The Tingler (1959)

Dr. Warren Chapin is a pathologist who regularly conducts autopsies on executed prisoners at the State prison. He has a theory that fear is the result of a creature that inhabits all of us. His theory is that the creature is suppressed by our ability to scream when fear strikes us. He gets a chance to test his theories when he meets Ollie and Martha Higgins, who own and operate a second-run movie theater. Martha is deaf and mute and if she is unable to scream, extreme fear should make the creature, which Chapin has called the Tingler, come to life and grow. Using LSD to induce nightmares, he begins his experiment.

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Price Is Right, But I Liked ‘Ollie’ Best!

22 February 2009 | by ccthemovieman-1 (United States) – See all my reviews

“Ollie” was my favorite person in this movie. What a strange dude! He was full of surprises, including reactions to things, comments he makes and, of course, deeds he commits.

Yeah, Vincent Price proves again what a fine actor we was, and is the star of the film, but I really enjoyed Philip Coolidge’s (Ollie) performance. As for Price, watching this other day made me scratch my head and wonder how such a good actor could play in so many cheesy films?

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Whatever, those two along with Patricia Cutts (the tramp wife), Judith Evelyn (Ollie’s deaf-mute wife), Darryl Hickman and Pamela Lincoln all did a pretty nice job, although Price’s acting talents stand out among the cast.

It also would have fun to see this in the theater 50 years ago when they rigged the seats to tingle during certain scenes! That really happened! Director William Castle really tried everything to get the audience. He even stopped the film and asked the audience to scream! It must have been hilarious. You have to give it to the man for his effort to promote his “horror” films.

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The movie begins slowly so one has to have patience with this story. Once it kicks in though, it’s very good with some shocking scenes (including a color scene or two) and some interesting twists. However, to be fair, there are a lot of holes in this story and really, really corny things……but that’s part of the fun. It’s like Ed Wood films – so bad, you have to laugh.

The DVD looks good. This is a nice transfer, which is important with all the lights and shadows. You can see some alternate scenes, too, which are interesting.

B Movie Heaven!

Author: Gafke from United States
16 April 2004

“The Tingler” is the name that Vincent Price’s likable scientist character gives to the creature that apparently is responsible for the sense of spine-tingling fear we all experience at some point in our lives. If we scream, The Tingler is rendered harmless. If we do not, The Tingler will get us!

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This is classic William Castle gimmick stuff. When this black and white masterpiece of schlock was originally shown in theaters, devices would be rigged up underneath theater seats which would “tingle” during a certain scene. The film would then seemingly stop, and the audience would be encouraged to scream! Scream for their LIVES! Of course, the audience was happy to oblige and the Tingler would be defeated. Man, how I regret having missed those days of cheesy ballyhoo.

This film has some really nifty stuff in it. Highlights include Vincent Price’s “acid” trip (reportedly the first acid trip ever seen on the silver screen), and a cool hallucinatory color sequence with a deaf mute woman menaced by a bathtub full of blood, among other things. The plot is clever and actually pretty well thought out for a B flick, and Vincent is superb, as he always is. This is an absolutely hysterical film that should not be missed. I can’t say enough good things about it – it simply has to be seen to be appreciated. It’s campy, seedy, bloody good fun!

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Brilliant campy fun from William Castle and Vincent Price

8/10
Author: The_Void from Beverley Hills, England
20 July 2005

The Tingler marks the second teaming for horror’s greatest actor – Vincent Price, and horror’s greatest showman – William Castle. This film was released later in the same year that their first venture – House on Haunted Hill – was unleashed upon audiences across the world, and the film sees the two men deliver more of what they did with their first feature. House on Haunted Hill was much loved then – and now – for it’s ludicrous plot line and hammy performances, and The Tingler marks another successful fusion of these elements.

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The plot line is even sillier this time round, and it follows Vincent Price’s scientist as he conducts his experiments into fear. He discovers that when we get frightened, a thing, which he called ‘the tingler’, manifests itself on the spinal column and the only way to rid oneself of this ‘tingler’ is to scream. Deaf mute’s cant scream, however, and soon after discovering that his friend’s wife suffers from that condition, and has an acute fear of blood, Price gets to work on attempting to isolate and remove the tingler.

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William Castle shows his flair and passion for entertaining his audience throughout this film, with the whole film being, basically, a metaphor for the horror genre on the whole. Castle uses several different methods of getting his audience to scream, and while this film isn’t very scary by today’s standards – watching this master of entertainment weave his magic is always delightful. Another thing that’s delightful about this film is the fact that Vincent Price is in it. Price has an amazing ability to command to the screen, and while this movie doesn’t feature his best performance – he’s always entertaining, and it’s always a pleasure to see him on screen. Castle’s special effects are hokey, with the central monster – the tingler – looking rather silly, but that adds to the fun effect of the movie and if the effects had been terrific examples of how good special effects can be – the film wouldn’t have been nearly as fun as it is. The Tingler is silly throughout, and it gets really ridiculous towards the end, but if you watch knowing that this isn’t to be taken seriously, you’ll enjoy yourself just like Castle intended.

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Gimmicks

William Castle was famous for his movie gimmicks, and The Tingler featured one of his best: “Percepto!”. Previously, he had offered a $1,000 life insurance policy against “Death by Fright” for Macabre (1958) and sent a skeleton flying above the audiences’ heads in the auditorium in House on Haunted Hill (1959).

Percepto: “Scream for your lives!”

“Percepto!” was a gimmick where Castle attached electrical “buzzers” to the underside of some seats in theaters where The Tingler was screened.The buzzers were small surplus airplane wing deicing motors left from World War II. The cost of this equipment added $250,000 to the film’s budget. It was used predominantly in larger theaters.

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During the climax of the film, The Tingler was depicted escaping into a movie theater. On screen, the projected film appeared to break as the silhouette of the Tingler moved across the projection beam. The film went black, all lights in the auditorium (except fire exit signs) went off, and Vincent Price’s voice warned the audience “Ladies and gentlemen, please do not panic. But scream! Scream for your lives! The Tingler is loose in this theater!”This cued the theater projectionist to activate the buzzers, giving some audience members an unexpected jolt, followed by a highly visible physical reaction.

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An alternate warning was recorded for drive-in theaters; this warning advised the audience the Tingler was loose in the drive-in. Price’s voice was not used for the drive-in version.

William Castle’s autobiography Step Right Up!: I’m Gonna Scare the Pants off America erroneously stated that “Percepto!” delivered electric shocks to the theater seats

Two Joe Dante films contain scenes which reference the “Percepto!” gimmick: Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) and Matinee (1993).

This gimmick was also lampooned in one of the films-within-a-film in the thriller movie Popcorn (1991), where the feature was called “shock-o-scope.”

Fainting customers and medical assistance

To enhance the climax even more, Castle hired fake “screamers and fainters” planted in the audience. There were fake nurses stationed in the foyer and an ambulance outside of the theater. The “fainters” would be carried out on a gurney and whisked away in the ambulance, to return for the next showing.

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The “Bloody Bathtub” scene

Although The Tingler was filmed in black-and-white, a short color sequence was spliced into the film. It showed a sink (in black-and-white) with bright red “blood” flowing from the taps and a black-and-white Judith Evelyn watching a bloody red hand rising from a bathtub filled with bright red “blood”. Castle used color film for the effect. The scene was accomplished by painting the set white, black, and gray and applying gray makeup to the actress to simulate monochrome.

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