The Tingler

The Tingler ★★½

Percepto, the 'gimmick' mentioned on the poster for The Tingler was sadly absent from the cinema I saw this in last night. William Castle, the film's infamous producer and director, described Columbia's investment: "It meant the outlay of a fortune to design the equipment and make the little boxes. Teams of special-effects men would have to be sent all over the country to install the complicated equipment in the theatres at night after closing. A manual was printed giving complete instructions with diagrams etc." The idea was to vibrate the audience's seats at key moments in the film to induce a literal tingle down the spine. Stripped of this gimmick, the film itself is little more than good-natured hokum; even the venerable Vincent Price struggles to rise above the level of the script. Writer Robb White wrote "As shooting went on, we agreed the picture was sadly in need of something. But we couldn't, for a while, think of anything to help it until Bill came in one morning with a small vibrator which eventually saved the picture...". Frankly, I can see what he meant.

Despite a few inspired scenes - especially the bright red blood in a black and white film (another gimmick really, but an effective one) - the film is surprisingly flat, for what should be an outrageous bit of schlock. The basic premise is from the mad scientist school of basic premises: Price's Dr. Chapin seeks to isolate fear in the human body as he believes it to be a physical parasite; the eponymous Tingler. It's basically an elongated rubber lobster, which, once extracted from the body, goes on the rampage - jerkily, with the aid of strings, and a lot of indulgence on the part of the audience. Still, I reckon there's a good chance David Cronenberg will have seen this flick - The Tingler itself looks a lot like a prototype for the transformed typewriter that Fadela whips into shape in Naked Lunch!

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