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The Tingler


‘…with a frank view of drugs, plus some meta-narrative twists, The Tinger is a great way to waste 80 minutes…’

William Castle is a somewhat neglected figure, perhaps because he staked his reputation on novelties, some would say gimmicks, which were dated from the moment they appeared. Such felicities as having a skeleton appear above a cinema screen seem rather old fashioned in the shadow of IMAX 4DX. So it’s rather nice to see The Tingler appear on Amazon Prime is a natty new print that makes it ripe for rediscovery.

What’s surprising here, given Castle’s reputation, is the ingenious nature of the whole conceit. The Tingler is a horror film, but one that operates in a specific and rather post-modern way. Vincent Price plays Warren Chapin, a scientist who has been working to isolate the Tingler, a creature that feeds on fear; it appears inside the human body, often at the instant of death, and Chapin is keen to isolate it. Many boffins might have been tempted to use illegal means to pursue this goal, but fortunately LSD was legal in the US at the time, and The Tingler features the spectacle of Price and other cast-members cheerfully blowing their own minds and (pretending to) trip on acid.

This in itself is odd enough, but things get weirder when Chapin meets a woman who is a deaf mute and is unable to express herself; she’s got a lifetime of fear bottled up inside her and is ready to blow like a bottle of champagne, releasing a mega-tingler. Her husband owns a silent-movie theatre which appears to be showing 1921’s silent Tol’able David in a permanent loop, and when The Tingler escapes, it escapes into the theatre and begins tingling the occupants of the seats.

This leads to a quite wild sequence in which you, the viewer, find yourself watching the same silent movie, with Vincent Price on the soundtrack warning you about dangerous creatures on the loose and potentially assaulting your backside. It places the audience in the movie in an absurd and yet clever way; there’s also a brilliant scare involving a splash of blood-red in an otherwise black and white movie. With a frank view of drugs, plus some meta-narrative twists, The Tingler is a great way to waste 80 minutes, and shows that 1959’s cinema showmen had plenty of ingenuity as the on-going battle with tv hotted up.


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  1. I enjoyed Homicidal which had a gender twist amd of course Castle is the credited producer of Rosemary’s Baby so wouldn’t say he was entirely neglected though Satan’s baby would be classified as a novelty I guess.

  2. Haha, I haven’t seen this one but I do have a soft spot for Vincent Price. Sounds like one to watch after I’ve thrown back a hot toddy, which is about as crazy as I get.

  3. I started laughing at the beginning of your review, I thought you were making it up for a joke. Then I saw there was a trailer, and that made me laugh even more. I don’t think I could sit through the whole thing without peeing my pants, so I’m giving this (regretfully) a nope. But thanks so much for a good laugh!

  4. They had seats in the cinema wired up with buzzers to zap you at the end. Castle called it Percepto! (his exclamation mark). Never took off because of the cost. A gimmick like Smell-o-Vision that we can no longer enjoy.


    • I could wire you up to a buzzer so that you can experience the film as Castle intended? Thanks for the typo….

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