During the 1950s, movies lived in fear of the arrival of television. Audiences no longer had to flock to their local theaters to see movies since they appeared on a little box in their homes. As the price of televisions dropped so did the box office at theaters. The major studios went with bigger movies to compete with the small screens. But one man thought outside the screen to make people want to return to the movie theaters. William Castle had been making low budget studio films for Columbia when he went independent with Macabre and House On Haunted Hill. Both films were success because Castle came up with two gimmicks that you couldn’t enjoy watching at home on television. Fright insurance and Emergo became legendary. Columbia brought Castle back home and were immediately repaid with the iconic The Tingler and Percepto.
Dr. Warren Chapin (Vincent Price) is obsessed with his feeling that there’s something that grows on your back and the only way to stop it is to scream. He does his best to investigate by working with executed prisoners. He works with his assistant Dave Morris (Network‘s Darryl Hickman) gets deeper into uncovering the creature. But things aren’t going great for him at home since his wife (Patricia Cutts) has been cheating on him. He finds his ultimate experiment in a mute theater owner’s wife (Judith Evelyn). He senses that if she can’t scream, he can get the truth about the Tingler. Chapin gives her LSD and waits for the bad trip to be his ticket to scientific fame.
There’s a lot of great effects on the screen from the creature to the nightmarish elements of the acid trip. But the biggest effect that made it a hit in the theatrical release was in the theaters. Percepto was created when William Castle had theater chairs wired up so they’d shake at a critical moment in the film. The audiences were given a true haunted house experience and a fine movie to watch while waiting for the shake. You might be able to recreate the effect at home if your recliner short circuits at the right time. But part of the fun is being in a group and hearing others also react. You can imagine being a teen in 1959 and having a pal tell you about the Percepto and not wanting to buy a ticket. You weren’t going to wait until this film came to television.
The film without the vibrating chair is still entertaining simply because it displayed the first cinematic LSA acid trip. They even drop red into the black and white to give a full freak out. Vincent Price was talking up LSD long before Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey were going public about the hallucinogenic. What’s amazing is that William Castle isn’t an overly dynamic filmmaker. His style would reflect the kind editing and shots from used by television movies. He wasn’t speeding up the editing or come up with wild camera tricks. Castle understood that what truly gets a person into the theater is wanting to enjoy a cinematic experience with people.
The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The resolution allows the details of the Tingler and Vincent Price’s expressions to shine. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio Mono. This comes in handy during the freak out scene. The movie is subtitled.
Audio Commentary with historian Steve Haberman includes Steve hyping his own commenting with Commento! He gives plenty of details about the production, Price and Castle.
I Survived the Tingler (4:10) interviews Pamela Lincoln. She recounts how Vincent Price sold the horror of the monster even though it looked like a cooked lobster to her.
Unleashing “Percepto” (2:58) gets publicist Barry Lorie to talk about how he had to get theaters wired up for fear. He talks about how during this time they had field managers go out for the studios to pump up a movie with theater owners and movie reviewers. He talks of getting the Denver Theater wired up.
Scream For Your Lives! William Castle and The Tingler (15:38) recounts how William Castle brought the film to the screen and wired up the theaters. Bob Burns talks of Castle as a Showman. He even has footage of their special greeting when he came to San Antonio to open The Tingler. Darryl Hickman talks about dating Pamela Lincoln so they were really kissing on the screen.
William Castle’s Drive-In “Scream” scene (0:50) is the audio they’d run to get people to think the Tingler had gotten into cars. Castle knew how to appeal to his audiences.
Original Screen Scream (0:45) from when the Tingler got loose in your theater.
The Original 1959 Theater Lobby Recording (2:39) is a song about the Tingler with Vincent Price narrating. This was the forefather of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
Theatrical Trailer (2:23) has William Castle introduce the film like Alfred Hitchcock did for his films. There’s also a warning about what you’ll experience in the theater.
Still Gallery (5:53) has posters that tease the chair, lobby cards and publicity photos.
Scream Factory presents The Tingler. Directed by William Castle. Screenplay by: Robb White. Starring: Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts & Philip Coolidge. Rated: Unrated. Running Time: 82 minutes. Released: August 21, 2018.
Tags: Scream Factory, The Tingler, Vincent Price, william castle