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Mr. Sardonicus

Ronald Lewis , Audrey Dalton , William Castle    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 61.46
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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

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By Amazon Customer HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
With a film from producer-director William Castle the question is never what is the plot of the film but rather what gimmick has the master of horror schlock come up with this time around. For his 1961 release "Mr. Sardonicus" the gimmick was the "Punishment Poll," which supposedly gave the audience the choice of how the film should end. Of course this is not going to be as much fun as the tingling seat, special viewing glasses for ghost-vision, or even the insurance policy to cover you in the event the film scared you to death, but you have to admit that even with DVDs there are limits to what can be done. The irony is that with the DVD format you really could choose between alternative endings-if only Castle had filmed one in the first place.
Sir Robert Cargrave (Ronald Lewis) is a noted neurosurgeon who is summoned from England by her former lover Maude (Audrey Dalton) to a castle in Gorslava where she lives with her husband Baron Sardonicus (Guy Rolfe). The baron always wears a mask when he comes out of his room and eventually he tells Sir Robert the story of a lottery ticket and a ghoulish visit to a graveyard at midnight. Sardonicus wants Sir Robert to use his skills to cure his affliction, even if it means using new and untested methods to gain success, so that Maude, who was married off by her father to the baron, might finally love her husband. When Sir Robert balks at the idea, Sardonicus reveals an alternative plan for making the baroness more sympathetic to his condition.
"Mr. Sardonicus" has every single one of the traditional elements of a gothic horror story.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Gimmick Master Strikes Again March 25 2003
You can say what you want about horror film producer William Castle. Go ahead, call him a hack, call him a B-movie mogul, call him a gimmick-grabber. But I'll bet he had a lot of fun making movies like 'Mr. Sardonicus.' I know I had a lot of fun watching it.
In 1880, a famous London doctor is called to a creepy castle on an urgent mission. Sir Robert the doctor receives a letter from his former lover, now married to Count Sardonicus. She instructs the doctor to hurry; something terrible is about to happen.
Sir Robert arrives to find a strange castle occupied by a one-eyed servant named Krull, Sir Robert's beautiful former lover, and of course Count Sardonicus, whom we see introduced wearing a mask. Hmmmmmm. A creepy castle, a locked door, screams from remote parts of the castle, an eccentric Count in a mask...What OTHER cliches do we need?
Sure, the cliches are abundant and the sets are nothing to impress your friends with, but the acting is generally good. The story is not believable, but we pretty much know that going in. We don't expect much, but when we get to one of the film's several creepy moments, we feel as if we've gotten our money's worth. Plus the patented William Castle Gimmick is firmly in place: The Punishment Poll, in which audience members decide whether the villain receives mercy or more punishment. (Of course Castle only shot ONE ending. In the DVD extras we learn how ridiculous it would have been to shoot two endings, poll the audience, then send a message up to the projectionist's booth to tell him which reel to show for the ending. But it's still fun!)
'Mr. Sardonicus' is not a great horror film, but it doesn't really set out to be one. But it is a fun, campy, competent entry in the early 60's horror genre. I'll take it any day over 'Scream 5' or 'I Could Care Less What You Did Last Summer.'
89 minutes in glorious black and white
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Castle/Castle fun! Jan. 21 2003
Mr. Sardonicus is adapted from the short story which originally appeared in Playboy magazine, titled, simply, "Sardonicus." Sardonicus's father had purchased a lottery ticket, and after his death, the family discovered it was the winning ticket, which had been buried along with the father...despite being poor, they would not even consider going into the grave and despoiling it to get the ticket, but Sardonicus had less qualms about this and went to the grave in the "dead of night" (what else?)and dug up the grave and opened the casket and found the ticket. The sight of his father's corpse so traumatized him, his own face became set in a rictus, and thus began the Sardonicus we meet at his castle, obtained, as was his entire fortune, by the monetary fulcrum provided by the lottery ticket. He had persuaded a sensitive and beautiful young lady to marry him; he had befriended her at a resort and her parents suddenly died and she found herself alone in the world except for the "kindly" Sardonicus. Her old friend, the London doctor, comes to the castle and discovers all is not well between the two, and also the reason he has been invited. Sardonicus wishes to have a normal visage, and this is the purview of the London doctor. The ending is wonderful, and satisfying, and the story so unusual and interesting, it transports us to the time and the atmosphere so eloquently described in the story and now in the film. Very entertaining and well worth a look. If you read the story you will find it interesting to note that despite the writing style, reminiscent of Victorian Gothic, it is relatively contemporary, having been written in the 1960s. Sidenote: There is a legend in Central Europe that Gypsies sometimes disfigured their own children by cutting their mouths from ear to ear in a grotesque, permanent smile to evoke pity in passersby for begging purposes...
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Scary
This is a very scary movie because of his face and his father's face!! so LOOK OUT!!
Published on Sept. 16 2003 by Jed Kittelson
2.0 out of 5 stars Major letdown
I am sorry, but this movie struck me as being incredibly boring! There are absolutely no surpises nor horrors in stock. Read more
Published on May 31 2003 by Mart Sander
4.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the most unique horror story ending ever
Although this movie is not one of my all time favorites, I acknowledge that this movie has one of the most unforgettable endings you'll ever see. Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2003 by Minneserenity
3.0 out of 5 stars LESSER CASTLE CURIO....
This is an odd movie about a man who's face is frozen into a hideous grin after witnessing a traumatic shock. Read more
Published on Oct. 17 2002 by Mark Norvell
5.0 out of 5 stars An unexpected gem!
I always loved William Castle movies but I did not think this could be such a great release. I ordered and watched it with middle interest but after all I was fully satisfied. Read more
Published on Sept. 17 2002 by Dan Rexx
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of Good Gothic Fun!
William Castle usually marketed his movies with gimmicks, and for MR. SARDONICUS the gimmick was "the punishment poll. Read more
Published on July 6 2002 by Gary F. Taylor
4.0 out of 5 stars Never Wake Up Your Dad When He's Dead
.... and definitely never marry a blonde babe if you're a Slavic peasant.
In the good old days (which weren't really that good), the only way you could catch a little-known... Read more
Published on June 1 2002 by Solo Goodspeed
5.0 out of 5 stars Hitchcock made films; Castle made movies...
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. Read more
Published on May 26 2002 by R. Gawlitta
5.0 out of 5 stars GRIN!
Always loved William Castle movies. Watch this one some time late and night and in the right mood and you will thoroughly enjoy it. Read more
Published on May 15 2002 by KayCeeKay
Published on March 29 2002 by LAWRENCE B. STEVENS
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