Thursday, September 13, 2018

THE TINGLER (1959) (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)


Label: Scream Factory

Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: A82 Minutesz
Audio: English DTS-HD MA with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: William Castle
Cast: Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts, Pamela Lincoln, Philip Coolidge

Following the success of The House On Haunted Hill (1959) Columbia Pictures and director William Castle re-teamed for the spine-chiller The Tingler (1959) again featuring horror-star Vincent Price (Witchfinfder General) - this time as a pathologist Dr. Warren Chapin who through his experience performing autopsies on the recently deceased discovers a curious thing, that the spines of those who experienced extreme fear before their death have been crushed from the inside, theorizing that some sort of parasitic fear-creature to be the culprit, something he comes to refer as "the tingler". 

The doc's wife could care less about his work in his lab, she's too busy running around town with other men, but the doc is assisted by his acquaintance David (Darryl Hickman, Network), who is engaged to Isabel's younger sister sister, Lucy (Pamela Lincoln, Anatomy of a Psycho). Chapin continues his research looking for real evidence of this parasite, and after feigning his intent to murder his cheating wife over her dalliances with other men is able to take an x-ray of her while she's knocked-out, long enough to get some actual x-rays of the creature. 

Along the way he befriends the co-owner of a silent movie theater Oliver Higgins (Phillip Coolidge, North by Northwest) who runs the theater with his deaf-mute wife  Martha (Judith Evelyn, Rear Window), the wife has a fear of blood and cannot scream in fright, her only release is to faint when the doc cuts himself in front of her, planting a devious seed. A short time later she dies of fright in a turn of foul play, scared to death by an elaborate fear-inducing set-up by her murderous hubby, who seemed like such a nice guy, I found it really hard to dislike him, even though he murdered his wife. 

Earlier in the film Price's character established a theory that when you suffer an extreme case of fear the parasitic creatures begins to grow at the base of the spine, but a well-placed scream can kill the creature before it can crush your spine, it's a fun conceit and credit to the screenwriter Robb White (The House on Haunted Hill) for the delightfully schlocky premise, it's good stuff and comes off fantastically in this black and white slice of schlock & shock cinema.

As the mute wife cannot scream she dies in fright, with her husband bringing the body to Dr. Chapin who performs an autopsy upon her immediately, managing to extract the the still living parasite from her corpse, and then the real fun begins. A trip back to the the couples apartment above the cinema they run allows the creature - which looks like a rubbery lobster/centipede - escapes into the cinema. It runs amok in the darkened theater causing Price's character to issue a warning to the audience, that to save their lives they each must scream like never before, tying into the gimmick William Castle devised for this film - one of his best - he called it "Percepto", and it was basically a electric buzzer placed under random seats throughout the theater, which I am sure must have caused quite a stir when they started going off on cue during the movie-within-a-movie premise, it's wonderfully fun stuff. 

Aside from the great premise the film has a few other standout scenes, like when Price's character in an attempt to study fear doses himself with lab-grade LSD (a cinema first!) and the hallucinatory fright-scene that scares the deaf-mute woman to death has a short color-tinted sequence depicting blood pouring from a faucet and filling a bathtub as well as some hokey monster special effects, lots of good stuff crammed into this goofy screamer, it's definitely spine-tingling fun of the highest order.

The ending has a fun EC Comics-esque comeuppance that I just love with Price's character giving a final warning about the Tingler to audience before coming to a proper close with a delightful wink and a nod to the movie goers. This is probably Vincent Price at his most overwrought, the scene of him in the lab tripping on acid is amazing, screaming about the walls closing in on him, it's real square version of a bad trip, love it. 

Audio/Video: The Tingler (1959) arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory in 1080p HD framed in 1.85:1 widescreen. The source looks near flawless, it's in excellent shape and the grain is finely managed. Black and white contrast looks good with deep black and a good looking grayscale throughout. It probably looks a bit too good to be honest, you can see the string pulling the rubbery tingler along in some scenes! The film is black and white but is punctuated by a few scenes of color with blood pouring out of faucets, very cool. Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA Mono track that's clean and solid, there's a lot of a shrieking throughout and it handles it without breaking-up into distortion, optional English subtitles are provided.

Extras begin with an audio commentary from Author/Historian Steve Haberman who is always a wealth of knowledge, his commentary is crammed with info, a real William Castle/Vincent Price lecture worthy endeavor. We also get an interview with Pamela Lincoln who says she wasn't a fan of horror but as this was her first movie was happy to land the gig, getting a dozen roses on her first day on set from William Castle, laughing at the site of the Tingler used in the film, but how serious Price took his scenes with it. 

Publicist Barry Lorie shows up for a brief interview discussing his job on behalf of the studios to talk-up new films to critics and exhibitors in addition to installing the "percepto" buzzers at first run theaters during the film's original, theatrical showings and how successful the gimmick was. 

Scream Factory also carry-over the vintage featurette Scream For Your Lives! with actor Darryl Hickman, Bob Burns, author Lucy Chase Williams, film historian David Skal. This is a great extra with Bob Burns speaking about presenting Castle a "skeleton key to the city" in San Antonio and Hickman recalling Castle's schlocky ways, calling him the P.T. Barnum of cinema, and he's not wrong. Williams speaks about the unique facets of the film, like how it was the first film to feature LSD in the cinema.  

Extras are finished up with a theatrical trailer William Castle's Drive-In Scream audio which is an alternate drive-in version of him imploring the audience to scream,  plus the original scream audio from the theatrical; experience with Vincent Price, speaking of whom, also included is a fun theatre Lobby Recording of Price warning movie goers to stay away from The Tingler along with a pretty nifty jingle about the parasitic fear monster. We also get a gallery containing various movie posters, colorized lobby cards, promotional still and behind-the-scenes images.

The single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a 2-sided sleeve of artwork, the front cover is a vintage movie poster of the film and the reverse side features a promotional image for the film, the disc itself featuring a shot of Vincent Price dosing himself with LSD!  

Special Features: 
- NEW Audio Commentary By Author/Historian Steve Haberman
- NEW I Survived The Tingler – An Interview With Pamela Lincoln (4 min) 
- NEW Unleashing "Percepto" – An Interview With Publicist Barry Lorie (3 min) 
- Scream For Your Lives! William Castle And "The Tingler" – Vintage Featurette (15 min) 
- William Castle's Drive-In "Scream!" Audio (1 min) 
- Original "Scream" Scene (1 min) 
- The Original 1959 Theatre Lobby Recording (3 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 
- Still Gallery

It's always a treat to get another William Castle shlock and shocker on Blu-ray, like their release of Strait-Jacket (1964) Scream Factory knock it out of the park with a solid A/V presentation and some nifty extras, top-notch. 

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