August 1, 1959 [The Tingler]
The Tingler itself is a kind of animate spinal column, a shiny-black chittering centipede yanked out of a mute woman who'd died of fright without screaming—and it's the scream that kills the Tingler: If you don't let loose with a good one, the thing clamps down and cracks your backbone like a walnut.
Ridiculous—but don’t tell that to my son, who was in a frenzy to see this picture—Mr. Castle having worked his advance charm, a true carnival huckster, giving us everything we’d hoped for before the movie even started. So Pete was more than ready to be scared to death—and Vincent Price was more than willing to accommodate, a cynical scientist sick of his hotsy-totsy wife and sneering at everyone as though they were disposable lab animals. And so Pete was right, the picture was frightening: a movie about the impassive nastiness one finds at times only in the movies—there’s even a scene in which the Tingler gets loose in a theater, and Price looks right at you and entreats you to start screaming, while the Tingler noses around the feet of the moviegoers. And most of the kids and teenagers pitched in—some louder, more honestly hysterical than others.
So what if Vincent Price has a pencil mustache and pours a bit too much oil into his voice, and the Tingler itself is pulled jerkily on a string. There's something about a movie like this—Castle’s ruthless little imagination at work, the blood-red color sequence discomfiting, the casual cruelty grimy on the screen—that nudges the Tingler a little further into my head (down my spine?) than I wanted it to—my son sitting next to me, clutching my forearm and passing along a little whimpering shock.