Celebrate the horror classic that stars Vincent Price as an obsessed scientist who discovers where fear grows in the human body and how to destroy it. Also Starring: Judith Evelyn and Darryl Hickman
Director: William Castle
The Tingler (1959)
The financial success of House on Haunted Hill was reason enough for Columbia to produce The Tingler. Vincent Price was on board again, this time with Darryl Hickman playing his assistant and newcomer Pamela Lincoln playing his sister-in-law. Patricia Cutts played Price’s beautiful but unfaithful wife, Isabel.
Director William Castle was never one to miss an opportunity for publicity. He convinced Pamela Lincoln’s real life fiancé Darryl Hickman to join the cast as her fiancé in the film. At first Darryl declined but finally agreed after William Castle convinced him it would help Pamela’s career. According to Darryl, William Castle did such a good job of convincing him it would help Pamela that he did the part for no salary. Darryl Hickman who was 1.78 m (5’10″) was required to wear lifts in his shoes for the scenes with 193 cm (6’4″) Vincent Price to offset the disparity of their heights.
William Castle and Vincent Price
Judith Evelyn was hired at the request of Vincent Price who previously worked with her on Broadway. She also received attention in another prominent “non speaking role” as the suicidal “Miss Lonelyhearts” in Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954). Dal McKennon, who played the projectionist (uncredited in the film) had a successful career as the voice of many screen and TV characters including “Buzz Buzzard” in the Woody Woodpecker cartoons and “Gumby” in the TV clay animation series. Jack Dusick, makeup artist for The Tingler was the father of singer/actress Michelle Lee.
The Tingler was Vincent Price’s second and last outing with William Castle and the fifth performance that would ultimately brand him as “The Master of Menace”.
Much in the manner of Universal’s groundbreaking Frankenstein (1931), William Castle opened the film with an on screen warning to the audience:
- “I am William Castle, the director of the motion picture you are about to see. I feel obligated to warn you that some of the sensations— some of the physical reactions which the actors on the screen will feel— will also be experienced, for the first time in motion picture history, by certain members of this audience. I say ‘certain members’ because some people are more sensitive to these mysterious electronic impulses than others. These unfortunate, sensitive people will at times feel a strange, tingling sensation; other people will feel it less strongly. But don’t be alarmed— you can protect yourself. At any time you are conscious of a tingling sensation, you may obtain immediate relief by screaming. Don’t be embarrassed about opening your mouth and letting rip with all you’ve got, because the person in the seat right next to you will probably be screaming too. And remember— a scream at the right time may save your life.”
—William Castle, opening scene
William Castle became famous for his movie gimmicks, and The Tingler featured one of his best, “Percepto!”. Previously he had offered a $1,000 life insurance policy against “Death by Fright” for Macabre (1958) and sent a skeleton moving above the audiences’ heads in the auditorium in House on Haunted Hill (1959).
Percepto: “Scream for your lives!”
For “Percepto!” William Castle attached electrical “buzzers” to the underside of several seats in the auditorium. The buzzers were small surplus vibrators left over from World War II. They had been installed inside the wings of air craft and when activated would vibrate to help de-ice the wings by shaking and cracking the ice. The cost of this equipment added $250,000 to the film’s budget. It was predominantly used in the larger theaters.
During the climax of the film, the tingler escaped into a movie theater. On screen the projected film appeared to break as the silhouette of the tingler moved across the projection beam. The film went black, all lights in the auditorium were turned off and Vincent Price’s voice warned the audience “The Tingler is loose in THIS theater! Scream! Scream for your lives!” This cued the theatre projectionist to activate the buzzers and give several audience members an unexpected jolt.
An alternate warning was recorded for Drive-in Theatres, this warning advised the audience the tingler was loose in the drive-in. Vincent Price’s voice was not used for the Drive-in version.
William Castle’s autobiography Step Right Up!: I’m Gonna Scare the Pants off America, erroneously stated that “Percepto!” actually delivered electric shocks to the theater seats.
Two Joe Dante films contain scenes which reference the Percepto gimmick: “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” (1990) and “Matinee” (1993).
The Bloody Bathtub Scene:
Although The Tingler was filmed in black and white, a single b&w/color sequence was spliced into each print of the film. It showed a sink (in black and white) with bright red “blood” flowing from the taps and a black and white Judith Evelyn watching a bloody red hand rising from a bathtub filled with bright red “blood”. Castle used color film to film the effect. The scene was accomplished by painting the set white, black, and gray and applying gray makeup to the actress to simulate monochrome.
Get the tingler on DVD
Tingler on DVD Special features: scream for your life featurette subtitles: english spanish portugese chinese korean thai talent files theatrical trailers and more.
The Tingler 27 x 40 poster
Just for FUN! Get the Tingler Head Massager! (not part of the film)