Tingler, The

Ladies and Gentlesirs, a declaration: William Castle, the producer/director of this motion picture, was a genius filmmaker who was decades ahead of his time. Oh, many a critic and historian have made mention of his dazzling showmanship and marketing acumen. Such as during the initial screenings of The Tingler, when Castle equipped seats with extra-large Joy Buzzers, to provide that “tingling” sensation; or in the final act, which actually takes place in a movie theater, and the lights go out. Vincent Price starts telling the on-screen audience (and, by proxy, us) to “SCREAM! scream for your LIVES!” On top of that however, Castle was still an effective director, who was able to elevate incredibly banal stories into effectively creepy pictures.

Case in point: The Tingler is about a spinal parasite that feasts on fear, and can only be destroyed by screaming. Yep, that’s the entire premise right there. And yet, Castle was still able to craft an edge-of-your seat picture, especially in two memorable sequences, one of which involving a splash of bright red blood in an otherwise black and white picture.

Of course, when we screened it at our event, we discovered an entirely different plotline at work. While director Castle, writer Robb White, and star Vincent Price would have us believe this is a horror film about a large spinal parasite, we found that the film was actually about something else entirely:

The Female Orgasm, and the invention of the G-Spot Vibrator.

Before I continue, allow me to present this dialogue exchange:

Price: Well, it affects some people like that. Did you notice how rigid she became just before she fainted?

Coolidge: She Always Does. It’s interesting.

Price: Because she has no vocal chords, she can’t release her fear tensions vocally as we can. So they continue to mount, until at last, she can’t endure it.

Exchange the word “fear” for “sexual,” and you have an entirely different story going on here. Conversations like this go on throughout the movie, permeating every aspect of the script:

Price: Her unreleased tensions grow so great…that she goes into a Psychosomatic Blackout!

Hell, one of the villains in the story is a woman whose primary crime is that she doesn’t love her husband anymore and is sexually independent. That’s about the gist of it…until she tries to kill her husband, of course; which even then is mostly laughed away as a prank.

As the story continues, a “tingler” is eventually extracted from a human host and put on display for the audience…revealing it to be a rubbery millipede that resembles nothing less than a “toy” intended for a woman’s pleasure. As we watched, our audience speculated that the irresponsible Mad Scientist (and yet somehow not just the protagonist, but actually the “hero”) played by Vincent Price went on to design the first prototype of said device, raking in millions.

All that aside, we're left with the final question: Is The Tingler a “good” movie? That depends on how much you appreciate 50’s low-budget horror. However, if you’re hosting a Vincent Price Cavalcade Event, this film is a surefire winner on all levels.

Dead Heat

How do you fight undead robbers?  With undead cops, of course!

Treat Williams plays L.A. police detective Roger Mortis (No, really, that’s his name) with partner Doug Bigelow (Joe Piscopo!) as they investigate why they can’t seem to kill the bad guys as effectively as they used to.  These investigations lead them to Dante Laboratories, which has developed a process for resurrecting the dead for twelve hours.  After a losing fight with the fattest zombie this side of Zombieland, Mortis is killed.  But, then brought back to life by his coroner ex-girlfriend (Clare Kirkconnell) and the most user-friendly resurrection machine ever.  Now, Mortis has twelve hours to solve the case and avenge his own death in a Hawaiian shirt.

Written by Terry Black , Shane’s brother, Dead Heat has a similar action/comedy feel to his brother's Lethal Weapon, but with zombies.  And such zombies they are!  The opening jewelry store heist features two punk zombie robbers wearing BDSM leather masks!  (Their safe word is “Braaaaaaiiiiinnnnnssssss.”)

But this is nothing compared to the undead hijinks that occur at a Chinese restaurant.  You know all the dead ducks that are hanging in the window?  Or the pigs?  Or the sides of beef?  Yeah.  Good times.  Wait, no, I mean gross times.  Very, very gross.  How do you kill zombie animals with no heads?

Throughout, Williams grounds the whole movie with the ability to take anything that is thrown at him seriously.  The man is not phased by anything.  This is a valuable skill when Joe Piscopo (with an 80s mullet) is delivering some of the best wise-ass remarks in the history of motion pictures.  Watching this film, it’s hard to understand why Piscopo did not fare better in Hollywood.  The man is a scream.  Especially during an exchange with Williams that shows the deep, profundity of cross-dressing jokes between two partners.  Police partners, I mean.  Heterosexual police partners, I mean.  You get the idea.

Added into the mix are performances by the always entertaining Vincent Price(!), Darren McGavin, Keye Luke , and Robert Picardo.  These appearances are almost cameos but they’re all memorable.

In fairness, the movie does play more like it was made for TV, as opposed to a big budget feature but I think this adds to its charm.  Similar to Creepshow .  Dead Heat is a great little horror flick to enjoy on a Saturday afternoon.