Guilty Pleasures: The Tingler


It’s the last week of my spotlight on film’s that are guilty pleasures of mine. My final selection is a really cheesy gem saved by the presence of the always entertaining Vincent Price. It’s William Castle’s schlock fest: The Tingler. The plot is laughable, the effects cheap, and the dialogue hilarious in places. And yet, it’s a good time and a proud entry into Castle’s cheesy horror movie catalog.

The “plot” (and I use that term loosely), revolves around a creature that literally feeds on fear and the idea that you can literally die from the emotion.

Dr. Warren Chapin (Vincent Price) is a pathologist who regularly conducts autopsies on executed prisoners at the State prison. He has a theory that fear is the result of a creature that inhabits all of us. His theory is that the creature is suppressed by our ability to scream when fear strikes us. He gets a chance to test his theories when he meets Ollie (Philip Coolidge) and Martha Higgins (Judith Evelyn), who own and operate a second-run movie theater. Martha is deaf and mute and if she is unable to scream, extreme fear should make the creature, which Chapin has called the Tingler, come to life and grow. Using LSD to induce nightmares, he begins his experiment.–IMDB

The strong point of this film is not insightful dialogue or unexpected plot twists. It’s the fun of watching where Castle and his actors go with the ludicrous premise. At the center of all of this, and making the movie watchable, is Vincent Price. Price has always been one of my favorite actors. Not only is he easy on the eyes and has a great voice, he’s a consummate professional who can make even the cheesiest of movies watchable. The Tingler is a great example of that. With his line delivery and inventive performance, he makes the film much more entertaining than it should be. Price is fun to watch as the mad scientist, and the supporting cast around him go with it. Of the supporting actors, Coolidge is my favorite. He’s a good foil for Price. Although it’s worth noting that Judith Evelyn has some pretty effective suspenseful moments.

At this point I should probably mention the creature design of The Tingler itself. It’s pretty corny, even by B-horror movie standards. You could probably get a prop of its quality at your local Halloween Express. It’s basically a giant rubber worm with antennae. Seriously, it makes the flying saucers in Plan 9 From Outer Space look credible. This makes the *SPOILER ALERT* finale where the monster gets loose in a movie theater all the more hilarious. The secret to defeating the fear monster is to scream? Really? Come on. Apparently when the film was released, certain theater seats were rigged with joy buzzers. When the tingler came on the screen, the buzzer would give who was sitting in the seat a jolt. Castle called it percepto. He made cheesy movies, but he knew how to market them. That’s for sure.

The Tingler is pure cheese. It’s not scary. But it does have some strong moments of suspense, especially when the creature comes after Price’s character. Price and Castle also worked together on the entertaining horror film House on Haunted Hill. That movie is scarier, but has a definite cheese factor, especially where the effects are concerned. But I digress. The Tingler delivers about what you expect from its premise. Price is entertaining as ever and it’s a good movie to enjoy with a bowl of popcorn on a Friday night.

That’s a wrap on my guilty pleasure films! What are some of your and why? Weigh in in the comments section.


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