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Mr. Sardonicus

4.4 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Desperate to retrieve a winning lottery ticket, a greedy baron unearths his father's corpse. An enormous jackpot is his reward, but not without a price: his face is frozen permanently into a hideous grin. He enlists his fiendish one-eyed servant to help him lift this horrible curse, but their schemes fail. Finally, he turns to a noted neurosurgeon - and his wife's former lover - to cure him.

Amazon.com

William Castle's tribute to the gothic horrors of the 1930s is a ghoulish spin on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by way of Eyes Without a Face. The mysterious Baron Sardonicus (Guy Rolfe) lives in a lonely Central European castle, hiding his face behind a mask and his sadism behind aristocratic manners. Neither remains hidden for long as he pressures a London doctor (Ronald Lewis) into working miracles on his hideously disfigured face. Oskar Homolka steals the film as the Baron's loyal, long-suffering servant Krull, who wields surgical knives and slimy leeches in his reign of torture. Castle, less a stylist than a showman, has little feeling for mood but knows how to stage a shock and spring a gimmick, and this film features a doozy: the audience-participation "Punishment Poll," hosted by Castle himself in a clever (if improbable) break before the film's satisfyingly devious finale. --Sean Axmaker

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Edith Atwater, Ilse Burkert, Constance Cavendish, Albert D'Arno, Audrey Dalton
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, English
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    PLEASE NOTE:
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Columbia / Tristar Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: January 1, 2002
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005V4XF
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,206 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Mr. Sardonicus" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gary F. Taylor HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 6, 2002
Format: DVD
William Castle usually marketed his movies with gimmicks, and for MR. SARDONICUS the gimmick was "the punishment poll." When the film played in theatrical release, audience members were issued a voting card, and near the movie's conclusion Castle himself appeared on the screen and asked the audience to vote: show the card thumbs up to show mercy, thumbs down for none. Now, in theory, there were two different endings, and the ending shown depended on the audience vote--but no one ever saw the "show mercy" ending and it seems unlikely that it ever existed at all. And you certainly won't find it here: Sardonicus is punished every time.
For once Castle should have left well enough alone. The Punishment Poll is the only seriously weak thing in the entire film, which has a considerably better script and over-all better cast than most Castle outings. The story, which shows influences from everything from PHANTOM OF THE OPERA to DRACULA to THE MAN THAT LAUGHED, concerns a grotesquely disfigured man who uses his wife to lure a noted specialist to his castle in the wilds of "Gorslavia"--and who then proceeds to make every one's life as miserable as possible, and that's throwing roses at it. Young women are molested, hung from the ceiling, nibbled on by leeches, and threatened with surgery designed to make them look as hideous as Sardonicus himself.
The cast is quite good, with Oskar Homolka a standout as Krull, Sardonicus' equally depraved servant. The lovely Audrey Dalton is also memorable as Sardonicus' unwilling wife. But the real star of the film is the make-up, which was quite famous in its day and is still capable of giving you a jolt. And along the way we're treated to a number of campy Castle florishes that add to the fun. But MR.
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William Castle...producer, writer, director, and sometimes actor, but first and foremost a showman. All right...the man was a hack (in the kindest possible sense), pure and simple, often regarded as a Hitchcock imitator (he even adopted a number of Hitchcockian mannerisms like appearing briefly in his own movies, etc.), and his films maybe have not been of the highest caliber, but he knew how to draw in and entertain audiences by use of sometimes very clever gimmicks, at least in terms of his horror films of the 50s and 60s, and made going to the movies an interactive event, rather than a passive activity, ensuring those who came got their money's worth. While Mr. Sardonicus (1961) isn't my favorite Castle film (I've always been partial to House on Haunted Hill and The Tingler), it's still a lot of fun, especially if you're a fan of schlocky, sleaze-tinged, lurid spectacles like I am...written by Ray Russell (The Premature Burial, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes) and produced and directed by William Castle (House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, 13 Ghosts), the film stars Guy Rolfe, whom I last saw in Ivanhoe (1952) as the evil Prince John, Audrey Dalton (The Monster That Challenged the World, Kitten with a Whip), Ronald Lewis (Taste of Fear), and Austrian born actor Oskar Homolka, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in the film I Remember Mama (1948)...you've come a long way since then, Babaloo...

The story begins in London, the year being 1880...Castle comes on the screen for a brief intro, which leads into our tale proper in that we meet Sir Robert Cargrave (Lewis), a young, prominent English physician who's done quite well for himself.
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William Castle never fails to amuse and entertain. Wherever he falls short in production values or his choices of acting talent, he comes up with the most unique ideas. MR. SARDONICUS is certainly one of his more contrived plots, and his characters are all stock characters...good guy, gal in distress, bad guy, bad guy's evil side-kick...it's all there. The plot is as thin as dental floss, and the film, for all it's narrative, could've been shortened by a half-hour. Enter Mr. Castle with a groovy idea to put all these silly characters and plot ideas into an entertaining flow of events, culminating with his traditional "gimmick". As silly as it is, I love this movie. Castle used minimal sets; black & white photography is crisp and clear (especially on this DVD release) and Castle's regular Von Dexter composed yet another eerie and superbly appropriate musical score. Castle is the perfect example of making the most with the least. Audrey Dalton was approaching "over-the-hill" when she made this, and she's absolutely gorgeous; her face has a certain characteristic so that lack of expression is actually an asset. Ronald Lewis, used regularly during the early 60's in exactly this type of role, does what he needs to do (whatever happened to him?). Guy Rolfe chews the scenery as the rich, poor-put-upon title character with vigor beyond the requirements. It's Oscar Homolka, the fine old character actor from the 40's ("I Remember Mama") who actually transcends his role and commands attention. The film belongs to him. Then, again, there are the Castle touches, very much influenced by Hitchcock, in a bargain-basement kind of way. He leads the audience down every possible path, creates an eerie and somewhat suspenseful mood...then throws out his goofy and fun gimmick.Read more ›
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