‘The Tingler’ and ‘Strait-Jacket’ are new to Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
Like Roger Corman after him, William Castle was a filmmaker who’s probably best known for the talents that became evident once a film’s production was complete. He was a brilliant marketer known for selling the shit out his movies and giving people no option but to fill theater seats, but while he’s remembered for publicity stunts he actually directed dozens of good to great films. Scream Factory brought two of his more popular to Blu-ray this week, and we gave both a spin.
The Tingler (1959)
A pathologist in an unhappy marriage finds solace in his work with corpses, but his work with the dead leads him to a discovery guaranteed to alter all of their lives. He’s identified a parasitic creature — one he names the Tingler — that grows on the spines of scared, frightened, and terrified people. Holding in your terror feeds it, but screaming in terror kills it dead. When one of the creatures is pulled from a dead woman it escapes into a packed theater. The only hope the audience has is to scream in terror.
William Castle’s filmography is stuffed with memorable genre movies, but this late 50s entry is easily among his most infamous. The gimmick of the film was translated brilliantly into the marketing as Castle had “Percepto” devices installed in theater seats to shock audiences into screaming during the film. The film feels designed from the ground up for just such a purpose starting with the creature’s own weakness, and the result is a film that works as a monster movie and a commentary on the health benefits of releasing your fears, anxieties, and tensions instead of giving them strength within. He was a master showman and had audiences in the palm of his hand, and Scream Factory’s new disc features some extras highlighting their creation and effectiveness.
None of that would matter if the movie wasn’t worthwhile too, and thankfully it’s a fun little creature feature with a monster that doubles as a metaphor for our fears. Vincent Price delights in the lead role — as the pathologist, not as the Tingler — and between his playful banter and his intense lab work he’s every bit as engaging as he’s ever been. It’s a wild ride, and while the theater-set finale obviously worked best during theatrical screenings it’s still pretty damn enjoyable.
The new Blu-ray disc includes a trailer, still gallery, and the following extras.
- *NEW* Commentary with author/historian Steve Haberman
- *NEW* I Survived The Tingler – An Interview with Pamela Lincoln [4:10]
- *NEW* Unleashing “Percepto” – An Interview with publicist Barry Lorie [2:58]
- Scream for Your Lives! William Castle and The Tingler [15:38]
- William Castle’s Drive-In “Scream” Scene [:50]
- Original “Scream” Scene [:45]
- The Original 1959 Theatre Lobby Recording [2:39]
Buy The Tingler on Blu-ray from Amazon.
Carol (Diane Baker) was just a child when she watched her enraged mother (Joan Crawford) chop up her philandering husband and his lover, and two decades later her mom is coming home from the asylum. She’s cured, according to the doctor, and Carol wants to introduce her back into her life starting with her fiance and his family. It’s bumpy at first, but things take a turn when people around them start getting hacked to death by an unknown assailant with an ax.
William Castle directs this tale of psychopathy gone wrong, but it belongs to two other talents. Crawford takes top billing, and she takes it in both hands with a grip that refuses to let go until the end credits. Seriously, her performance is a powerhouse of madness as she moves between normal, barely hanging on, and absolutely bonkers. If her performance doesn’t make her controlling presence clear enough the disc’s extras reveal some fascinating tidbits about the production and her influence over it. There’s even an interview with an actor she had fired mid-production. It was a vanity production, of a sort, but it works for the story being told.
Which brings us to the other name here — writer Robert Bloch. This was his fourth feature in a film career that began with Psycho (1960), and his usual interests are all on display from characters with homicidal interests to glimpses of a blackly comic sense of humor. There’s a fun turn in the story that’s unfortunately diluted by an earlier direction/editing choice, but it still succeeds well enough to lift the third act into some thrilling and creepy territory.
The new Blu-ray includes trailers, stills, and costume/make-up tests along with the following extras.
- *NEW* Commentary with authors Steve Haberman and David J. Schow
- *NEW* Joan Had Me Fired – An Interview with Anne Helm [6:47]
- *NEW* On the Road with Joan Crawford – An Interview with publicist Richard Kahn [6:35]
- Battle-Ax – The Making of Strait-Jacket [14:40]
Buy Strait-Jacket on Blu-ray from Amazon.
Related Topics: Home Video