The Tingler Blu-ray Review

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Tinglies in a Silly Place

The Tingler knows how to work an audience. Released in 1959, Tingler approaches a bevy of (then) sordid topics, most taboo for the squeaky clean ‘50s. It opens with talk of a murderer’s execution, then an autopsy, into broken marriages, LSD trips, marital affairs, and the suggestion of pre-marital sex. And of course, a monster that lives inside of us.

A leftover of sorts from Universal’s run of anti-science horror films (well out of vogue by 1959), Tingler puts Vincent Price in the role of a scientist, performing illicit experiments. It’s moody if chugging along to kill time. Tingler builds its monster, a worm that lives inside of humans and spawns when people experience total fear. Build-up matters. When the wormy monster is revealed, it’s every bit the creature of an exploitation cheapie, visible strings and all.

This one came from William Castle, a showman whose wacky ideas influenced the great Matinee some 40 years later. Tingler’s theaters famously put buzzers in the seats to simulate the worm’s growth, a physical manifestation meant to squeeze a few bucks out of easily manipulated teens.

If the ‘50s had an equivalent of grindhouse cinema, Tingler fits that category

Without that added effect, Tingler fizzles. It’s obvious this slap dash production, with only a handful of characters and dragging story existing merely to support third act frights; everything else is here out of spite. Tingler, as a 15-minute showpiece, is charming enough. As an 80-minute film, Castle’s film is rather routine and dire.

To be fair, Tingler exists in a different time, where the mere thought of a cheating wife on screen was enough to grab attention. Once, this script that sees Patricia Cutts playing a floozy, constantly drinking and wearing low-cut dresses, pushed cinematic sleaze. The science too, a place where man should never go, held weight. Tingler’s limited aspirations can’t place it among the post-nuclear era, anti-experiment rhetoric though. What’s here is a cornball ticket seller, a charismatic marketing effort, and ultimately, tepid cinema cheese.

“Historically curious” fits Tingler and its weirdly drawn past. If the ‘50s had an equivalent of grindhouse cinema, Tingler sits in that category. Anything to get people in the seats, no matter the actual result projected onto a screen. Vincent Price helps, forever a horror star, even in something like this. Price makes anything plausible with his calming demeanor and accent. It almost makes the first two acts tolerable.

Video

Shout releases Tingler to Blu-ray with a so-so transfer. Grain stiffens up, signs of a low-resolution master. The image runs soft, lacking in tightness and fidelity. Some banding slips into the image too.

A few close-ups do present facial detail. That’s a surprise. Generally, texture is offset by the dull mastering.

The benefit comes from the clean source, gorgeously preserved with only one notable scratch midway through. Tingler otherwise suffers no damage. Fading is avoided too. Tingler’s gorgeous image density, including full black levels and bright contrast present the needed depth.

Note that near the 40-minute mark, Tingler pulls some color footage into the mix. This is notably degraded, likely spliced in from a different print. Resolution during this scene approaches that of a DVD.

Audio

Precise dialog offers pleasing clarity from this DTS-HD mono effort. Sans any drop out, popping, or static, the audio track is in fine condition.

Much of the score sits in the undercurrent, rarely rising until the scares start rolling in. Highs maintain stability. When screams start up, treble holds.

Extras

A commentary from author Stevie Haberman is up first. Note it’s in the audio portion of the menu, not the extras. Interviews with actors Pamela Lincoln and Barry Lorie run around seven minutes total. A nicely done featurette titled Scream for Your Lives lasts a bit over 15-minutes. Alternate audio for drive-in theaters as the Tingler gets loose is offered, along with some additional takes. A stills gallery and promos mark the end of Shout’s offering.

The Tingler
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

Vincent Price is the last remaining reason to watch The Tingler, a dry piece of theater showmanship without its original bite.

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 18 The Tingler screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 15,000+ already in our library), 50+ exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.