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‘I’m a man of all works, sir. When my Master says, “Krull, do this thing,” I do the thing, whatever it may be.’ And then there are the things Krull does that his master doesn’t tell him to do. Join this episode’s Grue-Crew – Whitney Collazo, Daphne Monary-Ernsdorff, and Jeff Mohr – as they experience the Punishment Poll (or is it “Pole?”) in William Castle’s Mr. Sardonicus (1961).
Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 128 – Mr. Sardonicus (1961)
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Synopsis: A search for a winning lottery ticket in his dead father’s grave causes Sardonicus’ face to freeze in a horrible grimace until he forces a doctor to treat his affliction–with even more grotesque results!
- Director: William Castle
- Writer: Ray Russell (screenplay, from his novella, “Sardonicus,” Playboy, Jan ’61)
- Music by: Von Dexter
- Cinematography by: Burnett Guffey (director of photography)
- Makeup Department: Ben Lane (makeup supervisor)
- Selected Cast:
- Audrey Dalton as Maude Sardonicus
- Guy Rolfe as Baron Sardonicus
- Oskar Homolka as Krull (credited as “Oscar Homolka”)
- Ronald Lewis as Sir Robert Cargrave
- Vladimir Sokoloff as Henryk Toleslawski
- Erika Peters as Elenka
- Lorna Hanson as Anna
Mr. Sardonicus, an underrated William Castle film, is Chad’s pick; he had not seen the movie all the way through until now. He doesn’t appreciate Castle interrupting the buildup to the climax by delivering his Punishment Poll gimmick, but Chad still thinks this is one of the Castle’s best movies. For him, Mr. Sardonicus has a different feel from Castle’s earlier films and he loves the makeup.
Daphne agrees with Chad regarding the break right before the climax and she also observes that Mr. Sardonicus deals with some sensitive subjects, making it more mature than much of Castle’s work. She loves the mask Sardonicus wears and finds his character to be really evil – a proper bad guy. The story is a bit confusing to Whitney even though she finds the movie to be well-paced. The use of light and shadow also draws her attention in several scenes. Jeff is impressed with Ray Russell’s screenplay, the cast, the cinematography, and both the mask and the makeup.
Check out these other Decades of Horror podcasts on William Castle’s work:
- THE TINGLER (1959) – Episode 5 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
- HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959) – Episode 17 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
- 13 GHOSTS (1960) – Episode 111 – Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
- BUG (1975) — Episode 46 — Decades of Horror 1970s (Produced by)
Also, if you’re so inclined, check out Grue-Believer Scot’s “erratically published” blog, Saturday Mad Theater.
If you’ve never viewed Mr. Sardonicus, or haven’t seen it for a while, the Classic Era Grue-Crew recommends you remedy that situation. At the time of this writing, Mr. Sardonicus is available to stream from the Classic Horror Movie Channel. As physical media, the film is available as a bare-bones Blu-ray in William Castle Double Feature – Homicidal & Mr. Sardonicus from Sony Pictures Home.
Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era records a new episode every two weeks. Up next in their very flexible schedule is one chosen by Jeff: The Crawling Eye (1958, original title: The Trollenberg Terror).
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