My name was not always Sardonicus,
and I did not always wear a mask.
Oh, boy. It isn’t often I have insomnia, and it’s even less often that there’s something good on TV when I do. The other night I caught Mr. Sardonicus on MeTV. A classic Gothic horror flick, Mr. Sardonicus features slow-building psychological terror and creepy scary stuff like graves and fog and vague Eastern European accents. Brrrr! Despite the lack of sleep, I’ve been smiling ever since.
In a nutshell: A humble peasant guy (soon to be known as Mr. Sardonicus) digs up his father’s grave to retrieve a winning lottery ticket. The sight of his father’s horrifying corpse-face (flesh pulled back to create a seeming grimace) causes him first to scream like a little girl and second to develop a similar frozen grimace . . .
The dude can’t stop smiling.
A fright-masked Mr. S. summons a doctor to his castle in Gorslava (nice!), where we find a deformed man-servant, a frigid wife, and possibly fake leeches. The doctor first tries applications of heat and massage to rid Mr. S. of his horrifying grin, but when that doesn’t work, he’s forced to try an experimental cure—strychninus toxicus (doesn’t sound too poisonous, does it?) It works . . . a little too well. The doctor and wife run off together, leaving Mr. Sardonicus to his fate.
And what is his fate? Ah, that’s up to the viewer . . . sort of. For the theatrical release, director William Castle passed out “Punishment Poll” cards to audience members. In the movie, he pops up before the final scene to remind everyone to hold up their card: thumbs up if the villain is to receive mercy or thumbs down for no mercy. Of course there was only one ending filmed, and you can rest assured Mr. Castle knew his audience.
So what’s so bad about a perma-smile?
Um . . . this?
Why so serious?
HAHAHAHAHAHA! OK, not that horrifying, right? But bear in mind, this movie was made in 1961. What if they remade Mr. Sardonicus, using modern special effects and CGI? Maybe the villain would be a woman. Yeah. Mrs. Sardonicus. A woman so vain, so obsessed with trying to be funny that . . .
- Watch the trailer here
- Watch some scenes, including the horrifying REVEAL (and leeches) here
- Buy your own Mr. Sardonicus doll . . . er, model . . . here
So? What’s your verdict? Thumbs up or down?