Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classics Series present our annual scary October program of classic fright films with a double bill of 1950s black-and-white hits: the 65th anniversary of THEM! (1954), paired with the 60th anniversary of THE TINGLER (1959). The vintage horror entries will show in a retro double feature (two movies for the price of one) on Halloween Eve, Wednesday, October 30 at the Laemmle NoHo.
THEM!, considered one of the very best of the 1950s monster movies, tapped into the era’s nuclear paranoia with its tale of giant mutated ants terrorizing the American Southwest.
Unlike many of the low-budget films that capitalized on atomic era fears, THEM! was a major production for Warner Bros., hoping to repeat the commercial success of their 1952 release, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. They assigned studio contract director Gordon Douglas to helm a script written by Ted Sherdeman, Russell Hughes, and George Worthing Yates with a strong cast headed by James Whitmore, Oscar winner Edmund Gwenn (Miracle on 34th Street), James Arness, Joan Weldon and newcomer Fess Parker.
Accomplished cinematographer Sidney Hickox (The Big Sleep, White Heat) and venerable composer Bronislau Kaper (San Francisco, Lili, Mutiny on the Bounty) contributed first-rate work, along with special effects that garnered an Academy Award nomination that year.
Variety capsulized the favorable reviews: “top-notch science fiction shocker. It has a well-plotted story, expertly directed and acted in matter-of-fact style to rate a chiller payoff and thoroughly satisfy fans of hackle-raising melodrama.”
THE TINGLER is a classic of another sort – cultish camp – with its outlandish story of a doctor who discovers a fear-bred organism in the base of the spine. If released, the centipede creature’s grip can kill, only alleviated by a scream.
Producer-director William Castle, one of the period’s rival “king of the Bs,” enlisted writer Robb White to concoct the story, cited by Time Out as “ingeniously ludicrous.” Castle and White had collaborated twice before and hit box office pay dirt with the low-budget hit House on Haunted Hill in 1958. But shlockmeister Castle’s real talents were as a huckstering showman, and he provided a marketing gimmick doozy in “Percepto,” with vibrating buzzers wired to theater seats to jolt the audience when the creature is unleashed.
The good doctor, played by Vincent Price, would then instruct the theater audience to “scream for your lives” to keep the marauding tingler at bay. Price had been the star of House on Haunted Hill and then went on to become the “the master of menace” for a dueling “king of the Bs,” Roger Corman, with his adaptations of the works of Edgar Allan Poe in the early 1960s.
At the time of its release, the New York Times’ Howard Thompson dismissed THE TINGLER as a prime example of Castle “serving some of the worst, dullest little horror entries ever to snake into movie houses.”
Today audiences are mightily amused by the brand of scary mayhem Castle specialized in, endorsing Leonard Maltin’s assessment of THE TINGLER as a ”preposterous but original shocker.”
One night only, enjoy an early Halloween treat (no tricks here) – two vintage horror movies back on the big screen in a classic double feature on Wednesday, October 30 at the Laemmle NoHo. Click here for tickets.
Formats: THE TINGLER, DCP; THEM!, Blu-ray.