Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Satan Bug (1965)

From the late Fifties to the mid-Sixties one could say that director John Sturges was on a roll. He had directed such popular and critically well received films as Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), Last Train from Gun Hill (1959), The Magnificent Seven (1960), and The Great Escape (1963). The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape in particular had fairly large, big name casts and were truly epic in scope (both films' running times were in excess of 2 hours). Mr. Sturges' 1965 film following The Great Escape would then be a change of pace for the director.

The Satan Bug was based on Alistair MacLean's 1962 novel of the same name. At a time when fears of nuclear annihilation may have been at an all time high, The Satan Bug dealt with biological warfare. It would be a topic that many films in the late 20th Century and early 21st Century would deal with, from The Crazies (1973) to Twelve Monkeys (1995), but in 1965 it was a fairly novel idea. Prior to The Satan Bug very few films dealt with bacteriological warfare, RKO's 1951movie The Whip Hand perhaps being the most significant.  The Satan Bug was also one of the many spy thrillers released in the mid-Sixties. That having been said, it was a very different sort of spy thriller from the various Bondian pastiches being released at the time. It was a much more intellectual film, with its hero Lee Barrett (played by George Maharis) preferring to use his wits rather than a gun.

Not only did The Satan Bug differ from other spy thrillers of the time, it also differed a good deal from John Sturges' best known films of the time. While The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape both had big name casts, the biggest name movie star in The Satan Bug was Dana Andrews, then past his days as a leading man. That is not to say that the rest of the cast were exactly unknowns. Both Anne Francis and Richard Basehart had appeared in a number of supporting roles in films and guest appearances in TV shows. At the time Richard Basehart was playing Admiral Nelson on the TV show Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, while Anne Francis would receive her own show in the fall of 1965, Honey West. As to the film's star, George Maharis, he had played Buzz Murdock on the popular TV show Route 66. The rest of the cast of The Satan Bug was filled with actors whose faces are today recognisable to audiences, but at the time mostly played small roles in films and made guest appearances on television. Edward Asner was years away from playing Lou Grant on Mary Tyler Moore, while Frank Sutton was still in his first year as Sgt. Carter on Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.

While The Satan Bug differed form  The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape in lacking a big name cast, it differed from other spy thrillers of the era in that its emphasis is not on non-stop action. Rather than building suspense through various action scenes, instead The Satan Bug does so through the search for the weaponised  botulinus, dialogue, character interaction, and planning. Combined with its rather deliberate pace, The Satan Bug is then much more suspenseful than if it had been done in the manner of the Bondian thrillers of the day. This is not to say that The Satan Bug entirely lacks action scenes. There are a few and, as might be expected of John Sturges, they are all exciting and very well done.

That The Satan Bug lacks the big name casts of The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape, one should not think that it is lacking in good performances. Richard Basehart is particularly impressive in what might be the film's most difficult role, as is Dana Andrews as General Williams. While George Maharis' Lee Barrett seems more than a little reminiscent of Buzz Murdock on Route 66, it is still a good performance as the character as written seems very similar to Buzz anyway. Perhaps my only complaint with the cast of The Satan Bug is that Anne Francis is not given very much to do. While she gives a solid performance as always, in the end it seems that her character could have been better utilised.

The Satan Bug is not a perfect film. At times its plot does seem a bit disjointed. And while I thought it fit the film perfectly, even at the time of its release there were those who complained about its very deliberate pace. And, as I said in the above paragraph, I really think that Anne Francis' character should have been given more to do. 

The Satan Bug premiered in New York City on 14 April 1965. While John Sturges' previous film, The Great Escape, had been a huge success, The Satan Bug did extremely poorly at the box office. Critics were not particularly kind  to The Satan Bug. Bosley Crowther in The New York Times complained that it "...has much the triteness and monotony of an average serial television show." The headline of Mae Tinnee's review in The Chicago Tribune summed up many critics' opinion of the film, "The Satan Bug,'All Talk, Little Action'".

