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Mr. Sardonicus

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Mr. Sardonicus (1961) starring Guy Rolfe, Ronald Lewis, Oskar Homolka, Audrey Dalton by William Castle
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Mr. Sardonicus (1961) starring Guy Rolfe, Ronald Lewis, Oskar Homolka, Audrey Dalton by William Castle

Synopsis of Mr. Sardonicus

In Mr. Sardonicus, Sir Robert Cargrave is an eminent surgeon who has developed a new technique for muscle relaxation. He is summoned by his one-time love, Maude, who is now married to Baron Sardonicus. Arriving, he finds villagers living in fear. The Baron is a strange man, not the least because he covers his face with a mask. Eventually, he tells Sir Robert the story of how he acquired his current affliction.  His face is frozen and hideously disfigured. Despite Sir Robert’s best efforts, he can’t return the face to normal. The Baron, however, forces him to keep trying. The Baron threatens to harm Maude if he refuses. …


  • Ronald Lewis (Helen of Troy) … Sir Robert Cargrave. Our protagonist. He’s a brilliant medical man, summoned by Sardonicus.
  • Audrey Dalton (Separate Tables) … Baroness Maude Sardonicus. Sir Robert’s love, who was forced to marry a wealthy nobleman in a different country. She lives with her cruel husband. But she longs for her old life in London.
  • Guy Rolfe (The Alphabet Murders) … Baron Sardonicus / Marek Toleslawski. A cruel man, who sees himself as a ghoul. He dug up his father’s coffin, to retrieve a winning lottery ticket. And he believes he’s cursed himself.
  • Oskar Homolka (The Invisible Woman) … Krull. Sardonicus’ servant. He’s forced to do bad things, at Sardonicus’ command. Until he learns something that causes him to take revenge on his master.
  • Vladimir Sokoloff (I Was a Teenage Werewolf) … Henryk Toleslawski. Sardonicus’ father — back when he was only a peasant. Who kept wasting his money on lottery tickets. Until …
  • Erika Peters (House of the Damned) … Elenka Toleslawski. Sardonicus’ first wife. She fought with him over money, which they didn’t have. Until she convinces him to dig up his father’s grave to retrieve the winning letter ticket …
  • Lorna HansonAnna. Sardonicus’ unfortunate servant. She makes the mistake of speaking to Sir Robert against orders. And Krull is forced to torture her with leeches.

Editorial review of Mr. Sardonicus courtesy of

Mr. Sardonicus (1961) starring Guy Rolfe, Ronald Lewis, Oskar Homolka, Audrey Dalton by William Castle

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

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