockamamie scientific explanation for “death by fright,” which Price, a sleazy scientist, wants to discover… he finds that in moments of pure terror, a critter, called “the Tingler,” solidifies in our spinal column and kills us by shattering the spinal cord… unless we scream, scream, scream to release it! So aren’t we all safe if we scream? Well, that’s why there’s a deaf mute woman in the story… the poor dame can’t scream! And soon, something or someone is terrifying her to death!
Then the Tingler is loose. It looks like a fat giant centipede, and it crawls up Price’s leg, grabs him by the throat… and soon is loose in the theater! Sadly that theater is playing some silent western. It would have been truly inspired if they put Price and company up there and had them break the fourth wall. “Scream for your lives!!!” It must have been hilarious to see in the theater, and was a great gimmick. On TV, it’s an interesting relic, but Vincent Price is one of those classic actors who can say anything and make it believable, so it works.
It’s only 80 minutes long, but they manage to cram a murder mystery, an LSD trip (the first depicted in a movie) and so many gimmicks- like blacking out the screen when the Tingler supposedly attacks the projectionist- that you can’t hate it. It tries so hard, and it knows it’s silly. Oh, to have seen this in 1959 and be sitting in the back with a bag full of rubber insects and snakes to fling at people. They would’ve shit their pants. So if you love Vincent Price, and like a cheesy old horror flick, this is one of the classics in a way. It may not be The Wolf Man, but you’ve got to give them extra credit for effort with The Tingler!