Today The Magnificent Seven  and The Great Escape are regarded as classics, while The Satan Bug has largely been forgotten. This does not quite seem right to me. Despite the indifference of audiences at the time and the sometimes poor reviews from critics, The Satan Bug is a fine, well wrought thriller that is begging for rediscovery. In the future I hope that it is included among the lists of John Sturges' best films.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Godspeed Johnny Winter

Legendary blues guitarist Johnny Winter died 16 July 2014 at the age of 70. He had emphysema and had recently had pneumonia. That having been said, a cause of death has not yet been established.

Johnny Winter was born on 23 February 1944 in Beaumont, Texas Along with his younger brother Edgar Winter (who would go onto his own successful career in rock music), Johnny Winter took music lessons from a young age. When Johnny Winter was ten years old the two brothers performed with ukuleles in a local talent contest. The contest earned them an audition with Ted Mack and the Original Amateur Hour. They did not pass the audition.

Johnny Winter began playing clubs in the Beaumont, Texas region when he was in his teens. When he was only fifteen years old he recorded his first song "School Day Blues", along with his band Johnny and the Jammers, on a regional label. He attended Lamar State College in Beaumont for two years before moving to Chicago to pursue a career as a blues musician. He returned to Texas only a few months later. He then started performing at local clubs again. When  Roy Head and the Traits were in the Beaumont area he would sometimes play with them. In 1967 he even recorded a single ( "Tramp" backed with "Parchman Farm") with the Traits.

It was in 1968 that he was mentioned in a Rolling Stone article on the Texas music scene. That same year he released his first album, The Progressive Blues Experiment, on the Sonobeat label. It was the following year, in 1969, that he signed with Columbia Records. His first album, Johnny Winter, was released later in the year. It peaked at #24 on the Billboard albums chart. It was followed in 1969 by his second album, Second Winter. It was also in 1969 that Johnny Winter performed at Woodstock, as well as various other music festivals. He formed a band with what was left of The McCoys called simply "Johnny Winter And". Johnny Winter And released a 1970 self titled studio album, followed by a live album in 1971.

In the early Seventies Johnny Winter's career stalled as he struggled with heroin addiction. Eventually he sought treatment for the addiction and returned to recording with the album Still Alive and Well in 1973. It proved to be the most successful studio album of his career, reaching #22 on the Billboard chart. The Seventies proved to be his most successful period.  His fifth album for Columbia, Saints and Sinners (released in 1974), went to #42 on the Billboard chart, while his sixth album for Columbia, John Dawson Winter III (also released in 1974) went to #78. His next few albums did not fare as well. In 1977 Nothin' but the Blues only went to #146.  In 1978 White, Hot and Blue only went to #141. In 1980 Raisin' Cain did not even chart.

The early Eighties would see Johnny Winter with a new label, the independent blues label Alligator Records. His next three albums, Guitar Slinger (1984), Serious Business (1985), and Third Degree (1986), were all released on that label. In 1988 he released one album recorded for MCA, Winter of '88. With the Nineties Mr. Winter's output slowed down. He released two albums on Virgin subsidiary Point Blank (Let Me In and Hey, Where's Your Brother, both in 1992) and one album on Virgin Records itself (I'm a Bluesman in 2004). In 2011 he released the album Roots on the Megaforce label. His final studio album, Step Back, is due to be released on 2 September 2014 on Megaforce.

Starting with Live Johnny Winter And in 1971, Johnny Winter released several live albums throughout the years. In addition to Woodstock in 1969, Johnny Winter performed at several music festivals throughout the years, including the Chicago Blues Festival, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and others. He also served as a producer on Muddy Waters' albums Hard Again (1977), I'm Ready (1978), and King Bee (1980).

