The Tingler (1959)
Cast: Vincent Price, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts, Pamela Lincoln, Philip Coolidge, and Judith Evelyn
Director: William Castle
Nutshell: Camp Classic from the Master William Castle featuring an ‘orrible parasite attached to our spines that springs into action at the scent of fear. Diabolical, delicious and delightful.
It’s a little challenging to describe a plot as preposterous as this but then William Castle isn’t just anyone. In this particular slice of the macabre, we have Dr. Vincent Price hard at work researching the origins and mechanism of fear and its forces and how he believes it causes death itself. Injections of Lysergic Acid inducing waves of fear are followed by the discovery of a parasite which he calls The Tingler. This vile creature feeds and thrives on fear causing untold horror and the only way of stopping it from coiling up and thus crushing your spine in the process is to scream with all the lung power that you can conjure. Screaming somehow is the only reaction that causes the Tingler to uncoil and therefor release the enormous crushing pressure that it exerts. The Tingler itself is an appalling sight much like a giant earwig but far more lethal and with the power to crush like a hydraulic press.
Castle pulls out all the stops; there is a psychedelic scene where the muted monochrome suddenly sprouts vivid blood red technicolour from nowhere then later there is a showstopper when the movie literally comes to a shuddering halt as the horrid Tingler unleashes its terror in an actual movie theatre plunging the hall into a petrified darkness. Only screaming for your life may save you, otherwise it’s too late, The Tingler will grip and crush vertebrae and your soul! Scream, scream, scream for your lives!
A truly horrid sight the Tingler is, a terrifically repulsive creature that trail blazed way ahead of similar parasites such as the gloriously nasty turd like specimen from Shivers! There is another breath-taking sequence when the evil Mrs. Price releases the ghastly Tingler upon her sleeping husband. Watching the creature emerge from the box and inexorably creep towards its victim are skin crawling horror of the most spectacular kind.
The Tingler’s most noticeable feature other than its hideousness is its extremely loud and resounding heartbeat. It is a truly fascinating and monstrous creature and the thought that all of us have one attached to our spines is a rather sobering one at the very least.
The Tingler finds Master Showman William Caste bang on form and at his inspired best. Meanwhile at some cinemas where this classic was screened Castle had a number of seats wired to a gentle electric current and once in a while in scenes which featured The Tingler, they were zapped for full effect, getting more than their money’s worth. A stroke of sheer genius by Castle once again.
Arguably Castle’s finest hour as a director; a film where his gimmicks and bag of tricks deliciously compliment a supremely mad plot with its medical and psychological mumbo jumbo. Vincent Price delivers one of so many fine performances, managing a straight face when all others would have faltered. A film that has deservedly grown into a Camp Classic Creature Feature to behold, to love and to cherish.
The German Blu-Ray release as part of the “Gallery of Screams” series presents the film in as good a visual quality is it has probably yet been seen. There are two sets of commentary tracks but sadly both in German as are the extras but the film itself is available in its original language and subtitles can be removed. This Blu-Ray version was released in August 2016 for the German market but we still await the UK or US version. Until then, this is the only option and a pretty decent one too.