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Mr. Sardonicus

50 customer reviews

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Mr. Sardonicus + The Tingler + 13 Ghosts
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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.

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


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)
    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 (50 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005V4XF
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,809 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Mr. Sardonicus" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful 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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By cookieman108 on August 13, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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)'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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Griffiths on June 23, 2006
Format: DVD
I watched "Mr Sardonicus" shortly after "I Saw What You Did", and I was relieved to see that William Castle hadn't sunk into comedy territory for this one. It's actually made earlier, around the same time as Castle's other most successful outings, although, this is one of his lesser known movies. "Sardonicus" is a period piece beginning with a successful young doctor, who recieves a cryptic letter from his former fiancee urging him to visit her and her mysterious husband Baron Sardonicus at their remote mansion somewhere in the middle of Europe. She hints that she is in some danger, and as she is the only woman he has ever loved, he drops everything and sets off immediately. When he arrives he finds that Sadronicus is more than just a little strange, in fact he rules over the household like a tyrant, and never appears in public without wearing a strange face mask...

Much of the film is very reminiscent of Roger Corman's "Fall of the House of Usher", although without the fabulous colour photography and on a much lower budget. Although Guy Rolfe (who plays Sardonicus) is no Vincent Price, he does a very good job of selling the character as thoroughly unwholesome and with a very cruel streak. What impressed me about the film is that it is surprisingly harsh in it's depiction of Sardonicus' sadistic past-times. He keeps a disfigured manservant as his most loyal servant, and together they devise cruel tortures which are carried out on the only other member of the household staff, a terrified maid. As well as this, Sardonicus lures girls from a nearby village to his mansion for some kind of peverted sexual desires which are never explained or depicted on the screen.
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