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Mr. Sardonicus


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Product Details

  • Actors: Ronald Lewis, Audrey Dalton, Guy Rolfe, Oskar Homolka, Vladimir Sokoloff
  • Directors: William Castle
  • Writers: Ray Russell
  • Producers: William Castle, Dona Holloway
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Studio: Columbia/Tristar Vid
  • Release Date: March 12 2002
  • Run Time: 89 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005V4XF
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #100,864 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Product Description

Amazon.ca

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 FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on Aug. 22 2003
Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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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