There can be little doubt that Johnny Winter was one of the greatest blues guitarists of the late 20th Century. He was a virtuoso when it came to the guitar. He could play incredibly fast, playing the guitar with a speed matched only by a few in the late Sixties and early Seventies. At the same time, however, there was a richness, an emotiveness to his music. Indeed, unlike many white blues artists, the music of Johnny Winter actually sounded as if it could have been recorded by African American blues musicians earlier in the century. In the end there was a sincerity and truthfulness to Johnny Winter's music that was sometimes lacking in that of his contemporaries. It is perhaps for this as much as his virtuosity with the guitar that he will perhaps be remembered.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Late Great Elaine Stritch

Star of stage, screen, and television Elaine Stritch died today at the age of 89.

Elaine Stritch was born on 2 February 1925 in Detroit, Michigan. Her father was George Stritch, an executive with B. F. Goodrich. Her mother was Mildred Stritch (née Jobe), a homemaker. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago from 1940 to 1958, Samuel Cardinal Stritch, was one of her uncles. Miss Stritch was only four years old when her father took her to see a touring production of The Ziegfeld Follies. Her father took her backstage to meet comedian Bobby Clark, whom her father knew. It was the beginning of Elaine Stritch's love affair with the stage. It was after she graduated from high school that she moved to New York City to pursue acting. She studied drama at the he New School for Social Research under Erwin Piscator. Among her fellow students were Bea Arthur and Marlon Brando.

Elaine Stritch made her stage debut in a children's play entitled Bobino. She made her debut on Broadway in the play Loco in 1946. Miss Stritch would have a long career on Broadway. In the late Forties she appeared in such productions as Made in Heaven, Angel in the Wings, and Yes, M'Lord. She was Ethel Merman's understudy in Call Me Madam. While she never got to play Ethel Merman's role of Mrs. Sally Adams on the Broadway stage, she did star in a national tour of Call Me Madam in the Fifties. In the Fifties she also starred in a revival of Pal Joey on Broadway, as well as the original production of Bus Stop as Grace Hoylard. In the Fifties she also appeared in the productions On Your Toes, The Sin of Pat Muldoon, and Goldilocks.

In the Sixties Miss Stritch appeared on Broadway in Noel Coward's play Sail Away. Later she was one of the actresses who played Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Later in the decade she appeared in the production Company. Elaine Stritch would then be absent from the Broadway stage until 1990, when she took over the role of Melissa Gardner in Love Letters. In the Nineties she appeared in a revival of Company, a revival of Show Boat, and a revival of A Delicate Balance. In the Naughts she was the star of her own Broadway show, Elaine Stritch At Liberty, and appeared in a revival of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music.

Elaine Stritch made her debut on television as one of the regulars on the DuMont sitcom The Growing Paynes in 1949. In the Fifties she was the first actress to play the role of Trixie Norton, appearing only once in the part on a "Honeymooners" sketch on the DuMont show Cavalcade of Stars starring Jackie Gleason. Late in the Fifties she starred as Ruth Sherwood on the TV series My Sister Eileen. Throughout the Fifties she guest starred on such shows as Kraft Theatre, The Motorola Television Hour, Goodyear Playhouse, Appointment with Adventure, Climax, Studio One, Adventures in Paradise and Wagon Train.

Aside from her role as Ruth Sherwood on My Sister Eileen, in the Sixties Miss Stritch only appeared on television in the on the shows The Nurses and The Trials of O'Brien as well as various talk shows and variety shows. In the Seventies she starred in the British TV series Two's Company. She played the role of Aunt Polly in a miniseries version of Pollyanna and had a recurring role on the series Nobody's Perfect. She also appeared on the shows Shades of Greene, Jackanory, and Tales of the Unexpected.

In the Eighties Elaine Stritch was a regular on the TV series The Ellen Burstyn Show. In 1984 she also appeared in several episodes of the daytime serial The Edge of Night. She guest starred on the shows Trapper John, M.D., Tattingers, American Playhouse, Head of the Class, and The Cosby Show. In the Nineties Miss Stritch made two appearances on Law & Order as Lanie Stieglitz, the first of won her the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. In 1993 she appeared in several episodes of the soap opera One Life to Live. She guest starred on such shows as Bless This House, Soul Man, Oz, and 3rd Rock from the Sun.

