Tuesday, October 20, 2009

William Castle night

TCM is putting the spotlight on the gimmicks of director William Castle tonight. I've mentioned Strait-Jacket (airing at 9:45 PM ET) before. I don't think I've mentioned The Tingler, however. That's following Strait-Jacket at 11:30 PM ET.

Vincent Price is a scientist investigating fear. He's come to the conclusion that all of us have a symbiotic organism in us (the "Tingler" of the title) that grows whenever we get frightened, and that letting that fear out into the open, such as by screaming, causes the organism to shrink. One day, Price meets the wife of a friend, and discovers that she's a deaf-mute, and can't scream. Naturally, this means that she's a perfect subject! Scare the bejeezus out of her, and you can find that organism that feeds off of our fears! Needless to say, the experiment goes badly wrong, and the organism escapes its host, to wreak havoc on unsuspecting people!

This is pretty silly stuff, but by now you've probably come to expect that from a William Castle movie. That doesn't mean it's bad stuff, however. Despite the myriad of plot holes (you'd think that mutes would have been frightened enough in the past that somebody else would have discovered the "tingler" decades before Price), The Tingler is, thanks to the showmanship of William Castle, entertainingly silly.

As I've mentioned with regards to other Castle movies, he had gimmicks that he used to help market his movies. In the case of The Tingler, that gimmick is "Percept-O". Castle had some of the seats in the theaters where the movie was shown wired with electric buzzers. At certain key points in the movie, those buzzers would be set off, giving unsuspecting moviegoers a literal shock to go along with the shock they were getting on-screen. I suppose that if you're not expecting it, it would be frightening, but nowadays, I'd think the more likely result would be a string of lawsuits.

William Castle's movies are available on DVD, and are in general immensely entertaining for those who want to watch them at their leisure.

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