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!]

Eating Raoul

Eating_Raoul_FilmPosterWith a homicidal skillet skill-set, couple Paul and Mary Bland are looking to finance their dream bistro through unusual means*. Eating Raoul is an untamed satirical sex farce, the brainchild of co-star Paul Bartel, who plays the stoic, dull, predictable and, well…”bland” face of suburbia.

Fired from his job as a wine merchant for the unforgivable sin of steering a customer away from a store-mandated upsell of plonk, the Blands become a single-income household with only Mary (Mary Woronov) and her modest nutritionist income to tide them over.

Their Hollywood apartment complex, which has of late been “attracting real scum,” is the scene of a swingers party, a gathering that disgusts the chaste Blands, even more so when one of the lecher attendees accidentally stumbles into their unit and nearly drowns in their toilet.

He sobers up – enough to return later in the evening to try and have his way with Mary. The couple kill him with the closest household item at hand, a cast-iron skillet slugged over his skull. On his person they find a wallet-full of cold hard cash. Ergo, the light-bulb moment: if they can lure enough of these pervs, a bunch of lousy degenerates whom nobody will miss…they can raise enough for a down-payment on their boîte. Paul and Mary’s Country Kitchen is a venture that will feature…wait for it…”the bland enchilada.”


With the help of a party-going dominatrix, the couple better organize their ruse, prepping for each individual occasion (and client) with toys and unique get-ups.

Things are going swimmingly until they’re caught in the act by Lothario locksmith and petty thief Raoul, who blackmails them while (quite successfully it turns out) making a play for Mary.

Eating Raoul,  in spirit and tone, owes a debt to John Waters, and hell, even the nudie cuties of yore, a terrific satire of nuclear families and permissive sexual mores. New York Magazine suggested it was a spoof of the American ideal of entrepreneurship, although who knows how far their pitch would take them on Shark Tank.

The stellar duo of Mary Woronov and Paul Bartel, real-life friends and frequent co-stars, mesh perfectly. He’s the button up PBS pledge drive type and she’s the leggy supervixen. They sleep in separate beds, hilariously contrasting the chaste mores of the Blands with the unbridled lechers who surround them.

After all, “they’re square…they’re in love…and they kill people.”

***3/4 (out of 5)


*Death-by-frying pan is a terrific demise, featured in our book, Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons.