Combustible Celluloid
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With: Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts, Pamela Lincoln, Philip Coolidge
Written by: Robb White
Directed by: William Castle
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 82
Date: 07/29/1959

The Tingler (1959)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Spinal Zap

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Tingler (1959) could well be William Castle's masterpiece. It's a very funny, knowing, self-reflexive piece that acknowledges -- at least to a degree -- the concept of sitting in a dark theater and getting scared. Vincent Price stars as a mortician, Dr. Warren Chapin, who spends his free time studying something he calls "the tingler," a centipede like creature that grows on one's spine when one is frightened. Only a scream can stop the creature. By chance, Warren meets Ollie Higgins (Philip Coolidge), who happens to run a silent cinema (playing, of all things, Henry King's Tol'able David). Ollie happens to be married to a deaf mute, Martha (Judith Evelyn). Warren discovers that, because she can't scream, Martha succumbs to the tingler and passes out whenever she gets scared. In an odd subplot, Warren and his wife attempt to kill each other from time to time. Eventually, Warren manages to extract a tingler and it gets loose in the movie theater. That leads to Castle's gimmick: a buzzer placed under random seats timed to go off during the movie theater sequence. The audience was supposed to scream to get the tingler to stop its crawly rampage.

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