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Warren (Vincent Price) is a good natured (but a bit mad) scientist, who
thinks that human fear is a creature - he dubs the Tingler - that
grows out of humans' spines when people are frightened & can only be
paralyzed by loud screaming.
His hypothesis is confounded (he thinks) when he accidently gives
Martha (Judith Evelyn), the death-mute wife of his friend Ollie Philip
Coolidge), a small fright, but she, unable to scream, faints.
experiments, he pretends to shoot his wife Isobel (Patricia Cutts), who
repeatedly cheats on him & doesn't even try to hide it. his shooting
her (with a blan) gives her the fright of her life & she faints before
she can even think of screaming - & when Warren then x-rays her, he
really finds evidence for the Tingler.
A self-experiment with LSD to
scare himself witless though to understand the Tingler leads to nothing
though when he at one point can't but scream.
The next day, Warren pays
another visit to Ollie & Martha, & gives Martha, who hasn't been
herself since the fright he gave her, an injection ...
That same night,
Martha sees gruesome visions of horror, & ultimately dies from fright
(was it Warren's injection one wonders). Ollie brings Martha's corpse to
Warren & asks him to determine the corpse of death - & when Warren
cuts her up, he finally finds a live specimen of the Tingler (which pretty
much looks like a giant centipede), & these Tinglers are pretty
After Ollie is gone again (with his wife's corpse, for some
reason), Warren shows the Tingler to isobel, & she can't but see the
bpossibilities of this cute little critter, & thus drugs ehr husband
& lets the Tingler loose right next to him ... & befor long the
Tingler has made its way to Warren's throat, & would have strangled
him to death too, wouldn't his good-natured sister-in-law Lucy (Pamela
Lincoln) have passed by & screamed the Tingler into paralysis.
realizes there is only one way to neutralize the Tingler, to rejoin it
with its dead host-body Martha ... but when he arrives at Ollie's, he
makes a rather startling discovery, that Ollie had frightened his wife to
deathfor her money, & he himself, with his talks about the Tingkler,
has given him the idea. But while the 2 men still argue, the Tingler
escapes, into Ollie's movie theatre that's just beneath his appartment.
the movie theatre the Tingler attacks several people including the
projectionist, & only Warren's urging everybody to scream ("Don't
panic, but scream as loud as you can !") can finally paralyze the
In the end, Warren can successfully rejoin the Tingler with
Martha & persuade Ollie to give himself up to the police. But once
Warren is gone, the Tingler gives Martha new life, just to scare Ollie to
The Tingler is one of these typical William
Castle-films, where the gimmick upon which it was marketed - several seats
in the audience were equipped with vibrators (not what you think) that
would go off at certain moments to give the audience members that certain
tingling feeling, while Vincent Price's onscreen voice woud urge the
audience to participate in screaming ... which is just great to imagine.
film itself is good fun too though: a completely silly piece of
science-horror (of course there is no giant centipede growing out of our
spines when we are frightened), full of enjoyably stupid dialogues &
unbelievable but devil-may-care plottwists, carried above all by the
wonderful, wonderfully ham Vincent Price (who works wonders making
his outrageously incredible lines believable).
The direction might be a
bit old-fashioned for the late 1950's, but in a most charming way, &
it never stands in the way of the film's narrative of atmosphere.