The Tingler (1959)

“Remember: if you scream at just the right time, it might just save your life”

Synopsis:
When researching the effects of fear on the human body, Dr. Warren Chapin (Vincent Price) discovers the presence of a creature he names “the Tingler”, which lives in our vertebrae and is rendered harmless by screaming.

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Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “pretty good William Castle chiller” features “one of the weirdest (though not one of the best) monsters in horror-film history,” and Vincent Price in yet another deliciously “hammy” Mad Scientist role. The scenes involving a deaf-mute woman (Judith Evelyn) who is “incapable of screaming away her deadly fears” are, as Peary notes, “genuinely creepy”; and while much of the film belongs squarely in campy B-movie heaven, you’ll nonetheless find yourself surprisingly freaked out by the story’s premise. Indeed, many of David Cronenberg’s later films (i.e., The Brood and Shivers) — which base their horror on the notion of unwelcome creatures nesting in our bodies — owe a debt to this earlier movie.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Vincent Price as the cuckolded “mad doctor” who gets his revenge in the end
    Vincent Price
  • A truly strange-looking “mutant monster”
    Mutant Monster
  • Clever use of a deaf-mute woman as a plausible plot device
    Judith Evelyn
  • Some moments of genuine terror
    Shadows
  • An amusing theatrical gimmick — “Percepto” — “whereby, at scary moments, motors would make theater seats “tingle’.”

Must See?
Yes, simply for the notoriety of its corny “theater gimmick” — but chances are you’ll enjoy the film on its own merits, as a uniquely campy B-thriller.

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One Response to “The Tingler (1959)”

  1. Yes – a must, for sheer entertainment value. It has the added distinction of being ‘camp with class’, thanks largely to the game performances of Vincent Price and Judith Evelyn (who, in particular, is acting up a storm in a film that doesn’t really need it). (Castle would repeat this level of ‘classy camp’ memorably with Joan Crawford in ‘Strait-Jacket’ and, somewhat less successfully, with Barbara Stanwyck in ‘The Night Walker’ and Crawford again in ‘I Saw What You Did’.) Much of Castle’s work in his later years – what he’s most known for – illustrates that, though it’s not most often the case, ‘camp’ can be conscious; films like ‘The Tingler’, ‘Strait-Jacket’ and (arguably Castle’s best) ‘Homicidal’ show that Castle was interested in compelling popcorn pulp – but it was all in sideshow fun.

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