“The Tingler” is one of my first introductions to William Castle and the art of his theatricality when it came to horror movies and making them an experience. As a kid, “The Tingler” and “House on Haunted Hill” were constant rotation at my home, and I loved how Castle’s films sucked you in. To this day I remember being very riveted in the brief moment during “The Tingler” where the movie breaks the fourth wall asking you, the audience, to scream loudly to avoid being attacked by—dramatic pause—the Tingler!
Vincent Price plays Dr. Warren Chapin, a scientist who has discovered that the spine tingling sensation people get when they’re scared is actually a parasite that manifests from our fear. Named the Tingler, it attaches to our spine drawing life force from us, if we can’t build the power to scream. Screaming is its weakness, as is made painfully clear in “The Tingler.” After experimenting on his wife, Oliver Higgins manages to extract the tingler from her body, but once the creature is freed from its prison, it begins preying on victims and eating their fear. Now Warren has to stop it before it sets a trail of victims.
William Castle was always about creative concepts and premises. And though “The Tingler” might seem like a goofy monster movie, in the end it’s at least a goofy monster movie you can have fun with. The monster itself looks like an overgrown rubber centipede, but the concept is fairly unique and creative. The idea that a monster manifests from our fears and eats our terror, all the while preventing us from screaming is horror gold, and works well here. “The Tingler” was originally shown in “Percepto.” During the climax when the tingler is loose, the film encourages the audience to scream lest they be attacked by the tingler, and “Percepto” made audiences seats tremor in theaters, giving them a jolt of interactivity.
I would have loved to have been there to see if anyone actually started screaming, or ran out of the theater in horror. “The Tingler” is a very good vehicle for Vincent Price who is as good as ever. While the movie itself feels more like a gimmick than a movie at times, it’s a fun movie you can double bill with “The Blob” and call it a day. Plus it has one of the funniest closing scenes in horror movie history.
The new edition from Scream Factory garners an audio commentary by author/historian Steve Haberman. “I Survived The Tingler” is a four minute interview with Pamela Lincoln, who discusses how the film was her claim to stardom. “Unleashing “Percepto” is a three minute interview with publicist Barry Lorie, who discusses the publicity for “Percepto,” and how Castle would have him promote the films to publications and theaters. “Scream for Your Lives! William Castle and “The Tingler”” is a vintage featurette at over fifteen minutes from another release garnering a neat retrospective from the surviving members of the cast, and other folks educated on the film’s production.
“William Castle’s Drive-In “Scream!” Audio” is a minute long peek at the Drive In version of Percepto, where Castle begs people to turn on their headlights to find the Tingler in the climax. “Original “Scream” Scene” is a forty five second recording of the audience during the original scene, and “The Original 1959 Theatre Lobby Recording” is a two and a half minute audio only trailer. Finally there’s the theatrical trailer, and a still gallery.