“Now please don’t fool with that stuff alone, Warren, it can produce some pretty weird effects.”—Lab assistant warning Vincent Price against taking LSD in The Tingler
DIRECTED BY: William Castle
FEATURING: Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts
PLOT: Scruple-challenged scientist Dr. Warren Chapin discovers that a creature called “the Tingler” lives within the human spine. This creature grows when the host experiences fear, and shrinks when they scream. When an extracted Tingler escapes, Chapin and his assistant must race to re-capture the beast before it unleashes its terror—maybe right here inside this very movie theater!
- Director/producer Castle, master of publicity-grabbing gimmicks, applied several such techniques to The Tingler, including hiring actresses to play nurses to stand outside the theater, and planting audience members to scream and faint at key moments in the picture. The most notorious gimmick in his oeuvre, however, was undoubtedly “Percepto.” For the theatrical release, Castle arranged for a handful of auditorium seats to be wired with war-surplus electric airplane de-icing engines. At a key moment during the film’s climax, the projectionist would activate the zappers, buzzing unsuspecting (or eagerly-hoping) viewers with a jolt of electricity, thereby breaking the fourth wall in a way 3-D never could.
- Although best known for his B-movies, Castle’s resume is not exclusively low-budget shockers. He was an as assistant director on Orson Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai, and produced Roman Polanski‘s horror classic Rosemary’s Baby. (He has a cameo as a man wanting to use Mia Farrow’s phone booth.)
- Price’s self-administered LSD experience was reportedly the first ever cinematic acid trip. Castle was so eager to clue in the audience to what was going on that he printed the name of the scientific monograph Price is reading on the back of the volume.
- Directors Stuart Gordon and John Waters included The Tingler in their Top Ten lists for the Sight and Sound 2002 poll of the greatest films of all time.
- Shane Wilson’s Staff Pick for the Certified Weird list.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: A blank projection screen, onto which ambles the shadow of a large rubber insect puppet, followed immediately by blackness, the sound of audience members shrieking their heads off, and the unmistakable command of Vincent Price: “Scream! Scream for your lives! The Tingler is loose in this theater!”
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Even without the electrified seats, The Tingler is an odd little enterprise. Between the confident pseudoscientific explanations, the wildly shifting tone, and the utter commitment to the absurd and goofily executed premise, it’s a strange and silly cinematic experience. But “Percepto” ups the ante considerably. Whereas previous auditorium gimmicks were content to merely startle theater patrons and to play upon their emotions, The Tingler was now actively threatening the audience with physical harm. By bringing the actual audience inside the film, Castle’s gimmick becomes a means to shatter the fourth wall completely, paving the way for the interactive experiences viewers treasure so much now.
Original trailer for The Tingler
COMMENTS: Let’s not kid ourselves. The Tingler is very silly. Consider that the entire premise of the film is based on literalizing the Continue reading 283. THE TINGLER (1959)