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The Tingler (1959)

Written by Robb White Directed by William Castle

I’ve always loved the idea of Director’s like William Castle and Alfred Hitchcock coming on before their film to showcase a bit of a warning. Whether by some comedic relief or heads up as to what audiences may be in store for; in Castle’s case. Whose notoriety for using gimmicks throughout his films shown in theaters could be a bit drastic as times, the one for this film being no different. Offering a tingling sensation through ones body at any given time (more extreme for some than others), with the sure sense of relief coming if only being so brave as to let out a scream.

The great Vincent Price plays Dr. Warren Chapin, a pathologist whose curiosity of fear leads to experiments that perhaps wouldn’t otherwise cross ones mind. A dedicated man to his craft, Warren merely wondered how many people died from fear or otherwise, the pro-curios notions that arose to create such a creature within our body later known as the Tingler. A sort of solid spreading along the spinal column which became arched and rigid once feeding off of the fear of its inhabitants. The true subject matter not truly peaking his interest until meeting Oliver Higgins on account of his brother-in-law having been executed. Lending out generosity and giving him a ride home, Warren meets a rather paranoid wife Martha (Judith Evelyn) whose deaf mute germophobic nature leaves her prone to fainting at the mere sight of blood.

Returning home to a marriage in which was far from perfect. Wife Isabel (Patricia Cutts) preferring to go out night after night with any intentions on being faithful surly out the door by now. Unconsumed by what her husband may think, considering he was the type to skip out on dinner parties and fall asleep at the Opera. All in the name of Science. With Isabel’s sister Lucy sharing in quite a different attitude, whose partner David (Darryl Hickman) worked alongside Warren, sure to do any bidding’s for their current experiment. Trapped by what it was her sister saw in him, another schmo dedicated to his craft when said attention could otherwise be spent lavishing in a profession which actually paid a great deal of money and left time to enjoy nights out in the town; all the more realistic I gather. Especially considering the inheritance that she had received in questionable content, her father passing away due to an organic poison that could so easily be proved, if ones husband were so sinfully inclined. The two (Warren & Isabel) having a repertoire that led to a great dynamic amid the drama of whether Warren would indeed be able to finish his fear study. His lengths far above the unimaginable including taking a hallucinogen drug (Acid) so as to record the results and so low as to have his wife believe he in fact would gladly assist in her suicide in order to maintain the x-rays needed.

With Warren’s next step involving achieving a cadaver so as to physically remove such from the spine to get a better look at what it does/is capable of. The only person coming to mind coincidentally being the one person having met recently to fit such a profile. Returning to check in on Martha Higgins giving him the opportunity to put her to bed, whether with the same hallucinogens or not being rather fuzzy. For the most confusing things occurring once she awakens and finds unexplainable things going on around her. Indeed, dying from fright and taken to Dr. Chapin, the last person to see her alive. Where a most minimal autopsy is done and the Tingler is removed, sure to make its ‘frightening’ ways known to those it comes in contact with. Eventually making its way back to Martha where it’s decided that there are some things in the name of science that shouldn’t be dealt with.

Being no secret that Vincent Price is one of my favorites of all time. It would in fact be rare for me to see him in a film and dislike him or for that matter, dislike his decision to participate in any such film. With a small cast and great Director, it leaves room for him to shine and in turn let you focus in on the things that truly matter. The concept itself seeming perhaps a bit silly for some, campy for others. But those were almost the genius factors of movies from oh so long ago. Whereas these days the campy factor is replaced with big breasted bimbos and dialogue so distasteful, it pains you just to get through the film. Naturally having humorous effects for the actual Tingler used within however considering the year and limited resources, those types of things never really bothered me. Since there are more pressing factors one should consider when deciding if something makes a good film or not. Certainly nothing I felt took away from anything else. The progression of the film sure to not let up as we leave the audience with the great gimmick of stopping the movie with short blackouts to announce the creature on the loose and how screaming was their only safe bet against it. Perhaps neither of Castle or Price’s best, but certainly not their worst by any means.