Following his great success with both Macabre (1958) and House on Haunted Hill (1959), William Castle quickly followed it up with The Tingler also released in the same year, he increased his budget to $250,000 and achieved the notoriety of becoming the first director to incorporate an LSD trip into his flick, he effectively achieved distribution from Columbia Pictures. He was an incredible man for his time, an independent filmmaker, who often mortgaged his house to make his films, but his uncanny ability to earn it all back and more at the box office proved him a success. But how – without the big studio backing or advertising machinery, simply by specializing in promotional gimmicks, an insurance policy to ghost viewers, and with this film Percepto. Whenever blood-curdling screams occurred in the movie, hidden buzzers vibrated the seats and he even also placed a few actors in the crowd. Screenwriter Robb White once again teamed-up with Castle, after all they had great success together.
The Tingler has all the necessary ingredients for a good William Castle movie: a tone that is both camp and macabre, a great cast, and an outrageous marketing gimmick. Even though the feature film marked only his third time in the director’s chair, it serves an important milestone in a career that led to Castle being recently dubbed “the godfather of interactive cinema.” Though some film historians direct their attention to Kinoautomat (1967) as the first interactive cinematic production, while it directly interacted with the audience, Castle encourages them to become open to the terror and enjoyment, a breaking of social norms especially in theaters. In fact, the ploys all used to sell tickets, later encouraged by the outrageous and fabulous fan base of the Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), which amped the participation levels to dressing as characters, perhaps early form of cosplay.
Castle himself, who opens the film directly addressing them with a short marvelous prologue, warns that several individuals will be sharing in the physical sensations of the characters on-screen, therefore “…opening your mouth and letting rip with all you’ve got…” will save yourselves. Vincent Price (Pit and Pendulum ) plays Dr. Warren Chapin, pathologist (or mad doctor, you decide) who is researching the effects of fear on the body, that tingling in your spine when you are scared, he believes is caused by a parasitic creature. The Tingler, as the creature is called, grows near your vertebral column and can only be killed off by releasing the tension with a bloodcurdling scream. He tries various experiments including on himself, even an autopsy on a serial killer, but discovers no tingle, meanwhile the brother-in-law of the killer Oliver Higgins (Philip Coolidge), a cinema owner shows up for no apparent reason. Although, his appearance serves as plot link for his wife, Mrs. Martha Higgins (Judith Evelyn) whom is deaf, the ideal patient for Chapin’s plan of capturing the Tingler. In one truly memorable scene where the water in a bath turns blood red and an arm reaches up at Martha (in a film that is otherwise shot in black-and-white) ideally a remarkable situation in cinema. Shortly after the capture of the creature it does get release into a silent movie house from there it’s a raucous series of moments, especially with Vincent Price’s voice pleading with audience to scream for their lives, because the Tingler is loose in the theater, hence the Percepto moment.
The Tingler, while silly at times, plays off of The Blob (1958) with a monster loose in a theater, a place where people go for entertainment, relaxing their stress, and lulled into a sense of safety, the screen is the barrier between the two worlds of reality and fakery. In fact, both Castle and his movie served as inspiration for many others from Demons (1985), Popcorn (1991), Cut (2000), and Midnight Movie (2008), however some tend to overlook Matinee (1993) which pulls more on theater props usage in the film. The overall movie received a Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory and then the company Monstarz unleashed The Tingler Prop Replica that measures at 20-inches long for the cost of $100 limited to 100 pieces.
While some point to the Tingler as a silly looking creature, they likely find themselves unaware of the real-life velvet worms, namely the Peripatus, found in South America, which looks like a cross between an earthworm and arthropod. That stated, the creature moves awkwardly, often pulled by a string or manhandled off-screen due the lack of special effects sadly rendered it lame in both then and modern audiences, but existed more for fun than scares. Although one could argue this represented an early form of “body-horror” while the creature grows inside oneself, it feels perhaps as an episode of Monsters Insides Me found on the Animal Planet channel.
Tingler is still great fun, with entertainment thanks to the wild plot, some wonderfully b-movie dialogue, and some mischievous moments, but it misses the live audience participation, however, achieves the status of a cult classic, for his next film 13 Ghosts (1960).
- Ghastly Beyond Belief!
- Amazing NEW TERROR Device Makes You A Living Participant in the FLESH-CRAWLING ACTION! PERCEPTO!
- In Screamarama
- Do you have the guts to sit in this chair?
- Can You Take PERCEPTO?
- BRING YOUR DATE AND WATCH HER TINGLE!
- SEE – The screen’s first BLOOD BATH IN COLOR!
- When the screen screams you’ll scream too…if you value your life!
- Fright-Filled SHOCK Thriller!
IMDb Rating: 6.7/10
Baron’s Rating: 6.5/10