Director: William Castle
Writer: William Castle
Cinematographer: Wilfred M. Cline
Producer: William Castle
by Jon Cvack
The Tingler opens up with a Hitchcockian-introduction from William Castle, warning everyone about the strange sensations they might feel while watching. Vincent Price stars as Dr. Warren Chapin while conducting autopsies on recently executed prisoners of the state who died by fear, he discovers the event was caused by a parasite that attaches itself to the victim’s spine. As the parasite feeds on the spine it forces the victim to writhe in pain before dying while the the tingling parasite then escapes - making it look like the individual had died from fear alone.
Movie theater owners Oliver and Martha Higgins (Judith Evelyn ; Philip Coolidge) operate down the street from Dr. Chapin’s office. Oliver visits Chapin in order to get some help for his deaf and mute wife, who seems to be getting more fearful by the day. Not sure what to do, Oliver leaves, with Martha dying days later, to which Oliver offers Chapin the opportunity to complete the autopsy. Chapin finds The Tingler which has grown to the side of a Dachshund hound. He puts the creature into a cage and heads to Oliver’s where learned the man utilized his wife’s inability to speak to frighten her to death. The Tingler then escapes, making its way to the movie theater where we get the best taste of William Castle’s genius.
As the creature makes it way through the crowd, the entire movie cuts to black, with Vincent Price’s voice coming on, telling everyone to remain calm. You can’t help but smile, wondering what it might have been like to have been in the theater back 1959 when the trick was played. While not necessarily as close as some of Hitchcock’s marketing tricks, it comes pretty close, especially for a creature that wants to attack those who fear the most, creating a strange hyperloop of what I imagine were some trying to contain their fears while scared out of their mind that the creature was going to crawl up their leg.
The film continues on, eventually securing some justice in Martha’s tragic death, and while it doesn’t make complete sense, it’s a fun enough film to ignore all the illogic and appreciate the story for what it is.
BELOW: Cheesy and delicious hi-def goodness
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