The Tingler (1959 USA)

tinglerThe Tingler (hopefully) works on a few levels. As a horror story at the base level, it’s a decent tale of a creature, fear and murder. The blood is minimal. There’s no gore and the language is clean. No nudity. No one is caught with their pants down, porking around in places where they shouldn’t be. As for Vincent Price, this maybe is one of his ten best performances. He manfully delivers each line of dialogue with an intensity worthy of Shakespeare. 

Absolutely ridiculous premise doesn’t ruin the entertainment value of this completely unique horror flick about a parasitic organism which evolves and attaches to the human vertebrae at the height of fear. The only way, it seems, to kill the “tingler” is to scream. Coroner, and scientist, Dr. Warren Chapin (Vincent Price)is studying that creature, and along with assistant David, (Darryl Hickman) hopes to discover the organism shortly after a person dies of fright so that he can catalogue it as a major breakthrough. Unfortunately, the experiment leads to underhanded tactics by others using the parasite as a means to kill.

In a sub-plot, Warren has major marital problems with his conniving, adulterous wife Isabel, (Patricia Cutts) who holds her late father’s total inheritance (it’s hinted at by Warren that she may have poisoned him) keeping sister Lucy’s (Pamela Lincoln)  share for herself. Isabel loves to flaunt her adulterous ways in Warren’s face and is always quick to mention who pays for his lab and machinery. She also proclaims that young lovebirds David and Lucy should never be allowed to marry. One stunning scene has Warren, as it would appear, on the verge of murdering Isabel in cold blood…but it turns out to be more of a scientific experiment using fired blanks. An amusing sequence. The Tingler is also a story of marriage and adultery.

the-tingler-1959-3I dare say this is the strength of the picture. The creature aspect is relatively small, at least until the end, but the marriage subplot runs strong, which seems bold for the time period. The word “divorce” is never uttered, and we are in a world where murder is an easier option than divorce. The banter between Price and his wife is biting and hard-hitting, at times maybe even edgy. Even with the horror aspects removed, this film could have been carried by the basis of their relationship. Warren meets Ollie Higgins (Philip Coolidge)and his deaf mute wife Martha, (Judith Evelyn) who play a major role in his finally capturing the parasite.

Martha has this fear of blood and the mere sight of the red stuff sends her into a psychosomatic shock. Warren realizes that Martha doesn’t have the ability to scream and might be the correct test patient in recovering the “tingler” in a specific state for analyzing. Meanwhile, Isabel, threatened by her husband’s ability to implicate her in the murder of her father, hopes to use the creature to kill Warren. Highlights include LSD sequences where Price trips out and screams the house down, Martha’s hallucinations brought out possibly from an injection by Price, the creature’s removal from Martha’s dead body, the creature’s accidental release into a crowded theater, and Price’s near death as the parasite strangles him. This is B movie heaven. And more fun than it has a right to be.

tingler-4

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Comments

  1. Sounds like a gripping film, thanks for sharing. I’ll certainly be checking this one out, I’m especially intrigued by the prospect of seeing Vincent Price “tripping out” ha ha! 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cheers! Yes, by his reaction he makes the prospect of taking acid seem hilariously horrible. 🙂

    Like

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