Pressbook ad for The Tingler
|Directed by||William Castle|
|Produced by||William Castle|
|Written by||Robb White|
|Music by||Von Dexter|
|Cinematography||Wilfred M. Cline|
|Editing by||Chester W. Schaeffer|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||82 min|
The Tingler is a 1959 horror-thriller film by American producer/director William Castle. It is the third of five collaborations with writer Robb White and stars Vincent Price, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts, Pamela Lincoln, Philip Coolidge and Judith Evelyn.
The film tells the story of a scientist who discovers a parasite in human beings, called a "Tingler", which feeds on fear. The creature earned its name by making the spine of its host "tingle" when the host is frightened. In line with other Castle horror films, including the 1958 Macabre and 1959 House on Haunted Hill, Castle used gimmicks to sell the film. Most well known for The Tingler was called "Percepto!", vibrating devices in some theater chairs which activated with the onscreen action.
A pathologist, Dr. Warren Chapin (Price), discovers that the tingling of the spine in states of extreme fear is due to the growth of a creature that every human being seems to have, called a "Tingler", a parasite attached to the human spine. It curls up, feeds and grows stronger when its host is afraid, effectively crushing the person's spine if curled up long enough. The host can weaken the creature and stop its curling by screaming.
Movie theatre owner Oliver Higgins (Coolidge), who shows exclusively silent films, is an acquaintance of Dr. Chapin. Higgins's wife Martha (Evelyn), who is deaf and mute, dies of fright after weird, apparently supernatural events have occurred in her room. During her autopsy, Chapin removes the Tingler from her spine. The centipede-like creature eventually breaks free from the container that held it in, and is released into the theater where the deaf mute woman ran before she died. Chapin wishes not to tell anyone, knowing it would start a panic. The Tingler latches onto a woman's leg, and she screams until it releases its grip. Chapin controls the situation by shutting off the lights and telling everyone in the theater to scream. When the Tingler has left the showing room, they resume the movie and go to the projection room where they find the Tingler and capture it.
After they have contained the Tingler and return to Higgins' house, it is revealed that Higgins is the murderer; he frightened his wife to death knowing that she could not scream because she was mute. Guessing that the only way to neutralize the Tingler is to reinsert it inside Martha's body, Chapin does so. After he leaves, Higgins, who has admitted his guilt to Chapin, is alone in the room. As if by supernatural forces, the door slams shut and locks itself, and the window closes, echoing what happened just before Martha was frightened to death. The Tingler causes the body of Martha to rise from the bed, staring at her husband. Higgins is so terrified that he is unable to scream. The screen fades, and there is the sound of someone (presumably Higgins) falling, either in a faint or dead. Amidst the dark screen, Dr. Chapin's voice says to the audience, "Ladies and gentlemen, just a word of warning. If any of you are not convinced that you have a tingler of your own, the next time you are frightened in the dark... don't scream," and the film ends.
- "I am William Castle, the director of the motion picture you are about to see. I feel obligated to warn you that some of the sensations—some of the physical reactions which the actors on the screen will feel—will also be experienced, for the first time in motion picture history, by certain members of this audience. I say 'certain members' because some people are more sensitive to these mysterious electronic impulses than others. These unfortunate, sensitive people will at times feel a strange, tingling sensation; other people will feel it less strongly. But don't be alarmed—you can protect yourself. At any time you are conscious of a tingling sensation, you may obtain immediate relief by screaming. Don't be embarrassed about opening your mouth and letting rip with all you've got, because the person in the seat right next to you will probably be screaming too. And remember—a scream at the right time may save your life."
The financial success of House on Haunted Hill was reason enough for Columbia to produce The Tingler. Vincent Price was on board again, with Darryl Hickman playing his assistant and newcomer Pamela Lincoln playing his sister-in-law. Patricia Cutts played Price's beautiful, unfaithful wife, Isabel.
Director William Castle was never one to miss an opportunity for publicity. He convinced Hickman, who was Lincoln's real life fiancé, to join the cast as her fiancé in the film. At first Hickman declined, but agreed after Castle convinced him it would help Lincoln's career. According to Hickman, Castle did such a good job of convincing him it would help Lincoln that he worked for no salary. Hickman, who was 5'10", was required to wear lifts for the scenes with 6'4" Vincent Price to offset the disparity of their heights.
Judith Evelyn was hired at the request of Price, who had worked with her on Broadway. She also received attention in another prominent "non-speaking role" as the suicidal "Miss Lonelyhearts" in Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954). Dal McKennon, the projectionist (uncredited in the film), had a successful career as the voice of many screen and TV characters, including "Buzz Buzzard" in the Woody Woodpecker cartoons and "Gumby" in the TV clay animation series. Jack Dusick, makeup artist for The Tingler, was the father of singer/actress Michele Lee.
Robb White, the story author, said he was inspired to write The Tingler after seeing one of the rubber worms that makeup artist Dusick designed for House on Haunted Hill. There are, however, no rubber worms in House on Haunted Hill. In an interview Robb White said this movie was partly inspired by his encounter with a centipede while living in the British Virgin Islands.
White had experimented with LSD at UCLA after hearing about it from Aldous Huxley and decided to work it into the script. It is the first depiction of LSD use in a major motion picture. At the time the drug was legal. The title of the book Vincent Price's character reads before taking LSD—"Fright Effects Induced By Injection Of Lysergic Acid LSD25" —is printed on the back of the book, not the front. This was done for a better shot for the expositional title of the book explaining the effects of LSD to the audience.
The Tingler was Price's second and final film with Castle and the fifth performance that would ultimately brand him as "The Master of Menace".
The movie playing in the theater when the Tingler escapes was the 1921 silent film Tol'able David.
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 predominantly used in larger theaters.
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.
An alternate warning was recorded for Drive-in theatres; 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.
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 theatre. The "fainters" would be carried out on a gurney and whisked away in the ambulance, to return for the next showing.
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.
Reviews of The Tingler were mixed, though praised for its camp qualities, with Time Out London calling the plot "ingeniously ludicrous". Lyz Kingsley of "And You Call Yourself a Scientist!" pointed out that "no film made before or after it quite matches it for its mix of the imaginative, the creepy, the funny, and the downright weird".
Classic-Horror said "the acting is fine, the direction is among Castle's best, and the script is semi-brilliant for the time", and Harvey O'Brien of Harvey's Movie Review stated that "for all its flaws, The Tingler is very watchable and has been put together with enough canniness to be enjoyable on its own terms".
Home media releases
Columbia released a Special Edition 40th anniversary DVD in 1999.
- "Movie Spotlight: The Tingler". IndyWeek.com. Retrieved May 6, 2011.
- "William Castle Profile". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved May 6, 2011.
- "Scare-masters; horror times 2". Los Angeles Times. Nov 7, 2007. Retrieved May 6, 2011.
- "The Great Gatsby in 3D: Top 10 Movie Gimmicks". TIME. Jan 12, 2011. Retrieved May 6, 2011.
- Browne, Pat (2001). The guide to United States popular culture. Popular Press. ISBN 0-87972-821-3.
- Heffernan, Kevin (2004). Ghouls, Gimmicks and Gold: Horror Films and the American Movie Business, 1953-1968. Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-3215-9.
- "The Tingler". Time Out London.
- "The Tingler". And You Call Yourself a Scientist!.
- "The Tingler". Classic-Horror.com.
- "The Tingler". Harvey's Movie Review.
- "The Tingler". The New York Times.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Tingler.|
- The Tingler at the Internet Movie Database
- The Tingler at the TCM Movie Database
- The Tingler at allmovie
- Review of The Tingler by James Rolfe