Friday, January 9, 2009

Film Review: THE TINGLER (1959, William Castle)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 82 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Vincent Price.
Tag-lines: "Amazing NEW TERROR Device Makes You A Living Participant in the FLESH-CRAWLING ACTION! PERCEPTO!," "When the screen screams you'll scream too...if you value your life!," and everyone's favorite, "BRING YOUR DATE AND WATCH HER TINGLE!"
Best one-liner: "The tingler exists in every human being, we now know. Look at that tingler, Dave. It's an ugly and dangerous thing-ugly because it's the creation of man's fear; dangerous because... because a frightened man is dangerous. "

I'm guessing a lot of people were really disappointed back in 1959 when they found out THE TINGLER was not, in fact, a giant Vincent Price-shaped vibrator, but, instead, a film about giant crawly Cronenbergian vibrators that live inside our spinal columns.

Gimmick-meister William Castle is the auteur of this picture as well as its myriad publicity stunts, which ranged from a brief color in the midst of black-and-white sequence to "Percepto" (vibrating seats) to planted ushers and fainters and screamers. He even does a Cecil B. DeMille-esque intro. Though not quite as good as Castle's STRAIT-JACKET, THE TINGLER is still a stunning genre achievement and a jewel in the crown of 50's sci-fi horror. STRAIT-JACKET has Joan's eyebrows and THE TINGLER has Vincent's mustache, so if you're a fan of camp, that may be as difficult as SOPHIE'S CHOICE. Regardless, this movie is great. I don't know about you, but when Vincent Price lays out pseudo-science, I listen. And Vincent is laying out a great deal of pseudo-science in this film.

It may be that Walter Cronkite was "the most trusted man in America," but Vincent Price is the most trusted man in my apartment, and if he's telling me that I've got to scream in order to release the tingler's death-grip on my spinal cord, then, by gum, I'm going to scream my heart out. In fact, all you need is a little back massager set on "auto" and the ability to follow Vincent's simple and frequent instructions ("Ladies and gentlemen, please do not panic! But SCREAM! Scream for your lives!"), and I think you'll have made Mr. Castle proud.

See also: STRAIT-JACKET Review.

-Sean Gill

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