From the Naughts into the teens Elaine Stritch played the recurring role of Colleen Donaghy, Jack Donaghy's overbearing mother on 30 Rock. She won another Emmy for the role, one for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, and was nominated another four times in the category for playing Colleen Donaghy.  She was also a regular on the show Life's a Bitch.

Elaine Stritch made her film debut in The Scarlet Hour in 1956. In the late Fifties she appeared in the films Three Violent People (1956), A Farewell to Arms (1957), The Perfect Furlough (1958), and Kiss Her Goodbye (1959).  In the Sixties she appeared in the films Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965), Too Many Thieves (1967), and Pigeons (1970). In the Seventies she appeared in the films The Spiral Staircase (1975) and Providence (1977). 

In the Eighties she played former actress Diane in Woody Allen's September (1987). While the film itself was not well received, Miss Stritch was widely praised for her performance. She also appeared in the films Cocoon: The Return (1988) and Cadillac Man (1990). In the Nineties Elaine Stritch appeared in the films Out to Sea (1997), Krippendorf's Tribe (1998), Screwed (2000), Small Time Crooks (2000), and Autumn in New York (2000). From the Naughts into the Teens she appeared in the films Monster-in-Law (2005), Romance & Cigarettes (2005) , and River of Fundament (2014). She was the voice of ParaNorman (2012).

To put it simply, Elaine Stritch was incredible. Plain spoken, acerbic, and extremely funny in person, Miss Stritch was no small talent. In a career that literally spanned from the Forties to the Teens she played a wide variety of roles and played all of them well. If Elaine Stritch ever gave a bad performance I never saw it. Even when the material was not particularly good Miss Strich was capable of  great acting. A perfect example is the role of brassy, abrasive, self-centred former movie star Diane in September. The movie was not particularly good, but Elaine Stritch was fantastic. She also shined in another Woody Allen film, Small Time Crooks, playing snobbish socialite Chi-Chi Potter. Elaine Stritch had a particular gift for comedy, capable of eliciting laughs with the delivery of only a single line.

Of course, not all of Elaine Stritch's roles were comedic, nor were all of her characters abrasive or offensive. In another instance of her performance actually being better than the over all film, Elaine Stritch played Dolly Talbot, Winona Ryder's character's caring grandmother in Autumn in New York. She was also great in the role of caring, motherly nurse Helen Ferguson in the 1957 version of A Farewell to Arms. It must also be kept in mind that Elaine Stritch was a talented singer and dancer. After all, of all the media in which she appeared, Elaine Stritch may have seen the most success on Broadway. If one has ever seen her show Elaine Stritch at Liberty, then they are fully aware of her talent as a vocalist.

In the end Elaine Stritch was a woman of multiple talents, who was great at all of them. She was equally adept at playing drama as she was comedy, and she could play a wide array of roles. Elaine Stritch was an absolutely brilliant woman, who could be as entertaining in interviews as she was on the stage or the screen. She was a wholly singular talent whose like we probably won't see again. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

TCM Summer Under the Stars 2014

In about two weeks it will be August and for Turner Classic Movies fans that means Summer Under the Stars. For those unfamiliar with Summer Under the Stars, it is a month long event with each day devoted to a single star. Below is TCM's promo for this year.

And below is the list of stars being honoured this year by day.

1st: Jane Fonda
2nd: David Niven
3rd: Walter Pidgeon
4th: Judy Garland
5th: Barbara Stanwyck
6th: Paul Muni
7th: James Stewart
8th: Jeanne Moreau
9th: William Powell
10th: Carole Lombard
11th: Marlon Brando
12th: Alexis Smith
13th: Cary Grant
14th: Charles Chaplin
15th: Faye Dunaway
16th: Herbert Marshall
17th: John Hodiak
18th: Claudette Colbert
19th: Paul Newman
20th: Thelma Ritter
21st: Lee Tracy
22nd: Audrey Hepburn
23rd: Ernest Borgnine
24th: Gladys George
25th: Dick Powell
26th: Sophia Loren
27th: Edmund O'Brien
28th: Arlene Dahl
29th: Joseph Cotten
30th: Betty Grable
31st: Alan Ladd

This year's Summer Under the Stars will see the premieres of  a few films new to TCM (not counting documentaries). I have listed them below by date and star.

