“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 was a filmmaker known more for his movie tie-in gimmicks than his actually films but despite the gimmicks, the films were pretty solid thrillers. From Macabre (1958), House on Haunted Hill (1959) to this entertaining piece of terror, Castle always had a gimmick for promoting the films.
The film stars Vincent Price as a pathologist who performs autopsies on executed criminals and discovers that the tingling sensation in the spine when fear strikes a person is actually caused by a hidden ethereal centipede-like creature that grows off the fear. Price explains his discover to a man named Ollie who has come to claim the dead body of his recent executed criminal brother-in-law. Ollie takes Price to meet his wife (Judith Evelyn), a deaf mute, who helps Ollie run a silent movie theatre. Price discovers that screaming dissipates the Tingler and Judith Evelyn can’t scream.
Price becomes obsessed with creating the Tingler and starts experimenting with LSD. After failing “luck” happens and Price finally gets his hands on a Tingler, with dire results. The gimmick that Castle used to promote this movie was having movie theatre seats that buzzed or shocked audience members at certain point in the movie. Called “Percepto!” the idea was to get audience members screaming in order to save their lives from the Tingler. Castle also hired people to faint during the movie and fake nurses to take the fake fainters out of the theatre. One can only imagine what going to one of these movies would have been like. It’s not a masterpiece of cinema but it’s damn fun to watch with some cool chills thrown in for good measure.