“The Tingler, the Tingler is loose in the theater! Scream, scream for your lives!”
The first time I heard this was, oddly enough, on Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Then again, that show was very strange. I did know that was Vincent Price’s voice I heard, and I finally decided we needed more Vincent Price around here, and checked out “The Tingler”.
“The Tingler” is a 1959 horror movie, right during the time that horror movies were getting quite cheesy. But this is no run-of-the-mill Attack of the Giant Whatever-It-Is movie, as fun as those are.
Our opening scene introduces us to Dr. Vincent Price (Warren Chapin, but it’s Vincent Price being Vincent Price), a pathologist for the city, but also a scientist conducting side experiments of his own. As he looks over the body of an electrocuted criminal, he finds that his death did not come from the shock, but from the fact his spine is cracked in half. He tells his new friend Higgins (whose brother-in-law is the dead man) that he has seen cases like these before, always happening from people who seemed to have died in great fear. He speculates that it’s some being that feeds off fear, which he calls the Tingler, and eventually grows too big and shatters the spine if a person cannot release their stress in time. This is usually done by screaming; but Higgins’ wife is a deaf-mute, and regularly passes out after being too frightened. One night, after several strange events leaves her utterly terrified, she dies. And when Chapin does the autopsy…
This was, actually, a decent movie for its time. It’s a nice mash-up between the “monster” movies and the psychological horror that was coming in to vogue, partly thanks to Robert Bloch-1959 was the same year he published Psycho and he was, of course, part of Lovecraft’s crew. One thing you can say about Vincent Price and his movies-they may have been occasionally cheesy, but they did an amazing job at building suspense. There were times I got the creepy crawlies all down my back, which makes this movie Pure Paranoia Fuel. It must have been even more so for audiences in the theaters-many theaters fitted up their seats so that the seats started vibrating when the Tingler came on screen. The theater scene is fourth-wall breaking: you had better start screaming too.
The downside is the effects. This was the 50’s, and the Tingler, when actually shown, was…well…it’s an evil muppet.
But apart from that, this really was a good movie, which I always expect from Vincent Price. And using creepy Vincent Price gave us a nice little twist at the end.
Now, we must convince Guillermo del Toro to remake this. Because I’m pretty sure he could make a nightmare-inducing Tingler if he wanted to.
Or we could just hand it over to Straczynski. The hack.
We see what you do there J Straz.