Release Date(s)1959 (August 21, 2018)
Studio(s)Columbia Pictures (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B
William Castle, who is best known for his gimmicks for films like Homicidal and House on Haunted Hill, did it again with his classic B-grade thriller The Tingler in 1959. Arming the seats of theaters with vibrating devices set to go off at specific points during the film, a process he called Percepto!, audiences came out in droves to his latest shocker, getting their money’s worth, as well as a jolt or two.
Vincent Price stars in this long-time favorite as Dr. Warren Chapin, a pathologist who discovers a creature called the Tingler, an organism that develops along the spine of human beings as a byproduct of intense fear. Looking like a cross between a centipede and a lobster, it has the capacity to grow bigger and stronger if the fear isn’t released through the act of screaming, which ultimately culminates with the Tingler loosed upon an unsuspecting theater audience who are instructed by Chapin to scream for their lives.
Outside of the horror elements, subplots featuring marital problems between the characters keep things in The Tingler on the ground when the more unbelievable elements kick in. Chapin’s wife, Isabel (Patricia Cutts), blatantly sees other men with no remorse because she feels neglected by Chapin, who is always working in his laboratory. Isabel admits to him freely that she’s committing adultery, which is an interesting touch, even if it has hardly any bearing on the main plot. Then there are the owners of the silent theater, Martha Higgins (Judith Evelyn) and her husband Oliver (Phillip Coolidge), whose marriage faces an unknown danger. William Castle also includes a nod to silent movies as well. The theater in which the Tingler is freed is showing the 1921 feature Tol’able David, which also has its fair share of familial problems.
Simply put, The Tingler is an excellent film. Filled with sensational acting, atmosphere, and a fair amount of scares, it keeps you on the edge of your seat during its peak moments. However, you can also watch it with a more satirical eye, if you so choose.
The Tingler creeps its way to a long-awaited debut Blu-ray release from Scream Factory, who has done a marvelous job. With an HD master (provided by Sony) that’s presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:85:1, The Tingler on Blu-ray is stunning, looking far superior to its DVD counterpart. There’s a great amount of detail and texturing on display, as well as terrific depth. Black levels look balanced and whites look clearer and brighter than before. The colorized scene where we see red blood in the sink and the bathtub still stands out and looks rich. The only drawback is that it appears overly blurry and grainy, looking nothing like the rest of the presentation due to the way it was originally processed. The rest of the film is so clean that you can actually see the wires pulling on the Tingler itself. The audio, an English 2.0 mono DTS-HD track, is also robust. The dialogue comes in clear, with characters screaming in pure fright coming in the loudest and the sharpest. There are also optional subtitles in English SDH.
Scream Factory has also provided a great supplemental package as well. There are three all-new extras, including an audio commentary by author and film historian Steve Haberman, who discusses the film and its cast and crew at length; I Survived The Tingler, a less than five minute interview with actress Pamela Lincoln in which she talks about her experiences making the film; and Unleashing “Percepto”, a brief interview with publicist Barry Lorie, in which he talks about the film and the use of its gimmick. The majority of the special features from the Sony Pictures 40th Anniversary DVD release have been ported over as well. They include Scream for Your Lives! William Castle and The Tingler, a behind-the-scenes documentary with the great Bob Burns, film historian and author David J. Skal, actor Darryl Hickman, and writer Lucy Chase Williams; William Castle’s drive-in version of the "Scream" scene (audio only); the original “Scream” scene (also audio only); an original 1959 theatre lobby recording of a musical number used to promote the film (also also audio only); a theatrical trailer; and a still gallery.
Call it campy, silly, or what have you – The Tingler is a film still has that classic B-movie charm from an era when horror movies didn’t rely on big budgets or gore, be it CGI or otherwise. It holds up well today and is arguably one of William Castle’s best efforts. Now finally on Blu-ray from Scream Factory with a knockout presentation and extras, it’s an essential title to have in your collection. Highly recommended!
- David Steigman