8 August Jeanne Moreau:  La Baie des Anges (1963) and Les Amants (1958)
10 August Carole Lombard:  True Confession (1937)
13 August Cary Grant: Hot Sunday (1932)
15 August Faye Dunaway: Cold Sassy Tree (1989)
16 August Herbert Marshall: The Underworld Story (1950)
17 August John Hodiak: Battle Zone (1952) and A Bell for Adano (1945)
18 August Claudette Colbert: Skylark (1941) and Remember the Day (1941)
20 August Thelma Ritter: The Second Time Around (1961) and For Love or Money (1963)
27 August Edmund O'Brien: An Act of Murder (1948)
30 August Betty Grable: Give Me a Sailor (1938), Meet Me After the Show (1951), The Dolly Sisters (1945), and I Wake Up Screaming (1941).
31 August Alan Ladd: Santiago (1956)

 I have to say I am impressed with this year's list of stars and I am happy that they have included a number of character actors as well as foreign stars. It is also nice to see that there will be many films airing that have never been shown on TCM before. I rather suspect I will not be the only person whose television will be turned to TCM for much of August!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Margaret Lockwood and Googie Withers: Two Great British Actresses

 It was today in 1990 that the great British leading lady Margaret Lockwood
died. It was also today in 2011 that the great British actress Googie Withers died. Beyond having both died on 15 July and both having been well known British actresses of the mid-20th Century, Margaret Lockwood  and Googie Withers actually shared a good deal in common.

Indeed, as most film buffs probably already know, Margaret Lockwood and Googie Withers both appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's classic The Lady Vanishes (1938). Margaret Lockwood was the star of the film, playing Iris Henderson, the young English tourist who stumbles upon an insidious plot aboard a train. Googie Withers appeared in a supporting role, playing Iris's friend Blanche. Although both Margaret Lockwood and Googie Withers would go on to make many more films, they never appeared in a film together again. That is not to say that there were not some parallels between their careers. Both ladies appeared in several films made by Gainsborough Pictures. Of course, Margaret Lockwood was under contract to the studio and was its biggest star. Her two best known films were made at Gainsborough, The Lady Vanishes (1938) and The Wicked Lady (1945). Other well known films Miss Lockwood made at Gainsborough were The Man in Grey (1943), Love Story (1944), A Place of One's Own (1945), and Jassy (1947). Googie Withers' association with Gainsborough was not nearly as close as that of Margaret Lockwood, but she did make a few films at the studio. Besides The Lady Vanishes she made Strange Boarders (1938), Convict 99 (1938), Back-Room Boy (1942), and Traveller's Joy (1949) at Gainsborough.

Not only were there a few parallels between Margaret Lockwood and Googie Withers' film careers, but there were also a few parallels between their lives. Indeed, both were born in Karachi, British India. Margaret Lockwood was born there on 15 September 1916. Miss Lockwood spent the first three and a half years of her life in British India before her family moved to England. Googie Withers was born in Karachi, British India on 12 March 1917. In fact, her nickname Googie ("Little Pigeon") was given to her by her Indian ayah (a position that combines the jobs of a nanny and a maid) and she even learned Urdu as a child. Like Margaret Lockwood's family, Googie Withers' family would also return to England while she was very young. Of course, Margaret Lockwood and Googie Withers were not the only famous British actresses born in British India. Vivien Leigh was born in Darjeeling, Bengal Presidency, British India. Merle Oberon (who was actually part Indian) was born in Bombay, Bombay Presidency, British India.

