The Tingler

The Tingler ★★★½

Geoff T's Hoop-Tober 8.0 Challenge
Castle/Price Double Bill #2
The Tingler (1959)

When it came to horror movies and theater gimmicks, no one seemed to master the art of it better than Will Castle. He brought about one of his more insane creations with The Tinger, a chiller built around the gimmick of "Percepto!", in which a built-in seat buzzer to provoke an intense reaction from the audience.

After Castle himself issues a warning to the audience, we're thrown into the actual film. Pathologist Dr. Warren Chaplin (Vincent Price) has been studying a "tingling" sensation in the spine of people who die while experiencing extreme levels of fright. He is convinced that there is a parasite living inside that grows as it feeds on the fear of its host. Naturally, he is determined to prove evidence of its existence, even if it means using living test subjects as guinea pigs, including his own adulterous wife Isabel, or Martha, the deaf-mute wife of theater owner Dave Morris.

A premise so out of the ordinary and so inane, but none of that matters to Castle, who more or less knows exactly what kind of movie he's making and just runs with it. I especially love how straight-faced the cast manages to be with the camp material, including Price whose mad scientist character feels somewhat restrained and "ordinary" but is nonetheless a scene stealer. And that's not even mentioning that at one point, his character trips on acid (in order to induce a fearful response).

There's also a meta sense-of-humour and level of inventiveness that Castle brings to this movie. The part with a bathtub full of bright red blood on black-on-white film (as part of a sequence in which Martha hallucinates) is cleverly done, as is the sequence where the Tingler crawls around theater while patrons sit and watch a silent movie. The actual Tingler itself is undoubtedly silly, a centipede-like creature that is controlled with wires, and quite honestly, I wouldn't have had it otherwise.

I can only imagine how much more enjoyable this would have been in an actual theater with the gimmicks installed (some parts clearly rely on the audience participation more than anything). Nonetheless, this is still a ridiculously campy, fun ride, the work of someone who wanted nothing more than to give his audience a good time.


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