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The Tingler

A movie directed by William Castle

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Tingler ~ scream! Scream to save your life!

  • Nov 2, 2007
Pros: Price & Castle were like Barnum & Bailey!

Cons: the monster, pretty lame

The Bottom Line: "It leaves no marks in spite of sparks
And so touch has become the Tingler
Touch is the Tingler"

What a tremendously campy film starring Vincent Price as the mortician for the prison system, Judith Evelyn as the deaf mute silent film theater owner, Philip Coolidge as her husband, Darryl Hickman as Price's assistant, Pamela Lincoln as Hickman's love interest and the sister of Patricia Cutts, Price's alcoholic, man chasing, rich wife.

The film opens with director William Castle walking on stage and explaining that some people in the audience might be affected by the movie, some might not. However, if the spirit moves you, if the fright is so horrible that you cannot stand it, then ... "Scream! Scream for all you are worth! Scream to save your life!"

Castle was well known for placing objects in the theaters to interact with the patrons, in this case, rigging a slight electrical charge to some seats to effect a slight tingling when appropriate in the movie. What a masterful entertainer he must have been!

This movie is based on Price, who operates as the mortician for the prison system but also investigates fear reaction on his own. He is convinced that when extreme terror or fear strikes, if you are unable to release this fear, it can kill you. By screaming you release the fear or terror, thus disabling the "Tingler", as he calls it. The movie opens with a gentleman going to the electric chair and moves to Price in the laboratory later performing his autopsy.

In walks Philip Coolidge, the brother-in-law of the deceased, who Price admonishes for entering the restricted area then says, "Oh Ok, if you are a relative, fine, but try not to faint". This is when they both observe the rigidity of the deceased’s spine and discuss the fact that fear solidifies the spinal cord.

Price takes Coolidge home and meets his wife, a deaf-mute with a fetish about shaking hands or touching anyone, also she goes into a fear induced coma when faced with the sight of blood. Price is in his glory!

When he returns home he finds his trampy lush of a wife out on the town, his sister-in-law dressed to go out on a date with Hickman, and a discussion begins about the deaf-mute's inability to release her terror. Full of ideas, Price waits for his hedonistic alcoholic wife to return home, confronts her, shoots her (with a blank by the way) and then X-rays her spinal column to see the results of her intense fear!

Armed with his new knowledge, he visits the deaf-mute (don’t you find it interesting that she owns a silent movie theater?) at her home, gives her an injection so she will sleep, and her husband proceeds, without Price’s knowledge, to scare her to death. Frankly the gimmicks used were pretty lame, but this was 1959 so I took it for what it was.

One thing I found intriguing though was the entire film was in black and white except for one shot in the bathroom where the tub is full of 'water' and an arm reaches out of the tub toward the deaf-mute woman. At this point director Castle leaves the balance of the room in black and white but shows the contents of the tub in red, as well as the extended arm, indicating blood. The only color used in the entire movie, what a wonderful idea!

Anyway, Coolidge brings his wife’s body to Price’s laboratory and Price performs a partial autopsy, removing "The Tingler" from her spine. This was done behind a curtained off area so all you saw was the shadow of him working, then the removal of the beast.

At this point I started laughing so hard tears were streaming from my eyes, the tingler resembled a centipede with pinchers. It was about the length and girth of Price’s forearm and quite amusing to watch.

Of course the dude gets loose and Price realizes it must be returned to the corpse in order for it to die properly. However, while attempting this, Tingler gets away again and invades the movie theater.

There is a terrifically hysterical interlude with the Tingler inching its' way up and down the theater aisles, mostly in time to the wretched piano music that accompanies those silent movies. This little interlude is worth watching the movie for in itself!

I won’t bother giving any more of the delightful story line away, nor the climatic ending, you must watch it yourself to find out what happens to the characters in this little diatribe.

I have always been intrigued with Price’s acting abilities. He appears so soft spoken and calm while underneath he is always wonderfully insane. Sometimes it takes a little longer than others to appear, but appear it always does. Coolidge was a remarkable actor in this movie. He was constantly hung up on getting a beer (Wanna get a beer? Hey, how bout a beer? I need to get a beer with her sick and all. I was out having a coupla beers and when I came back she was like this ….. etc). Could be Mr. Coolidge had a little drinking problem!

I really enjoyed Judith Evelyn as the deaf-mute. I always find it amazing when people can portray such emotion without saying a word. Perhaps she really is a mute, I don’t know, but I have never been able to figure out how someone can go that length of time without letting one sound escape. She had very expressive eyes, but other than that, her movements were a little stilted. Again, I consider the time frame of the movie and find that most actors during this era are similar to this.

A great old movie with good acting, really campy monsters and a lot of fun. Just remember - SCREAM, SCREAM TO SAVE YOUR LIFE!


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More The Tingler reviews
review by . July 24, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
***1/2 out of ****     It's almost impossible to imagine that any horror fan would not find "The Tingler" to be a fun, admirably campy horror flick. It opens with a monologue of warning from its director, William Castle, who seems to be telling us of what a gift it is to be able to simply scream. Watching the film only helped me to realize, furthermore, what he meant by this.    Castle made his movie for fans of the genre, and fans of science-fiction too. …
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This delightful gimmick film from producer-director William Castle stars Vincent Price as Dr. Chapin, a scientist who discovers a caterpillarlike parasite that grows in the human spine when someone is afraid and that, unless they scream, can grow large enough to kill them. He solemnly dubs this creature the tingler. Philip Coolidge plays the owner of a nearby cinema who befriends the doctor and whose deaf-mute wife suddenly receives all sorts of shocks, like the sight of a bathtub full of blood with a hand reaching out from it. Since she can't scream, she dies, and Chapin gets his hands on her oversize tingler. When it eventually escapes inside the movie theater, the film within the film, and then the film itself, stops for an announcement from Price, out of character, urging the audience to scream their heads off. Castle originally had random seats in theaters equipped to deliver small electric shocks at this key moment, and he hired women to faint and ushers to carry them out, all in his determination ...
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Director: William Castle
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi
Release Date: July 29, 1959
MPAA Rating: Unrated
DVD Release Date: September 07, 1999
Runtime: 1hr 21min
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