Beyond both being born in British India, there were a few other ways in which Margaret Lockwood and Googie Withers' lives were similar. Both studied at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts while very young. What is more, both made their stage debuts when they were only twelve. Both Margaret Lockwood and Googie Withers had promising stage careers before starting their film careers. It must also be pointed out that both Margaret Lockwood and Googie Withers had daughters who followed them into acting. Margaret's daughter Julia appeared in such films as My Teenage Daughter (1956) and Please Turn Over (1960), as well as the TV series The Flying Swan with her mother. Googie Withers' daughter Joanna McCallum has had a fairly extensive career, appearing in such films as Hopscotch (1980) and Tom & Viv (1994), as well as such TV shows as Couples, Trainer, and Law & Order: UK.

Of course, despite the similarities between Margaret Lockwood and Googie Withers' careers and lives, there were some substantial differences as well. Margaret Lockwood may be best known for her Gainsborough melodramas. Googie Withers may be best known for her comedies and her films noirs. While Margaret Lockwood was best known for her roles as a leading lady, Googie Withers may be better known for her supporting roles. There were substantial differences in their personal lives. Margaret Lockwood's only marriage ended in divorce after around twelve years, while Googie Withers married fellow actor John McCallum in 1948 and remained married to him until his death in 2010. Margaret Lockwood only had one child, Julia, while Googie Withers and John McCallum had three children (Joanna, Nicholas, and Amanda McCallum).

Whatever the similarities and differences between Margaret Lockwood and Googie Withers' lives, the one respect in which they were most similar is that they were both remarkable actresses. Each of them left behind a legacy of performances on film that is only matched by a very few actresses. Most actresses work all their lives and never get roles as great as Margaret did with The Lady Vanishes or The Wicked Lady, or Googie Withers did with One of Our Aircraft Is Missing or Night and the City. For many lovers of British cinema, then, 15 July must be a very sad day.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Tingler: So Bad It's Good or So Good It's Bad?

There are those directors whose films can be so bad that they are actually good. That is, they are so inept or so over the top that they are unintentionally funny. The epitome of this kind of director is Ed Wood, whose films are so badly made that, even though it appears he meant for them to be taken seriously, that they can be enjoyed as comedies. Even mainstream, big name directors sometimes had films that had moments that could be very funny, even though they were meant to be taken seriously. The perfect example of this is Cecil B. DeMille, whose 1956 version of The Ten Commandments (among his many other films) has moments that can be enjoyed as pure camp.

While it seems likely that Ed Wood was a director who meant for his bad films to be taken seriously, there were other directors whose intentions for their films were less clear. Chief among these is legendary producer, director, and showman William Castle. Mr. Castle's best known films fall in the horror and thriller genres, yet they are often so over the top that they can be appreciated as comedies. Unlike Ed Wood, however, it is unclear whether William Castle meant for them to be taken seriously. Quite simply, it seems possible that Mr. Castle meant for his films to be parodies of the horror and thriller genres, but played them so straight that it seems as if he meant for them to be taken seriously. In other words, William Castle may have pioneered the use of an intentionally camp aesthetic in his films years before the Sixties TV show Batman, the films of John Waters, or The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In that case, it could be that William Castle's films are not so bad that they are good, but so good that they are bad.

Perhaps none of William Castle's films blur the line between "goodness" and "badness" as The Tingler (1959). The Tingler was the second and last film William Castle made with the legendary Vincent Price. It was also the third of five films Mr. Castle made with writer Robb White (the others being Macabre, House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts, and Homicidal). The Tingler may also have been the most original film William Castle ever made.  The Tingler centred on the titular parasite present in all human beings that feeds on fear and can even shatter the spinal column. It can only be stopped by screaming.  Vincent Price played the the coroner and scientist Dr. Warren Chapin who discovered the Tingler.

Of course, William Castle was well known for his gimmicks, and his gimmick for The Tingler might well have been his most spectacular one. A bit of World War II surplus, small motors that had been attached to the wings of aircraft, were attached to the undersides of various seats in select theatres. At a point in the film when the Tingler had escaped into a cinema, the lights of the theatre would go dark as Vincent Price in the role of Dr. Chapin warned the audience (both in the movie and in the theatre), "Ladies and gentlemen, please do not panic. But scream! Scream for your lives! The Tingler is loose in this theatre!" At that point the motors under the seats would be activated, their vibrations simulating the effects of the Tingler. William Castle termed this process "Percepto." While the nature of Percepto was not revealed in the film's advertising or trailers, it was highly touted nonetheless.

