The Tingler was William Castles greatest moment of triumph (unless you count Rosemarys Baby (1968) but he was only producer on that). The Tingler has become a cult classic. Watching it you can see why it has everything including an outrageously entertaining premise, Vincent Price, William Castle at the height of his gimmick-based ingenuity, wonderfully torrid scenes of marital in-battling between Price and his calculating tramp of a wife Patricia Cutts, even LSD trips (The Tingler was the first film to ever depict an acid trip). It is a wonderful little B film that lives up to its cult reputation in every way.
The concept of The Tingler and its being defeated by the release of fear tensions (ie. screaming) is positively ingenious (although the idea that something the size of what the Tingler is finally revealed to be could hide inside the human body undetected is preposterous). Frequent Castle collaborator Robb White turns in a tautly effective screenplay there is a fine twist that reveals Philip Coolidge as having deliberately murdered his wife. Although the final seemingly tacked-on twist ending with her returning to life and coming after him makes no sense.
As a director, William Castle seemed driven by the crude sensationalistic approach of a P.T. Barnum more than anything. His actual style as a director was frequently flat and pedestrian. That said, some of the time here Castles brute force shock theatrics could prove effective. The scenes trying to scare deaf-mute Judith Evelyn where she is pursued by a man in a mask waving a knife, with hatchets being thrown and death certificates placed on bathroom mirrors have a mechanical pedestrianness but these are transcended by one wonderful scene where the water in a bath turns blood red (in a film that is otherwise shot in black-and-white) as a hand reaches up out of it. Where William Castle always succeeded was when it came to his gimmicks not through any necessary imagination but more through his brazen hucksterism. With The Tingler, he was at the height of ingenuity after which he never achieved the same again. Castles inspired scheme here was the wiring up of theatres with electroshock buzzers beneath the seats, which would zap people at selected intervals (although the extent to which this was done and the number of theatres that were wired up was not as widespread as B movie myth would have it).
There is a marvellous prologue where William Castle himself appears to introduce the film: At any time you are conscious of a tingling sensation, you may obtain immediate relief by screaming. Dont be embarrassed about opening your mouth and letting rip with all youve got. The finest moment in the film occurs near the end where Castle has The Tingler get loose in a silent movie theatre. There is that wonderful moment where the screen goes completely blank (this was probably the point where the electroshock buzzers were turned on and audiences jolted out of their wits). Castles voice again appears to assure audiences that there is no cause for alarm. A couple of moments later The Tingler is seen in silhouette entering the projection booth, whereupon Castle invokes the audience to scream for all they are worth and stun The Tingler. It is an absolutely glorious moment where both the film and the meta-filmic combine the invocation is as much to the audience that is watching the film and being jolted as it is anything to do with what is going on on screen. The film ends with another blank screen and Castles voice: Ladies and gentlemen, just a word of warning, if any of you are not convinced you have a Tingler of your own, the next time you are in the dark, dont scream.
In recent years, there have been a number of remakes of William Castle films and a remake of The Tingler was at one point announced, although has yet to emerge.
William Castles other films of genre note as producer-director are: as director of Crime Doctors Manhunt (1945), the sixth in a series of Columbia crime thrillers, of which Castle directed several, featuring a forensicologist against a split-personalitied killer; the psycho-thriller Macabre (1958); House on Haunted Hill (1959); the haunted house film 13 Ghosts (1960); the psycho-thriller Homicidal (1961); Mr. Sardonicus ((1961) about a man with his face caught in a grotesque frozen smile; the juvenile comedy Zotz! (1962) about a magical coin; the remake of The Old Dark House (1963) for Hammer; the Grand Guignol psycho-thriller Strait-Jacket (1964) with Joan Crawford; The Night Walker (1965), a psycho-thriller about a dream lover; the prank phonecall psycho-thriller I Saw What You Did (1965); the psycho-thriller Lets Kill Uncle (1965); the ghost comedy The Spirit is Willing (1967); the reality-bending sf film Project X (1968); as producer of the classic occult film Rosemarys Baby (1968); as producer of the anthology series Ghost Story (1972-3); Shanks (1974) with Marcel Marceau as a puppeteer who can resurrect the dead; and as producer of the firestarting insect film Bug! (1975).
Film available in several parts beginning here:-