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"A ghoul, as I'm sure you know, is a disgusting creature who opens graves and feeds on corpses."—Baron Sardonicus
Mr. Sardonicus is a horror film from the year 1961. It was directed by William Castle and stars Guy Rolfe as the eponymous Sardonicus. It was based on the short story Sardonicus by Ray Russell.
Set in the year 1880, the film follows Sir Robert Cargrave, a renowned surgeon who specialises in paralysis, who receives a letter from his past love Maude and is invited to the mansion of her husband, Baron Sardonicus, in the fictional country of Gorslava.
When he reaches his destination he finds the reason for him to be there; Baron Sardonicus face has been paralyzed into a horrifying rictus grin many years ago and he wants Richard's help. But his face is not the only thing twisted...
As with other William Castle films, the movie's main marketing gimmick was the audience's chance to decide the title character's fate by "penalty poll", the outcome of which supposedly affected the film's ending (even though only one was shot).
Baron Sardonicus grins upon:
- Animal Testing
- Antagonist Title
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Krull's specialty, which Sardonicus inflicts on women for his own amusement.
- The Dog Bites Back: Krull at the end of the film.
- Dramatic Thunder: On the opening credits.
- Driven to Suicide: Sardonicus' wife (when he was still Marek Toleslawski) took her life when she saw his face.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Krull follows Sardonicus' orders obediently, but has doubts when he is ordered to mutilate Maude's face.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Marek Toleslawski was a Nice Guy peasant before he was convinced to retrieve a lottery ticket from his father's grave. Afterward, not so much.
- Frozen Face: Sardonicus' Slasheriffic Nightmare Face, as well as the effect of the handsome mask he wears.
- Gilded Cage
- Grave Robbing
- Henpecked Husband: Sardonicus before the grave robbing incident.
- The Igor: Krull.
- Lean and Mean
- Lottery Ticket
- Meaningful Background Event: When Robert arrives at Sardonicus' estate, the windows of the mansion form a skull.
- Meaningful Name: Sardonicus was inspired to pick up his name after reading about Risus Sardonicus.
- Multiple Endings: The main marketing gimmick for this film. The film itself is a subversion in that only one ending was filmed; the "punishment poll" was entirely meaningless.
- Mummies At the Dinner Table: Sardonicus keeps his father's corpse in a locked room.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast
- Nightmare Sequence
- Ominous Fog
- The Reveal: Marek Toleslawski revealing his face to his wife Elenka.
- Scream Discretion Shot: Done when one of Sardonicus' lady-visitors sees his face.
- Screaming Woman
- Torture Cellar
- Torture Technician: Krull.
- Victorian London
- Wicked Cultured