The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Tingler

William Castle was one of cinema's greatest showmen – a natural-born promoter who knew how to create a marketing hook that would, as the old adage says, put butts in seats. One of his best-known films is 1959's The Tingler, which teased audiences with the chance to see it in “Percepto,” something he dubbed “the newest and most startling gimmick on the screen.” Scream Factory's new Blu-ray can't replicate Percepto, for reasons we'll get to in a moment, but it is otherwise an exquisite release of an important vintage horror movie.

Vincent Price plays Dr. Warren Chapin, a scientist who makes a potentially groundbreaking discovery. He theorizes that there is some sort of parasite that grows on the spines of people when they experience sheer terror. The only way of ridding oneself of that parasite is to scream. In order to test his theory, he needs to find someone who can be frightened but not scream, so that he can extract one. Coincidentally, he meets a movie theater owner with a wife who can neither hear nor speak. Long story short, the Tingler is let loose, leading to events that were probably creepy in the late '50s but now play in a more amusing manner.

The highlight of The Tingler, and the element that has secured its place in the horror movie hall of fame, is a scene in which the creature makes its way into that guy's movie palace. This is where Percepto came in. The screen cuts to black, and we can hear Price yelling that “the Tingler is loose in this theater!” At that point, buzzers hidden underneath randomly-selected theater seats went off, causing people in the crowd to scream in surprise. I suppose you could recreate that at home if you had someone shake your chair at the correct moment, but otherwise, Percepto is an experience most of us will never have.

Even without its central gimmick, the film manages to create some fun. Price is, as always, terrific. No matter how silly things get – and they get incredibly silly when he has to wrestle with an obviously rubber creature – he gives 100%. In fact, the silliness level is mitigated considerably by his efforts. Castle also brings some nice visual touches, most notably a nightmarish sequence where the bright red blood in a bathtub provides a stark contrast to the otherwise black-and-white visuals.

The Tingler doesn't really have much scare factor anymore, obviously. It does, however, hold up as old-school fun. The movie is well-made, and anyone with an appreciation for the fright flicks of yesteryear will certainly recognize it as a work of significant note, especially given Vincent Price's strong performance.

Blu-ray Features:

The Tingler comes to Blu-ray on August 21. Scream Factory has done another phenomenal job with this release. Picture and sound quality on the disc are outstanding. The Tingler probably didn't look or sound this good when it was first released. (The clarity of Blu-ray does allow you to clearly see the wires pulling the creature, though.) After you've watched the movie, you can view it again with audio commentary from author/historian Steve Haberman.

“I Survived The Tingler” is an interview with actress Pamela Lincoln, who discusses how Price set the tone for the production, demonstrating that the only way to “sell” such an outlandish premise was to treat it with utmost seriousness. “Unleashing Percepto” brings us publicist Barry Lorie talking about how the gimmick was achieved at the cinemas where the movie played. “Scream for Your Lives! William Castle and The Tingler” is the longest extra, running about fifteen minutes. This is a look back at the film, its reception, and its unique creator.

The most interesting supplementary feature is the “scream” scene designed for drive-in theaters. Obviously, Percepto couldn't be used with automobiles, so Castle created an alternate scene where the screen goes black and you hear people yelling things like, ”It's in my car!” The original version of the scene is also included.

Finally, there's a collection of marketing materials – a 1959 theater lobby recording (i.e. a delightfully silly song written to promote the film), the theatrical trailer, and a still gallery.

All in all, The Tingler Blu-ray belongs on the shelf of any self-respecting fan of classic horror.

The Tingler is unrated, but contains nothing particularly offensive. The running time is 1 hour and 22 minutes.

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