The Showman and his Tingler (The Tingler, William Castle, 1959)

The Showman and his Tingler (The Tingler, William Castle, 1959)

NOTE: The Tingler will be playing on Wednesday, Oct. 3 in WHITE HALL 208, our usual screening room on the Emory campus (NOT as some publicity has wrongly claimed, at the Plaza Theater in Atlanta).

The director-producer of The Tingler, William Castle, is often referred to as “The Showman.” Gimmicks are the key to success for all of Castle’s films. Who else would have turned a low-budget, black-and-white sci-fi into a blockbuster, and a movie theatre into a funhouse? For his first film Macabre in 1958, he imposed a $1000 insurance policy on each customer in case he should be frightened to death. As for his second movie House on Haunted Hill, which was shown five months earlier than The Tingler and which also featured Vincent Price, Castle developed “Emergo.” A skeleton swung over the heads of the audience inside the theatre during the screening.

Castle’s gimmick factory developed “Percepto” for The Tingler, a groundbreaking special-effect device that was performed live in the theatre. The “Tingler” is an exotic creature residing in each and every one of us that feeds on human fear, and the only way to kill it, as explained in the film, is by screaming. Percepto fully harmonizes the plot design of the film, turning the audience into live observers of horror. Castle explained his motivation for pulling off “Percepto” in an interview with The New York Times in 1959: “Horror films, as such, are no longer making money… Over 80 percent of the movie audience is teenagers… I found that the main thing they are looking for is fun, a good time.”

The Tingler was also the first time for LSD to be featured on screen, almost a decade before LSD became illegal in California in 1966. It is hard to imagine how shocked audiences were in the 1950s when this film first came out.

Bruce Goldstein, repertory director from Film Forum, will be adding on to the fun of this week’s screening as a special guest. Goldstein will be performing a live theatre effect at the screening, continuing his 24th year of doing a Castle version of The Tingler. To him, Castle’s gimmicks are far more impressive than “boring” modern digital effects such as 3D. He called The Tingler the“Citizen Kane of gimmick movies.”

The screening of The Tingler will take place in White Hall 208 at Emory. Please come ready in case the Tingler breaks loose.

  • John Waters remembers William Castle in “Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story.”
  • “Bruce Goldstein talks the Tingler” : Despite its name, this article from The List talks more about Goldstein’s love-hate relationship to The Tingler and his personal interpretation of showmanship
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