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Mr. Sardonicus

Year of Release: 1961
Theatrical Release Date:

Director: William Castle
Writing Credits:
Ray Russell
Run Time:
89 min
Studio: Info coming soon

Cast: Oskar Homolka, Ronald Lewis, Audrey Dalton, Guy Rolfe, Vladimir Sokoloff, Erika Peters, Lorna Hanson

More Info: Visit Official Site

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

Reviewer Film Ratings:
Plot: 3 | Fun Factor: 1.5 | Gore: 1.5 | Nudity: 1 | Scare Factor: 2 | Overall: 4/5

Vastly Underrated Castle Film, Worth Watching and Loving
Reviewed by Gavin Schmitt

London physician Sir Robert Cargrave (Ronald Lewis) has come to visit Baron Sardonicus (Guy Rolfe) in Gorslava at the request of Maude (Audrey Dalton), the Baron's wife. Sir Robert becomes apprehensive when his inquiries about Sardonicus are met with fear. When Sir Robert arrives at Castle Sardonicus, his fears are quickly justified: one of his first sights is that of Sadonicus' servant Krull (Oskar Homolka) torturing one of the Baron's servants by placing leeches on her face. Sardonicus asks Cargrave to help cure him of a terrible condition... will he?

Ronald Lewis, a Welsh actor from many other films I've never seen, is a great leading man, and I'm sorry he was not employed more by Castle or other directors. He really pulls off the distinguished doctor character, and it doesn't hurt that he's got that British accent. The Irish Audrey Dalton is likewise very good. And the English Guy Rolfe I believe to be wonderful, but it is hard to tell when he is behind a mask for the bulk of his performance.

The film is excellent in its storytelling, and it is not unlike the tales of Poe. Torture, a fiendish creature, a doctor with a special cure... brilliance. And combined with Castle's fun approach, and his injection of himself for the "mercy poll"... a perfect mix. We have to give credit to Ray Russell, who first wrote this story and had it published in "Playboy".

You also have to give the film credit for its use of leeches and the term "ghoul". The leeches are just nasty and clearly real, making them particularly nasty. And the "ghoul"? The term is defined not once but twice as a creature that robs graves and feasts on corpses... how this plays into the story you'll just have to watch to see.

While the known Castle films are "13 Ghosts" and "The Tingler", among others, more attention should be paid to "Mr. Sardonicus". It is a wonderful film, beginning to end, and could compete with the Poe stories starring Vincent Price. The only thing missing is star power, and that's not needed here.

Reviewer Film Ratings:
Plot: 4 | Fun Factor: 2 | Gore: 4.5 | Nudity: 2 | Scare Factor: 4.5 | Overall: 4/5

My Albatross...
Reviewed by Katanasting

As much as we`ve bitched, moaned and complained about how horror movies `just ain`t what they used to be,` maybe we have to admit at some point that we`re looking in the wrong place and the wrong time. Granted, there`s a valid argument that it`s really kind of tough to top the events of 9/11 which nearly all of us saw unfold live on every single channel, and then rerun ad naseum for weeks, MONTHS afterwards. Kind of hard to shit bricks seeing Freddy, Jason or SCREAM`S Ghostface after that, hunh?

We`ve always needed horror, and we always will. We need something that jolts us, shocks us, lets us remember how wonderful it is to be alive and not have some slobbering slime demon pulling out your entrails one link at a time. Seriously, we need horror to take us away from all the real crap we have to deal with on the six and eleven o`clock news every frickin` day, if only for two hours or so.

But you know, my point (and I do have`s sharp, about a foot long with a serrated edge and) where was I? Oh, yeah! My point is that we all have "that movie"...Your first real taste of fright, the one you got to experience as a pre-teen, that pants-wetting scare that you will always remember better than you do your first hand job...and I don`t mean self-applied.

