Arriving on Blu-ray is William Castle’s cult horror favorite The Tingler, a spine-tingling creature feature, crawling its way onto a bumper packed Blu-ray from Powerhouse Films ‘Indicator series.
Soaked in Noirish black and white, horror veteran Vincent Price plays Dr. Warren Chaplin, an overzealous pathologist, who discovers lobster type creatures living inside the human body. We first meet Dr. Chaplin as he’s performing an autopsy, as Ollie Higgins, played superbly by Philip Coolidge, decides to watch the dissection of a freshly deceased relative. A strange friendship develops between Dr. Chaplin and Ollie, as Dr. Chaplin tells Ollie, he suspects that a “tingler” feeding on fear grows larger inside the body, causing death by crushing the spine. Perhaps, even more absurdly, Dr. Chaplin asserts that only a scream and the release of fear will weaken the tinglers’ death grip.
Once you get your head around the barmy premise, the film has much to offer; Vincent Price is on top form here, just on the cusp of cementing his career as a horror icon. Price delivers a polished performance, with his mere presence helping to ground and carry the potty narrative. Good too, is Patricia Cutts as the venomous Isabel, Dr. Chaplin’s two-timing wife. Isabel shares some witty exchanges with the good doctor in a war of words, all helped along with some crisp dialogue by Castle regular Robb White. As Ollie’s wife, in a centerpiece role, is stage actress Judith Evelyn as Martha Higgins, a deaf-mute who runs a cinema playing silent films. Martha, unable to scream and under the care of Dr. Chaplin, finds herself in The Tinglers show-stopping sequence as a bath filled with blood lends the film a burst of momentary color. This sequence is one of many reasons to pick up a copy of this cult classic with this Blu-ray release featuring a fully restored print of the bloodied bathroom sequence, scanned from a rare 35mm print.
No mention of a William Castle film can go without commenting on the directors’ love for outlandish gimmicks to promote his movies. Past efforts such as House on Haunted Hill, employed the gimmick of flying skeletons through an auditorium at particular moments during the film.
In Macabre, Castle’s breakout hit, Castle promised each moviegoer a $1000 insurance policy from Lloyd’s of London, in case they died of fright watching the film. However, The Tingler goes for broke with the introduction of ‘Percepto!’, a gimmick of placing vibrators under cinema seats, which set off a “tingling sensation” at specific times throughout the film.
The film has the surreal and cultish addition of having the tingler invade a cinema auditorium. Better still, the tingler enters the projection booth and is soon crawling across a whited-out cinema screen and terrifying a bunch of moviegoers. Suddenly, the screen goes dark, and the moviegoers’ ensuing screams are silenced when Dr. Chaplin asks the patrons at the cinema (and those of us watching) to ‘scream for your lives!’.
The master behind this mayhem is director William Castle, a kind of ‘Poverty Row’ style Alfred Hitchcock. Yet, The Tingler delivers some shock moments and has the added value of some standout performances from Vincent Price, Patricia Cutts, Judith Evelyn and Philip Coolidge. This Blu-ray release, crammed with some top-notch extras, has an insightful audio commentary by horror experts Jonathan Rigby and Kevin Lyons with some fun featurettes featuring film critic Kim Newman and movie archivist Bob Burns. Overall, a compelling cult film, accompanied by some nostalgic effects and genuine scares.
On Blu-ray now
Not to missed 5/5
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