IFI Wednesday, 23rd February.
Jameson Dublin International Film Festival
‘Ladies and gentlemen, please do not panic! But SCREAM! Scream for your lives!’
So goes the warning by Vincent Price in William Castle’s frightastic The Tingler that played last night as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. The IFI was transformed into an interactive B-movie time capsule as the full house was transported back to 1959 and witnessed the thrills of psychedelia-rama, floating skeletons, baths of blood, LSD-induced visions and beasts let loose among the audience.
The magnificent Vincent Price plays Dr Chapin, who is studying the effect of fear on people. He discovers the existence of a spinal parasite that causes the tingling of the spine in states of extreme fear. The ‘tingler’ as he calls it (‘Since we don’t know what it is yet, we can’t give it a Latin name’) can kill its host unless it is destroyed by screaming. Arghhhhhh!
What follows is a feast of ludicrous bliss marked by outrageous performances, crazed gimmicks, sharp scriptwriting and all manner of mayhem.
Bruce Goldstein, Film Forum’s Director of Repertory Programming, who presented the film, was in great form after the screening and provided as much entertainment as the film. A keen audience provided question after question, which Goldstein answered with insightful knowledge and much wit. Goldstein has been presenting the film around the world since he first discussed the idea with John Waters in 1988. As he said, ‘You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve seen this film. I could have read the complete works of Proust and Tolstoy in that time.’ He talked about the use of ‘percepto’ that Castle used when the film first came out – whereby cinema seats were wired to give members of the audience a shock at appropriate moments. Goldstein made the point that they would still be handy to have so that ‘you could wake up the audience during certain films.’
Goldstein as well as being the go-to man for The Tingler and owning a cinema in New York devoted to screening classics is also an art-film distributor – famous for the likes of Battle of Algiers and Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad. He recalled the time he met Alain Resnais in the Cinematheque in Paris and how, when he met him for lunch, he was introduced to Resnais as ‘the man who is doing The Tingler tonight… Not as the man who distributes Last Year at Marienbad. And Resnais says to him in French: ‘The Tingler… That’s the one with Vincent Price… With the spine… and the creature. I love that one!’
When cinema works, it works… And remember, as William Castle said himself, ‘if you scream at just the right time, it might just save your life.’