I Watched Mr. Sardonicus

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?

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35 Responses to “I Watched Mr. Sardonicus”

  1. 1 Daisy the Curly Cat

    Daisy’s “mom” here:
    AAAAAAHHHHHhhhhhh! I saw that show when I was a kid and it scared the H-E-Double Toothpicks out of me! And that picture brought all the horror right back. I hope I can sleep tonight.

    ps: You do not look nearly as scary as Mrs. Sardonicus. Maybe you have to be in black & white to look scary.

    Daisy the Curly Cat’s last blog post..Monday Funday: Find the Cats!

  2. 2 Barb - WillThink4Wine

    Ummm… see, if I had insomnia the very last thing that I would do would be to watch an akseery movie. Just saying.

    Barb – WillThink4Wine’s last blog post..congratulations, graduate!

  3. 3 Puglette

    i agree with daisy’s mom…you are not nearly as scary. you did get the extra teeth but you did not get the extra long nose and the pig-ish nostrils.

    as a child, my older brother used to make my niece and i watch monster movies and get us all worked up about how the monsters were real. then he would make us go outside to get the mail or the newspaper. we lived in a rural area with a long pathway to the road…creepy! we still have not forgiven him. hmph!


    Puglette’s last blog post..I Got It!!

  4. 4 Stephanie Barr

    I think the reason you don’t look as scary is your beautiful hair.

    But I don’t doubt someone could have a field day with the makeup if they did a rework.

    Stephanie Barr’s last blog post..Taking a Day Off

  5. 5 babs - beetle

    Ha ha ha ha! That’s one old horror movie I haven’t seen! There’s something about lots of big teeth ha ha! Yours is more of a happy smile ;)

    babs – beetle’s last blog post..A thank you, and a rant!

  6. 6 kathcom

    “Punishment Poll”–I love that idea, especially since Castle didn’t have to film two endings. If only I could’ve had that option with Andie MacDowell at the end of Four Weddings and a Funeral!

    kathcom’s last blog post..Your Hamptons Summer Rental

  7. 7 Pricilla

    heh heh winning lottery ticket

    heh heh frozen smile

    heh heh frigid wife.

    Now, just how did we know the wife was frigid? They didn’t talk about these things in 1961.

    Heh heh punishment poll. I should have one of these for what to do with Abby.

    Pricilla’s last blog post..Good News

  8. 8 Kathy

    All I gotta say is where do you find these movies? I guess it’s the sort of thing they air in the middle of the night. That guy’s face is freaky! I can’t stop staring at it.

    Kathy’s last blog post..One Split Second

  9. 9 absepa

    Aiieee! I don’t like looking at that face. It’s really weird–when I was younger, I watched all kinds of horror movies and they didn’t bother me at all. Now, though, I get freaked out just by seeing the previews for scary stuff. Especially all those movies with the creepy freaky kids…brrr.

    absepa’s last blog post..Oompa-Loompa-Doop-A-De-Do

  10. 10 Musingwoman

    Okay, I kept looking at that photo and thinking who does Mr. Sardonicus remind me of??

    Then it came to me: Jim Carrey in The Mask!

    Musingwoman’s last blog post..Your dad

  11. 11 Steve

    I think that movie would cure my insomnia.

    Steve’s last blog post..Jitterbug Cell Phones Pulled

  12. 12 Grace

    Not a great look for you – but your hair is great…

    Grace’s last blog post..Awww – Mondays

  13. 13 Lola

    I normally am up until the wee hours due to insomnia, however for some reason, last night I went to bed fairly early. I usually watch Letterman, then Ferguson, then Kimmel. After that it’s pretty much channel surfing.

    Hope your insomnia goes away. That has to suck when you know you have to get up for work the next morning.

    Lola’s last blog post..lolapalooza Saturday

  14. 14 JD

    Daisy the Curly Cat’s “Mom”: If I had seen this movie when I was a kid, I’d probably be a different person today, because GEEEEZ! I make fun of it, but it was actually pretty creepy. And, dang! Yeah, I should’ve done Mrs. Sardonicus in black and white.

    Barb – WillThink4Wine: I totally got sucked in. Before I knew it, I was cowering under the blanket with both cats hiding underneath it with me. I was tempted to wake up my husband, but . . . how do you explain something like that?

