The Tingler is a movie by William Castle, the great showman of American independent cinema. For those of you who don’t know Castle was a filmmaker who did any and everything to have his movies be entertaining. Year’s before the midnight movie phenomenon, he didn’t just want films to be passively consumed, he wanted them to be an event. Some Brundlefly cross of a circus, freak show, and revivalist tent, all fueled by posters and trailers that promised the world and a new level of “shock sensation”, never mind what they actually delivered. He staged protests against his own films, made his patrons sign insurance forms and get “medical exams” before viewing his film, lest they be frightened to death by just how awesome it was. He brought skeletons into the theater, made blood corn, and in the case of the Tingler wired the seats of the theater with joy buzzers. He was all about pushing the envelop both in the gruesome content and the presentation of his films, and though they are pretty tame today, it’s not hard to understand how in the safe sanitized fifties they hit like an atom bomb.
All of the Castle films are entertaining, but I’ve chosen The Tingler by the virtue that it is basically completely batshit insane. Staring Vincent Price at his feyest, The Tingler casts him as a corner with a side project where he does scientific experiments on the subject of fear. He discovers The Tingler, a parasitically creature that lives in base of the spine, and feeds off fear (You know that tingle at the base of your spine? That’s the Tingler feeding off your fear juice). Luckily the little bugger can be dispatched with a simple scream, but when Vincent Price meets an acquaintance’s wife who is mute, well the wheels in his head get to turning, and he figures the best way to expirement with The Tingler is to shoot her full of LSD and then rip the thing out of her spine when it kills her. This is what is known as the ultimate Dick Move.
Now now to be fair Price drops acid himself first. And believe me, if you thought watching Jackie Gleason trip the light fantastic in Skidoo was strange, you haven’t seen anything compare to Price staring at a Skeleton moaning before trying to launch himself out of a window. It’s pretty awesome.
When The Tingler comes out there’s not a lot to be done with it. The thing looks like a plastic lobster and has just about the same range of motion, so it’s up to the intrepid cast to pretend that they are being overpowered by it’s mighty inertness.
Mixed in with all these Hijink’s is a subplot out of a justly forgotten B Noir where Price must keep his unfaithful harpy of a wife from ruining the life of her kid sister and bland fiancé. All of a sudden it’s like the Vincent Price cut of Sin City with Price smacking her around while threatening to make a hole in her the size of a grapefruit. Underlying once and for all the lesson that you don’t fuck around with Vincent Price. Cause if you do he’ll smack you around, shoot you up with LSD, pull a lobster out of your spine, and then shoot you. And that’s something we can all use.
Tomorrow: Nazi’s Vs. Golems, Purchow Vs. Byrne, McKellan Vs. Old Age Makeup, and Why Scott Glenn Is A Pimp.