Oh yes. Oh yeah! Vincent Price stars in a movie called, “The Tingler” where he plays a mortician doing a study on the effects of fear? Sign me up! Where the hell has this movie been all my life!? For those of you who have been following our journey into the Vincent Price -a- thon thus far, the movies have been a mixed bag to say the least. The first movie, “House of Wax” was amazing but the next two were not very good. At least not from a Vincent Price perspective. This movie came out in 1959 and while Vincent Price is technically not the villain of the film, I would argue that this film doesn’t have a protagonist at all. This movie does have the most awesome opening of all time. It starts out with the director coming out and speaking directly to the audience. He says the horror is real and you will be experiencing the same things as the actors in the movie. That’s right. Vincent Price is no longer satisfied with horrifying you from the screen, he’s coming into the theatre and bringing the horror right to you! It then skips to three people screaming because they’re being forced to have dinner in Vincent Price’s castle from the “Red Masque” movie. I’m making assumptions here, because all you can see is their faces. Let me get the disappointments out of the way right off the bat. The Tingler does not, in fact, refer to Vincent Price or his mustache.
The movie proper opens up with a man being taken to his execution. He screams. Good God, I am getting so sick of people screaming. Good thing they’re taking him to the electric chair, or this would get really old. Vincent Price works plays Dr. Warren Chapin, who works as pathologist, doing autopsies on the prisoners once they’ve been shut up. He’s not doing it as a job, from what I can tell, this is a hobby. As are his experiments I think. Don’t act surprised, it’s Vincent Price. The prisoner had his spine snapped by fear. As he works, a man named Ollie just shows up and asks to see the body. They have a brief conversation about how fear broke his spine like it was made of osteoporosis and the man, named Ollie, says it’s like a tingling sensation. Yes. The Tingler. We’ll call the thing in your body that gets its strength from fear and can bend steel girders the Tingler. I have no idea why he’s here, but he witnessed the execution because the dead screamy guy is his wife’s brother. Also he needs a ride home. Maybe that was why he was there. Once they get to Ollie’s place, which is above a movie theatre, he invites Vincent up for a cup of coffee. His wife, who owns and runs the theatre with him, is a dumb mute. So she can’t scream and thus release the pressure built up by fear. Huh. I wonder if this will prove to be important.
Ollie makes coffee and his wife comes up to their rooms. You see, his wife named Martha is a germaphobe who washes her hands obsessively and refuses to shake hands because of the germs. Actually, she seems to be an all-around odd fish. The first thing Martha does when she come home is put the money she has in the safe and then she washes her hands twice. While Vincent is drinking his coffee, he drops his cup and he cuts himself on the cup. You could say this was on accident, and I think that’s what the film is going for, but honestly it’s on purpose. She actually gets so scared of the blood, which Vincent keeps shoving in her face that she passes out. Once they get her to come to, she immediately goes and checks the safe and then refuses to leave the safe alone. Vincent’s home life isn’t exactly normal either. He lives with his wife, named Isabel and her younger sister named Lucy. Tensions in the house are boring and predictable because the older sister is clutching greedily to their inheritance and not allowing her younger sister to marry Vincent’s young assistant Dave. Apparently they’ve been working on this whole Tingler thing for a while and apparently being Vincent Price’s lab assistant includes acquiring cats and dogs. Let me get this straight. Vincent Price wants a man to acquire animals to do experiments in fear? I quit. That’s what you should say right now, Dave.
Dave is taking his squeeze out on a date, but before he goes he gives Vincent a strange drug for their experiments. Once they’ve gone, Vincent stays up and reads up on the drug. It’s Lysergic Acid. His wife gets home from her date, which he was not on, and Vincent demands that she talk with him. She grabs herself a drink and he grabs himself a gun. Well, before that, he demands that she give up her sister’s portion of the inheritance and also let her and Dave marry. This, I swear, is the exchange. “Over my dead body.” “Unconventional, but not impossible.” Vincent Price. King of the gentlemanly threat. So he pulls the gun and gets her into his lab. On the way in, he even says she should visit more often. No, Vincent. You have a lab in your home where you cut up dead people and do experiments on fear. I think she has the right idea. I love how when he pulls the gun she calls him crazy, Oh, you idiot. Vincent Price pulled a gun on you and you called him crazy? Now I would believe this is suicide. Which is what he threatens her with. Don’t you mean murder? No. He meant what he said. This is Vincent Price, have you seen House of Wax? He’ll suicide you down an elevator shaft on the end of a rope!
