The Tingler

Dir: William Castle
Star: Vincent Price, Philip Coolidge, Judith Evelyn, Patricia Cutts

This stands the test of time, thanks largely to Vincent Price's fine portrayal of scientist Dr. Warren Chapin, who discovers that fear causes a creature to appear on the spine. While it is neutralised by screaming, what if the victim couldn't? And look! Here's the deaf-mute wife (Evelyn) of a local cinema owner (Coolidge). Just to add to the fun, Chapin's wife (Cutts) is an alcoholic slut with murder in mind - their razor-edge bitching is almost Mamet-like. It plays with the concept of cinema, beginning with a speech by director Castle to the audience; the climax, with the "tingler" loose in a theatre, is when Percepto kicked in, giving certain seats a small shock. Modern viewers may snigger, but imagine the effect in 1959.

It's also way ahead in acknowledging the potential of LSD, though Vincent Price shouting "The walls! The walls!" isn't perhaps in the sky, with diamonds. Castle's momentary use of colour is also marvelously restrained. On the down side, I can't imagine an era when the FX would have passed muster, and the pathological/medical procedures shown must come from a bizarre parallel universe. Chapin's sister-in-law is also immensely annoying, passively subservient in a way unimaginable these days. We also get B-movie lesson #393: extend the running time of your film by including lengthy sequences from a public-domain silent movie. But hell, it's still far more fun than 90% of the horror flicks made today.

Jan 2004

Scream! Scream for your life!
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