GFF blog: Bruce Goldstein talks The Tingler
The Vincent Price-starring, William Castle-directed gimmick fest gets a new lease of life at the Glasgow Film Festival
Bruce Goldstein is not happy about his official job description at the Glasgow Film Festival. ‘I’m not a film historian – well, I guess I am, of a sort – but primarily, I’m a film distributor, and I run a cinema. Most successful repertory stream in the world, probably-’ he leans forward to the tape recorder, ‘-I just wanted you to know that.’ Leaning back, he laughs. ‘Please, don’t put that in, it’ll make me sound big headed. Or if you do, make sure you put in that I said I didn’t want you to.’
Goldstein is in town to present The Tingler, a Vincent Price-starring creature feature by gimmick king William Castle. It’s something he’s developed a talent for. ‘I’ve been doing this for… What year is this?’ he asks. ‘2011? 23 years I’ve been doing The Tingler. And it’s funny – I tell people all these different things I do, I distribute The Third Man and Grand Illusion, and people only ever want me to come and do The Tingler! But on the other hand, it takes me to interesting places, and I get to meet new people, so that’s wonderful.’ These new people are an essential part in putting the screenings together – it wouldn’t be a true William Castle film if there wasn’t some gimmickry afoot. ‘Each venue does it differently. In the Cinémathèque Française, we had about 20 workmen rigging the skeleton across a cinema. I guess they had a lot of money to spend on it.’
Despite his protestations, Goldstein can’t deny he has a rich knowledge of film lore, even if the ‘historian’ tag does weigh too heavily on him. While discussing The Tingler’s supporting cast (‘Pamela Lincoln plays the young woman – she’s terrible’), he mentions Darryl Hickman, and proceeds to reel off his prior filmography (‘he was a child actor in The Grapes of Wrath, and he also played the drowning victim in Leave Her to Heaven’), although this mainly functions as a lead-in to the time he met Hickman in Hollywood and neglected to mention The Tingler at all. ‘I forgot all about it, I don’t know why… Why did I turn left on Sauchie-Haullie yesterday, instead of turning right, and miss my appointment? Just getting old I guess.’
He plays up this grumpy old man persona – ‘I must have seen this film over 300 times – I don’t think I can stomach it one more time,’ he says ahead of the screening – but he betrays a love for the Castle school of film promotion. ‘First time I did The Tingler, it was part of a show called Gimmick-O-Rama in 1988, and I presented every film – not only William Castle’s – but every film that had a gimmick. I mean, there was Duorama, where the whole film was split screen; there was Chamber of Horrors, which had the fear flasher and horror horn – if anything scary was happening, we’d have a strobe light and this sort of [air raid siren impersonation] “WoooOOOOOOO” would start up – by the way, that died out really quickly. We backlit one film so a hanging man was behind the screen. And yeah, we did a whole lot of Castle stuff. In Homicidal, we had the Coward’s Corner, which people have to go through if they choose to leave – William Castle comes on screen, and he says you have a minute to leave if you’re too scared to watch the rest of the film. I always plant a couple in the audience, and when this warning comes on, they leave, with one of them protesting all the way. I played the male part when we did it in Cinémathèque Française, and she’s saying, “Every film, you walk out! You walked out of Psycho! You walked out of Alien! You walked out of Ratatouille!”’
Asked about cinema’s current favourite trend – 3D – Goldstein is unimpressed. ‘The special effects movies, they’re so damn boring, I just gave up. There’s a couple of good ones – the first Spiderman a few years back was good – but the digital stuff just leaves me cold. I didn’t see Avatar, so I really can’t comment on that – I heard it was amazing effects-wise, but story-wise it was just awful, apparently. I saw Alice in Wonderland and thought that was just the pits! And it was a huge hit.’ In his eyes, there’s nothing that can beat cinema gimmicks for maximum audience enjoyment – and his own. ‘I love the gimmicks. I’d love to do something in Smell-O-Vision. The potential is there – any movie with the potential for great smells in it. Casablanca would be great in Smell-O-Vision. All the spices – and the elephants! Anything with elephants would work great in Smell-O-Vision.’
My time’s run out, and as I head off to the late screening of The Tingler – which is, predictably, a riotously good time, and one Goldstein absents himself from after the initial introduction – I try to picture an audience queuing up to smell paprika, pachyderms and cigarette smoke for 90 minutes. Weirdly, it’s not too hard to imagine.