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Mr. Sardonicus (Sous-titres français) [Import]
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
Top Customer Reviews
"Mr. Sardonicus" was penned by Ray Russell, who adapted his novella for the screen. The film was directed by gimmickmeister William Castle, who came up with the "Punishment Poll". The "Punishment Poll" was an audience participation shtick in which viewers could decide whether it would be "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" for the wicked Mr. Sardonicus. Of course, no one but the extremely fickle would vote "thumbs up", so the "happy" ending (did it ever really exist?) was never seen. The film is a lot of fun (hey, it's William Castle), and the performances are first-rate. Guy Rolfe is actually quite charming as the wretched Sardonicus, and handsome Ronald Lewis and lovely Joan Bennett lookalike Audrey Dalton are stoically appealing as Sir Robert and Maude. Erika Peters is a hoot as Sardonicus' late, money-hungry first wife (before he hit the jackpot-with-a-price), and, of course, the great Oscar Homolka as "Krull". Krull is Sardonicus' sinister and loyal handyman.Read more ›
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
Mr. Sardonicus is filthy rich, but has paid a price for his wealth with a mysterious facial disfigurement. He resorts to obscuring his (presumably) hideous, ugly mug behind a creepy mask, and residing in a lofty castle in the middle of nowhere. Believing his disfigurement is somehow reversible, he tests the limits of human endurance by torturing everyone in his immediate vicinity in order to contrive a remedy for his tragic condition. His wife, who remains in the loveless marriage out of fear of her crazed husband, enlists the assistance of an old friend: a physician who has made some remarkable breakthroughs with patients suffering from paralysis. One comes to discover, over the course of a new battery of treatments, how Sardonicus acquired his horrible disfigurement - and why exactly he's become such a flamboyant misanthrope.
This film was another staging opportunity for director William Castle's penchant for gimmickry... this time around, Castle concocted THE PUNISHMENT POLL. Moviegoers were issued small glow-in-the-dark cards, featuring a fist with thumb outstretched. In the tradition of the Roman arenas, where the audience decided whether a vanquished gladiator should live or die, Castle supposedly let the attendees of the film decide the fate of Mr. Sardoncius. Should one pick MERCY (thumb up) or NO MERCY (thumb down) after witnessing the trials of this ruthless rogue? Allegedly, the movie theater manager would tabulate the votes (in the dark, no less - hence, the G-I-T-D cards) and screen the ending of the film the majority of the audience voted for.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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
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... Read morePublished on Aug. 22 2003 by Lawrance Bernabo
I am sorry, but this movie struck me as being incredibly boring! There are absolutely no surpises nor horrors in stock. Read morePublished on May 31 2003 by Mart Sander
Mr. Sardonicus is adapted from the short story which originally appeared in Playboy magazine, titled, simply, "Sardonicus. Read morePublished on Jan. 21 2003 by Schuyler V. Johnson
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 morePublished on Jan. 4 2003 by Minneserenity
This is an odd movie about a man who's face is frozen into a hideous grin after witnessing a traumatic shock. Read morePublished on Oct. 17 2002 by Mark Norvell
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 morePublished on Sept. 17 2002 by Dan Rexx
William Castle usually marketed his movies with gimmicks, and for MR. SARDONICUS the gimmick was "the punishment poll. Read morePublished on July 6 2002 by Gary F. Taylor
.... 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