Mr. Sardonicus (1961)
Director: William Castle
Screenplay: Ray Russell
Stars: Oscar Homolka, Ronald Lewis, Audrey Dalton, Guy Rolfe and William Castle.
Tagline: YOU decide the fate of Mr. Sardonicus during the “Punishment Poll”! Vote “mercy” or “no mercy” right in your theatre seat!
The year is 1880. Sir Robert Cargrave (Lewis), a world famous physician gets a letter from Maude (Dalton), his former lover. She requests that he come meet with her husband in a matter of great importance. Because Cargrave still has feelings for Maude he goes.
Her husband is the rich and feared Baron Sardonicus (Rolfe). Upon arrival at Castle Sardonicus, Cargrave is greeted by Krull (Homolka), Sardonicus’ disfigured servant. When he meets Maude, she says that if Cargrave cannot cure her husband, Baron Sardonicus will take it out on her! Baron Sardonicus enters the room so she cannot say more. Cargrave is shocked to see that Sardonicus wears a mask.
We learn that Baron Sardonicus’ face is hideously disfigured. Sardonicus expects Dr. Cargrave to cure him. If he doesn’t then Maude will be “punished”. As Dr. Cargrave decides his next move, he learns that as deformed as Sardoniscus’ face is, his sadistic behaviors are even worse.
Thoughts (beware of spoilers)
William Castle, the King of Movie Gimmicks, came up with a winner. Before the start of the film, William Castle tells the audience that the cards they were given on entry will decide the ending of the film. Before the last scene, Castle will return to tell the audience to hold up cards with glow-in-the-dark thumbs. Sardoniscus will either be given “mercy” or not depending on how the majority of the audience votes. Thumbs up equals mercy. Thumbs down, no mercy. Truth be told, there was only one ending – no mercy.
Most William Castle films focus on horror and jump scares. Mr. Sardonicus places emphasis on suspense.
Mr. Sardonicus (1961) rates 3 of 5 stars.