Doctor Warren Chapin (Vincent Price) discovers that there is a parasite in human beings, called a tingler, which feeds on fear and the only way that the creature can be prevented from crushing your spine and killing you… is to scream!
Movie theatre owner Oliver Higgins (Philip Coolidge) uses creepy tricks to scare his deaf and mute wife Martha (Judith Evelyn), she is unable to scream, dies, and the tingler remains intact in her corpse. Doctor Chapin removes the tingler from Martha’s spine, but the critter eventually escapes and it crawls into a cinema!
Produced and directed by William Castle, the film used a gimmick called “Percepto!”, which was a vibrating device in some cinema chairs that activated with the onscreen action.
THE TINGLER is an enjoyable William Castle production featuring Vincent Price in fine form and boasts a fun, absurd central idea: fear causes a microscopic creature that exists in every human to grow in size to become a spine-crushing centipede-thing! Say again?!
Price’s character also has to deal with an unfaithful wife and he experiments with LSD too (as part of his research into fear), which causes him to suffer an acid freakout!
The movie includes some effective moments, such as the bright red blood sequence (in this otherwise B&W movie) and the finale with the tingler crawling around a movie theatre, menacing patrons.
I saw THE TINGLER at a screening in London’s Scala cinema, where the “Percepto!” gimmick was recreated for the show. Unfortunately I wasn’t sitting in one of the seats rigged with an buzzer, so I didn’t feel the tingle!
About the red blood sequence…
THE TINGLER was filmed in black and white, but a short colour sequence was spliced into the film, showing a sink with vivid, red blood flowing from the taps and a black and white Martha watching a bloody red hand rising from a bath, also filled with bright red blood. The scene was accomplished by painting the set black, white and grey and applying grey makeup to the actress to simulate monochrome.
And finally some newspaper ads…