Well, he ends up shooting her, but this was for the sole purpose of his experiments. He was going to use the cat. I’m not sure which I prefer, but he did use a blank so his wife vows revenge and leaves. So the next day, he shows Dave the slides. And we have our Tingler people! I’m still mad that it isn’t Vincent Price. Now if we only had a dead person would could autopsy after killing them with fear. Whoa there, Vincent. I thought after two Fly movies mad science could not shock me anymore. Clearly, I was wrong. Oh, he’s just kidding. He also says he wants to experience the Tingler for himself. So we get a scene of Vincent Price on a bad acid trip. See, this is the only way Vincent can scare himself. It is almost impossible to frighten Vincent “The Thriller” Price. But wait! We already know a woman who we could scare to death! So Vincent goes to check on Martha. She’s been having it rough, so he gives her an injection to calm her down. Did Vincent Price just inject a woman with acid? Vincent Price, you monster! Where have you been for the last two movies? This is getting out of hand. Vincent Price leaves and goes home and Martha has the worst acid trip of her life. It prominently features the Wolf man and plumbing by the clown from It. In a nice touch, only the blood is colored and the rest of the entire film is black and white.
Ollie brings her body to Vincent, and he promptly cuts her open behind a curtain while her husband is right there in the room. And here is the Tingler. The reveal of the Tingler is actually really well done, with him pulling it out so that you can only see the silhouette before you finally get to see it. The Tingler itself is actually pretty terrifying for 1959. The effects are reasonably good, but more importantly the movements are also really unnatural. It sort of jerks and flops around and it looks like a cross between an angry beetle and those body snatcher things from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Vincent is then drugged by his wife, who unleashes the Tingler on him. Yeah, imagine how that would look on a death certificate. Death by Tingler. And that is not Vincent Price’s mustache, again. He’s saved by a well-timed scream, because apparently screams render it powerless. Once Vincent and Dave find out that the Tingler, much like the one ring of power, can’t be killed. In a strange burst of nobility, Vincent decides not to publish a paper on a strange creature attached to every single person’s spine in the world who can break it like it was made of paper mache. People would start ripping their own spinal columns out en masse.
So Vincent decides to take the Tingler back to the body it belongs to. Martha, that is. He arrives to find Ollie packed to leave. Here’s a tip. When you have murdered your wife, not that I buy that this is actually what happened, do not pack the instruments you used to kill her and all the money from the safe your wife kept obsessively out of your reach into the suitcase you take with you. While Vincent gets prepped, the Tingler gets out of the steel case he has it in and gets into the theatre. This is the part I was talking about before, where he screen goes black and Vincent Price says that in order to live you must scream! This is one of the most epic fourth wall breaks I have ever seen. You know, because the Tingler is actually in the theatre with you. Apparently some of the theatres were equipped with vibrating chairs. And then it gets into the projection booth and tries to stop the movie from going on. I guess I can’t blame it. At any rate, Vincent puts the Tingler back into Martha and leaves to call the police and lay the blame on the husband. I know he has the stuff that she saw in his bag, but I’m willing to bet Vincent was behind it somehow.
With that, the door closes and Martha sits up. Ah yes, this is the scene where the Tingler takes care of the evidence that Vincent Price left behind. And with that, the credits roll. This is the movie we were waiting for people. In case the amount of awesomeness didn’t tip you off, just go and watch it now. Sadly, when I went to look at Vincent Price’s Imdb page, I found out that another movie I’ve been excited about, “House on Haunted Hill” came first. Well, I suppose I can do that next because it also came out of 1959, which seems to have been a good year for Mr. Price. I just needed a pickup and when I saw there was a Vincent Price movie called, “The Tingler” I was so there. The one after the movie about Vincent Price inviting five people to stay in his mansion that’s haunted by the Thriller is a movie called “The Bat”. That does not sound promising, though this could be residual fear from the two Fly movies. And with no further ado, here is your Vincent Price picture of the week.