But you never do forget your first, and in a lot of cases, (though we`d sound like pussies if we admitted it aloud to anyone else) it was a film that made such an impression on us, that even now as fully-grown adults, we still need our wife/girlfriend/brother/sister/best bud in the room with us just for reassurance, before we can face watching it again. Some of us take the challenge, and some of us never will, with the memory of whatever fucking nightmare trapped in celluloid we saw, hanging around our necks like an invisible albatross.

Ladies and gentlemen, lepers and ghouls, I`d like you to meet My Personal Albatross.

His name is Mr. Sardonicus.

Even typing that gives me the willies. Unleashed from the mind of classic horror writer Ray Russell, I remember first meeting him in a collection of horror short stories (which I still own even to this day), and I had nightmares just from reading it alone. When I found out that schlock horror king William Castle had made a movie of it, I set my sights on conquering it, come hell or high water. After all, I was a Poe fan. I`d read some of the scariest stuff by Washington Irving, Bram Stoker, Robert Louis Stevenson. What would one dopey black-and-white B-movie do to me?

As it turns out, PLENTY.

Anybody who has even heard of it knows the story: Baron Sardonicus started out as a hard-working stiff just like anybody else. Somebody facing even more of a shitstorm when his father dies, leaving him to help the family fend for themselves. Until he finds out that dear old dad bought a lottery ticket whose number came in, and came in BIG. The problem? Daddy Dearest was buried with the fucker.

So what else to do but dig the old man up and get it? Right? Seems simple enough. But as your parents always taught you, "There`s no such thing as a free lunch", and this little buffet came with a price tag that I don`t think anyone would be willing to pay. Not for all the bundles of greenbacks that could fit into Paris Hilton`s cootchie (and you can just imagine how much THAT is.)

So off the young lad goes to "git `er done." He digs up the old man in the dead of night, his only illumination the light of a full, werewolf-flick worthy moon and...

I can`t even bring myself to finish. All I can say is this: in the years since my first meeting with Mr. S., I have seen just about all of William Castle`s filmography. Everything from his gimmick-rich stuff like THE TINGLER and 13 GHOSTS, to his more "serious" stuff like THE NIGHT WALKER and MACABRE. If the man could do one thing well, he knew how to set the pacing of a scare scene, so that the punchline gave you a full payoff like nothing else. And the `big reveal` in this baby was probably the first one to ever make me wet myself. Literally. Not even JAWS or ALIEN did that to me the first time I saw them. Of course, I also wasn`t eight years old.

The rest of the movie...the acting, the gothic mood, the nifty if now dated twist ending, was pretty much okay. But even today, that "reveal" scene still grabs my spine and my `nads and gives `em a shake like nothing else out there. TMI? Maybe, but hey, don`t laugh at me. There`s not one soul who considers themselves a die-hard horror fan who doesn`t have their own personal albatross, too. It`s like somebody who tells you that they never jerk off or pick their nose when they think nobody`s looking. Anyone who says they don`t is a lying bastard, and I wouldn`t trust `em to take my dog`s poop bag to the garbage can on the curb.

One of the biggest items on my Top Ten List of Things To Do for 2006, is to buy a copy of this movie, turn off all the lights, and watch it from start to finish...ALONE. It`s my horror movie equivalent of bungee-jumping. Once I can do this and survive it, I will feel like King FUCKING Kong, I just know it.

And there you have it, friends. Horror is finally getting back to its roots with full-strength remakes like HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and new originals like HOSTEL. No wimpy, watered-down PG-13 stuff, this. This is black coffee with a shot of Jack Black for good measure.

And yet, some of us may not find it enough to satisfy. So what`s the deal?

If horror movies are going back to their roots, try going back to yours. Get that one movie that you haven`t faced since you were...what? Ten? Eight? Five? Younger?

You might find that the fearful frightfest you remember is now just corny, campy and pure crap. Or you might just find your finger frozen on the `play` button of the remote, just too terrified to press it.

But until you give it a shot for old times` sake, you never will know...will ya?

You`ll have to excuse me now. There`s a movie I have to order...

REVIEWED BY: Katanasting (


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