The Tingler

So tempting to “toy” (ahem) with the idea of including a racy joke about The Tingler, but in the interest of keeping this post Google-searchable, will impose restraint.

Vincent Price is Dr. Warren Chapin, a penitentiary coroner who is consumed with the study of fear. (If there was ever a movie that proved FDR’s dictum, “the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself,” this is it).

In one of Chapin’s examinations, the doc discovers a phenomenon that is not so much spine-tingling, as it is spine-shattering: a gaping spinal splinter appearing on X-ray of a man who’d been recently executed.

Why the state would waste finite resources on doing autopsies when the cause of death is clearly known is a question for another time, but hey.

Chapin posits that there’s a fear response so intense that when it’s sufficiently built up, it becomes fatal.

Chapin, a consumed, obsessive, unethical (and very frequent) violator of the Hippocratic Oath, fires a starter pistol at his estranged wife to generate the response, and then examines her while she’s passed out. His hypothesis: fear forms a solid spinal mass, which is dissipated through the tension release of a scream. It’s an insanely stupid, yet hilarious idea.

Soon, his friend and deaf mute wife (who are proprietors of a silent film house. Whoa, the jokes write themselves!) become involved in the shenanigans.

The Tingler is the brainchild of William Castle¬† (Macabre, The House on Haunted Hill, producer of Rosemary’s Baby). Castle, a hype man of the highest order (whose modern exemplars include site pal Lloyd Kaufman and John Waters), was known for taking out insurance policy for those who dropped dead from fright, and for jerry-rigging theater seats to generate a mild electrical current. The so-called Percepto buzzers were a bit of a bust, but still…you couldn’t help but get behind his go get ’em Barnum & Bailey hucksterism.

As for the film?¬† It’s hilariously absurd and fun. What a premise.

And a bonus…it was the first recorded use of LSD on celluloid.

*** (out of 5)

[Please check out our podcast discussion of The Tingler on the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]

You (TV Series)

[If you’re interested in a full discussion of the Netflix series, You, check out the You episode of the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]

It’s tough to make a show about writers. We’re generally dull people, but besides that, externalizing an internal process…that’s fraught with issues, meaning lots of cheesy voice-overs of bad writing.

There’s a disproportionate number of movies about writers, because writers know about writing and think what they do is really important, when it really pales in comparison to, oh, neurosurgery.

Which brings us to You, a Netflix Series that’s got the glossiness of Melrose Place, and its brain too, depending on your perspective.

Guinevere Beck (“Beck”) is an MFA student with aspirations of holding down a John Updike New Yorker gig, or maybe becoming the next Robert Pinsky. Problem is, she’s neither inquisitive nor creative, procrastinating like it’s everybody’s business and with a work-rate to rival JD Salinger. Speaking of whom…one of Beck’s friends is a distant relation to Mr. Catcher in the Rye.

Beck crosses paths with dashing Joe (pictured), a literate Midtown Manhattan book store manager who can match her with verse and is no slouch in the flirt department.

Soon, they hit it off, but paranoid Joe stalks her immediately, gazing into her palatial brownstone walk-up (seriously, if this is what passes for student-subsidized housing in New York City, I can reasonably expect to rent a 1,000 square-foot dorm). This then escalates into social media stalking, admittedly not too difficult as both Beck and her cadre of friends are so self-absorbed they could double as infomercial sponges.

What Joe sees in her is anybody’s guess, and where You keeps you guessing is that it’s not the usual “if I can’t have her, no one can” boilerplate. Instead, Joe is more than happy to play the long-game to wait out a revolving door of sub-par lovers before he can tee off.

There are some fun subplots where our charming stalker stepdads a neighborhood boy on his stoop, and there are enough references to good writers to let the occasional sloppy writing pass.

Pure, sugary junk, this Netflix show is oddly enjoyable even if its writers have already painted themselves into a narrative cul-de-sac in the first season (no spoilers here).

*** (out of 5)