Director: William Castle
Writer: Robb White
Cast: Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts, Pamela Lincoln, and Phillip Coolidge
Composer: Von Dexter
Release Date: 7/29/1959
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
While conducting autopsies on executed prisoners, pathologist Dr. Warren Chapin (Vincent Price)—assisted by protégé David Morris (Darryl Hickman)—discovers a centipede-like creature in the human spinal column that feeds on fear, growing in size until suppressed by a loud scream. After making the acquaintance of silent theater owners Martha Higgins (Judith Evelyn)—a deaf-mute—and her husband Ollie (Phillip Coolidge), Dr. Chapin begins a dangerous experiment to verify the existence of the so-called Tingler.
Maintaining a high creep factor from start to finish, The Tingler makes effective use of a silly—not to mention scientifically inaccurate—premise. Viewers young and old should therefore enjoy this offering, which overcomes its reputation as a schlocky, B-grade horror production.
Vincent Price deserves praise for his performance in this film, adding an air of gravitas to a hokey narrative concept. Worth noting in particular are the reactions of Price during the LSD sequence, wherein Dr. Chapin conveys pure, unmitigated terror through descriptions and facial expressions alone—a chilling example of suggestive power in a horror movie setting.
The Tingler should also be commended for generating a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere at various points throughout the story. In one scene, for instance, the Tingler preys on an unsuspecting audience of moviegoers, causing panic in a crowded theater.
Though quite terrifying, the “murder” of Martha Higgins is marred by a significant logical flaw: in order to remain one step ahead of Martha, the culprit—later revealed to have committed his crime without the help of an accomplice—would need to occupy three different places (the bedroom, the front entrance, and the bloody bathtub) at the same time.
On a technical level, The Tingler suffers from the typical shortcomings of a low-budget horror film. Especially unconvincing is the Tingler itself—obviously a rubber toy with metal wires attached to it.
Despite serving as a vehicle for over-the-top horror gimmicks, The Tingler contains a worthwhile message on the nature of fear—a healthy, powerful emotion that should be respected for its role in aiding human survival.
The Tingler is a well-acted, suspenseful cult classic from the producer of 13 Ghosts and House on Haunted Hill. Thus, for Price enthusiasts and sci-fi/horror fans alike, this delightfully campy spook fest will not disappoint.
Overall Quality: 9/10
If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.