Free Screening: 'The Tingler'
Celebrate Vincent Price's Centennial with William Castle Cult Classic
If he were still alive, Vincent Price would be 100 years old on May 27. So having a screening of William Castle's "The Tingler" (tonight April 27 at the Central Library) seems an apt way to celebrate the iconic star.
Price is probably as memorable for his serio-comic take on his horror film career as for his sonorous voice that is as recognizable as his face. The film I would have chosen to commemorate his centennial would probably have been "Theater of Blood," where he plays a bad Shakespearean actor who seeks revenge on all the critics that panned him. Diana Rigg plays his daughter and the film is grand fun as he plays out violent scenes from Shakespeare with critics on the receiving end of the violence as his fitting revenge.
But "The Tingler" (see sensational trailer above) is a delight as well, plus it is a William Castle film. Castle was a showman who came up with the kinds of gimmicks that put today's films to shame. Forget 3D and DBox, Castle came up things like a certificate for a $1,000 life insurance policy from Lloyd's of London for each filmgoer in case they should die of fright during the screening of "Macabre" (1958), or a glowing skeleton that floated through the theater during scary scenes of "House on Haunted Hill" (1959). His film also had nurses waiting in the lobby or hearses parked outside the theater in case anyone dropped dead with fright.
"The Tingler" (1959) was filmed in what was called "Percepto" in an attempt to make the audience feel what the victims in the film were experiencing. The creatures in the film were supposed to live in a victim's spinal cord and become activated by fright. Once awakened, they can only be destroyed by screaming. The gimmick involved a scene in which a mute woman cannot scream to kill her Tingler so it escapes into the theater. Some of the theater seats were then equipped with vibrating motors (supposedly from military surplus) so that when the Tingler slithered into the audience some filmgoers would feel their seats vibrate, hopefully making folks scream. And if that wasn't enough to prompt a response, the film urged everyone to "Scream, scream for your lives!"
"The Tingler" is a hoot and reminds us of how much fun the experience of going to a theater can be. The Central Library (which recently showed the noir classic "Out of the Past") is to be commended for its eclectic and engaging film series, and for the fact that the films are all free. Can't beat that!
Companion viewing: "Theater of Blood," "House on Haunted Hill," "Dragonwyck"