Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Tingler (1959)

The Tingler

Written by Robb White
Directed by William Castle

Dr. Warren Chapin...Vincent Price
Isabel Chapin...Patricia Cutts
Lucy Stevens...Pamela Lincoln
David Morris...Darryl Hickman

Brooding and devoted scientist Dr. Warren Chapman is practically obsessed with his latest string of experiments, all of them dealing with the power of fear. He hypothesizes that the tingling sensation felt when afraid is the byproduct of a very real, very tangible creature that lives inside all of us. He calls it The Tingler, and it resides at the base of our spine and feeds on our terror. The only way to render the Tingler harmless is by screaming, which dissipates the energy of our terror and thus paralyzes the parasite.


Vincent Price is, of course, Price-less in his role--but when is he not? The other leads, overall, are a bit more uneven. Storywise, it could stand to move a little faster, but there are moments of gleaming beauty to be found within the direction. You won't want to miss the (supposed) first LSD trip ever portrayed on screen--it's just too bad that we only see Price reacting to what he sees, rather than being able to see it for ourselves--and the nightmare sequence was a bit of surreal genius--the blood being the only thing in color throughout the whole black-and-white film was a nice touch.

The gimmick this time around is one of Castle's most famous ones--he rigged certain seats throughout the theaters with devices that would vibrate at the right moment, in order to simulate the Tingler making lunch out out of your own frightened spine. This, coupled with the fact that the Tingler escapes into a theater toward the end of the film, was supposed to convince movie-goers that the Tingler was loose in their theater. Castle even went so far as to have the film break and show the Tingler's silhouette creeping across the projector lens; The screen even goes black at one point, which would have left the audience in complete darkness, while Price demands that the audience scream in order to save their lives.


This is William Castle gimmickry at its best, or at its worst, depending on how you look at it. It's really not very scary, and if you have to scream to save your life, you're bound to be one cold corpse by the end of this flick. It's hokey, it's ridiculous, and it's sheer unadulterated fun. On the downside, however, it relies almost entirely on the gimmick in order to work--and that gimmick really doesn't come across so well after all these years, especially when watching it in the safety of your own home. Sure, maybe being in a crowded theater with a hundred other patrons all screaming at the behest of Vincent Price's careful Stage English could be a lot of fun. But screaming by yourself while sitting on your couch? It's really just kind of sad.

Believe me...I tried it.

Probably my least-favorite of the Castle films that I've seen thus far, but that opinion might change if I saw it in a darkened revival theater with a bunch of oddball enthusiasts. Until then, if I need my fix of Castle ballyhoo, I'll be re-visiting Mr. Sardonicus or Strait-Jacket.



View the trailer below!


1959
Not Rated
82 Minutes
Black & White (touches of color)
English
United States

"Bet you in a fair fight that cat could lick this dog."
--J/Metro

2 comments:

  1. I really think this one is cool. I haven't seen Strait-Jacket or Mr. Sardonicus, though.

    JM

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  2. I've a warm place in my heart for all things William Castle - The Tingler is one of my faves. As tacky as it was there are some insanely creative moments: the LSD trip (as you mentioned) - the fact that a theater which shows only silent movies is co-owned by a woman who can not speak...

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