dir. William Castle
I wanna dig up William Castle’s corpse and make sweet sweet love to it. He may be my favorite person ever. I know that’s a phrase I bandy about enough to rob it all of meaning but I’m totally serious this time—for reals. I swear, I won’t say this about any other person again...except for Rudy Ray Moore...and Paul Erdos...and John Waters...and Joan Rivers. But that’s it.
Except for Robert Mitchum.
On a recent podcast I commented that the screening of Django Unchained I attended felt electric; there was an indescribable communal energy in the air. Yes, I’ve been to fun movies before where the giddiness of the crowd was palpable, but this was something else entirely. Perhaps, it’s because the subject matter is powerful, or Tarantino’s skills so great, or some combination of the two; but I never saw a revenge movie in a theater in which the revenge scenes felt so cathartic. We fed off the movie’s and each other’s energy and cheered on as Django did away with so many racist, slave-owning honkies. It was magical; and it’s this kind of experience I crave when going to the theater. It is, as far as I’m concerned—even more than actual film projection—the single greatest reason to keep alive the tradition of movie-going, to get out of the goddamn house and watch a movie with others. And few other directors better understood the joys of communal movie-going than William Castle.
And yeah, like I said, Castle’s my current flavor of the week; but, honestly, he’s a guy I’ve always loved. Even before I ever saw a single one of his films, I dug the guy’s master-showman shtick. Here’s a director who never saw a story gimmick or cheap audience-interactive device he couldn’t exploit. And with the Vincent Price (my favorite person ever—I swear that’s the last one) vehicle The Tingler, Castle concocted his greatest gimmick: vibrators placed under movie seats, set to go off strategically just as a dreaded tingler (the organism that lives on all our spinal cords and stiffens our bodies when we’re afraid unless we scream and kill it, natch) escaped into a movie theater within the movie and attacked various movie-goers within the movie.
So, obviously my only complaint with The Tingler: I had to watch this movie alone, in my bedroom, surrounded by no screaming theater-goers, and no tingler under my seat. Fuck. That. Noise. But it’s a credit to Castle’s intuitive sense of showmanship, that his movie still holds up, still entertains, despite the lack of appropriate live-screening accoutrements and live-screening hive mind energy. I dug the all-or-nothing energy Vincent Price brought to this ludicrous plot, spouting off the medical mumbo jumbo dialogue with the focused purposeful intensity of an A-lister in a prestigious medical drama about an important breakthrough in medicine.
And during the escaped-tingler scene, in which the screen goes black and Vincent Price warns us that a tingler (Jesus, spellcheck, for fuck’s sake, stop changing tingler to tingle) has escaped into the theater, and we must all scream with all our might to defeat it—goddamn that was fun.