THE TINGLER: Fun 1950s Horror Movies to Watch During Halloween
Vincent Price starred in a ton of B horror movies throughout the course of his career. From the films he made in the ’50s, most people are familiar with The House on Haunted Hill, The Fly, and House of Wax, which are all films I enjoy watching during the Halloween seasons. They’re fantastic movies that have coincidentally all been remade over the years. But the film I wanted to focus on in this next installment of "Fun 1950s Horror Movies to Watch During Halloween" is the actor’s 1959 film, The Tingler.
The Tingler doesn't seem like it’s as popular as the other films he’s made. Whenever I bring it up with certain friends, family, and other people, I’m almost always met with a perplexed look on their face, like they’ve never heard of the movie before! I’m sure many of you are familiar with it, but if you’re not, this is for you — you’ve got to watch this movie!
The story follows a pathologist by the name of Dr. Warren Chapin (Price) who regularly conducts autopsies on executed prisoners at the State prison. Chapin has an interesting theory that fear is the result of a creature that lives inside us. According to his theory, the creature, which he calls the Tingler, is suppressed by our ability to scream when fear strikes us. He ends up testing this theory when he meets Ollie and Martha Higgins, who own and operate a small movie theater. Martha is deaf and mute and if she is unable to scream, extreme fear should make the creature come to life and grow. Of course, he uses LSD to induce the nightmares as he begins his experiment.
The movie was directed by William Castle (House on Haunted Hill), who was also a film marketing genius. He is known for his movie gimmicks, and for this film he implemented what he called “Percepto!” in which he had attached electrical buzzers under some of the seats in select movie theaters where the movie was screening. During the climax of the film, The Tingler was “depicted escaping into a movie theater. On screen, the projected film appeared to break as the silhouette of the Tingler moved across the projection beam. The film went black, all lights in the auditorium (except fire exit signs) went off, and Vincent Price's voice warned the audience ‘Ladies and gentlemen, please do not panic. But scream! Scream for your lives! The Tingler is loose in this theater!’ This cued the theater projectionist to activate the buzzers, giving some audience members an unexpected jolt, followed by a highly visible physical reaction.” (Everything in quotations comes courtesy of Wikipedia.)
I wish they would do that kind of stuff today! That would be fun to be unexpectedly buzzed during an intense moment of the movie! They used to have a lot of fun stuff like that in the ’50s. My dad talked about it all the time and how scary it was for him. Then to enhance the climax of the film even more, the director hired actors who were planted in the audience to scream and faint during the movie. There were also fake nurses hanging out in the lobby of the theater would rush in to carry the people that fainted out and put them into a fake ambulance outside. The actors would then return for the next screening of the film and do it all over again. Seems like that would have been such a cool experience!
The Tingler was filmed in black-and-white, but there actually is a short color sequence that was edited into the film to achieve a fun effect. The scene was made to look black and white except for some flowing red blood. The scene featured a sink with bright red "blood" flowing from the taps. It also included a Judith Evelyn in black and white watching a bloody red hand rising from a bathtub filled with bright red blood. In order to achieve the effect, Castle had the set painted white, black, and gray and they also applied gray makeup to the actress to simulate monochrome. Then he shot the film in color, which is how they got the blood to be red. There was a lot of work and time put into achieving that effect...now, it’s easy!
This is such a great and incredibly fun film and if you haven’t seen it, now is the perfect time to watch it! It’s on several of the streaming services and I embedded it for you below along with the original trailer.