"Percepto" was not the only gimmick William Castle used on The Tingler. At select theatres he also planted individuals in the audience who would scream and faint at the proper time. The individual who had "fainted" would then leave the theatre by ambulance.

As to the film The Tingler itself, it was very nearly as outrageous as the gimmicks used to promote it. Never mind the whole concept of a parasite present in every single human being that feeds on fear, The Tingler is famous for depicting the first portrayal of LSD use in a mainstream motion picture. In the movie Dr. Chapin doses himself with LSD in an effort to experience fear and thus isolate his own Tingler. While the characters refer to the drug only as "acid" in the dialogue, the title of the book Dr. Chapin is reading before his trip makes it clear what he will be taking: Fright Effects Induced By Injection Of Lysergic Acid LSD25.

Of course, Vincent Price's performance during Dr. Chapin's acid trip is one of the things that qualify The Tingler as a camp classic. Mr. Price uses the scene as an opportunity to ham it up, beginning it somewhat subdued and then upping the ante when he begins going on about "the walls." In the end Dr. Chapin's acid trip seems more histrionic than horrifying. Here I have to point out that Vincent Price's histrionics during the acid trip are not an isolated case in The Tingler. There are several scenes in which Mr Price hams it up, particularly when the Tingler is loose in a theatre.

Vincent Price occasionally hamming it up in The Tingler is not its only source of humour. The Tingler itself looks more funny than frightening. The Tingler does resemble what for many is a truly frightening creature, looking somewhat like an oversized centipede. Unfortunately the Tingler is also quite clearly a cheap rubber prop that wobbles across the floor when it moves. I imagine the sight of the Tingler for many is more hilarious than horrifying.

Of course, given the somewhat dodgy science of The Tingler, perhaps it does not matter that the Tingler itself is a cheap prop. After all, the viewer is expected to believe that Dr. Chapin has discovered a creature previously unknown to man that shows up on a common, everyday X-ray! Even more so than many of William Castle's films, The Tingler stretches the bounds of believability.

While there are several moments in The Tingler that are so bad they are good, it seems possible that William Castle intended it to be so. It must be considered that given his love of gimmicks William Castle did not intend, let alone expect, his films to be taken seriously, not even as B horror movies. It would seem he was more interested in putting on a good show than a serious horror film. Indeed, William Castle's introduction to The Tingler is done with tongue firmly planted in cheek. If that could not be used as proof that William Castle intentionally made The Tingler campy, one must consider that at times it can be surprisingly effective for a horror movie, especially one made on a low budget. Indeed, William Castle succeeds in something that very few directors have--making a scene that is simultaneously funny and frightening. While Vincent Price's admonition to "...scream for your lives!" in the theatre is so over the top as to be funny, the actual sequence in which the Tingler (even the cheap rubber prop it was) is actually a bit scary.

Indeed, another bit of evidence that William Castle intended The Tingler to be camp is the presence of Vincent Price. Mr. Price was an excellent actor, one capable of delivering very subtle performances when called upon to do so. When Vincent Price hammed things up, then, there can be little doubt that it was intentional. Indeed, it is dubious whether William Castle would have permitted Vincent Price his histrionics had he not intended The Tingler to be a bit over the top. In other words, The Tingler (and likely William Castle's other films as well) may be better counted alongside John Huston's Beat the Devil (1953) as a movie that is intentionally campy rather than counted alongside films such as Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) as a movie that is unintentionally bad.

Regardless of whether it's a movie that is so bad it's good or a movie so good it's bad, The Tingler is one of William Castle's funnest movies. After all, it is not every movie that features a parasite that feeds on fear. And it's not every movie that has a character played by Vincent Price take an acid trip.