    Puglette: Yeah, I don’t get why Mr. Sardonicus got a pig nose in addition to a scary grin. I used to watch “Creature Features” as a child, and it was bad enough to just get up from the living room sofa and dart into my bedroom. I can’t imagine having to walk down a long path in the country. MONSTERS!

    Stephanie Barr: Why, thank you. Yes, I think it could be a really scary and awesome remake. Maybe they’d even use real leeches.

    kathcom: HAHAHAHA! So Andie McDowell gets a thumb’s down from you, eh? Yeah, she should’ve stayed married to the old Scottish guy and let Hugh Grant find someone cute and British.

    babs – beetle: Yeah, mine isn’t quite as horrifying as I’d hoped. I am sweating a bit, tho, so that is kind of scary.

    Pricilla: Well, we assumed she was frigid. Either that or for some weird reason she didn’t want “relations” with Mr. Sardonicus. I can think of LOTS of ways to use the Punishment Poll.

    Kathy: You don’t find Mr. Sardonicus. Mr. Sardonicus finds YOU! And always in the middle of the night . . . when it’s dark and foggy and the leeches are out.

    absepa: Creepy, freaky kids are the worst. I wonder why that is? I love scary stuff, but sometimes I do have to let out a good “Aiieee!” myself.

    Musingwoman: Yeah, you’re right! Hmmm. I hope they don’t cast Jim Carrey in the Mr. Sardonicus remake.

    Steve: Are you saying Mr. Sardonicus would put you to sleep? He just might . . . FOREVER!

    Grace: HA! Thanks. I think I’ll stick with my real choppers. They’re not quite as white, but at least they don’t take up half my face.

    Lola: It was just that one night, and luckily it was a Saturday. I’m sorry you’re bothered so much by insomnia. I’m such a baby—if I lose even an hour of my usual 10 hours it’s a huge trauma.

  15. 15 Jeff

    Hey… I recognized that picture instantly! I had some trading cards when I was a kid that had various horror movie pictures on them and that was one of them. Boy those cards bring back memories. Especially about that brittle pink bubble gum that came with them. I can taste it now!

    Jeff’s last blog post..Best tasting bands?

  16. 16 flit

    Thanks SO MUCH for watching that so that I don’t have to!

    flit’s last blog post..Sulking

  17. 17 dcr

    Wow. Didn’t take much to make women scream back then. No wonder plastic surgery became popular. “OMG! Your smile is slightly crooked. ARGHHHH!” “OMG! Your lips are so thin. ARGHHHH!” “OMG! You smile way too much! ARGHHH! ARGHHH! ARGHHHHHHHHHHH!”

    Please. No remakes. I think there’s been enough of those. Thanks.

    dcr’s last blog post..What Wood You Do?

  18. 18 cardiogirl

    I have to respectfully disagree with your assessment of Mr. Sardonicus’ smile. I truly caught my breath as I scrolled down to see his crazy nose and teeth.

    I’m positive he’s going to make a cameo appearance in my dreams tonight. But I have to say that’s a fun name — Mr. Sardonicus.

    Now onto the minutiae. When he dug up the grave did he have to open the coffin to get the lottery ticket?

    Or was his father just there, under the dirt?

    Where, exactly was the ticket? In the father’s hand or inside a suit coat pocket?

    And did he ever get the money from said ticket?

    Just curious. And I know you have the answers so I don’t have to watch the movie.

    cardiogirl’s last blog post..Meet my 300-pound monkey; I call him Archibald

  19. 19 Jenny @ Bingo

    If I saw a face like that I wouldn’t sleep, OMG ! It’s terrible!!

    Jenny @ Bingo’s last blog post..June All Slots Tourney Winners

  20. 20 Regan

    Oh, wow. That’s creepy. Maybe this movie is how all that ‘You better not make that face, it could get stuck that way!’ stuff started?

    Because I sure wouldn’t want to look like that guy.

    Regan’s last blog post..Girl Scout Cookies

  21. 21 Preston

    Sounds a little like the original batman movie where the joker left all the victims with a crazy smile on their faces. Remember that? By the way, you almost won my one year anniversary contest. It was close but I had to keep it honest. I know that doesn’t help–sorta like rubbing salt in the wound. :)

    Preston’s last blog post..Top Ten Strange and Stupid Products

  22. 22 JD

    Jeff:REALLY? Wow, I don’t remember horror movie trading cards. Those sound awesome. I wondered if anyone would have seen this movie or recognized Mr. S. That brittle pink bubblegum must’ve been the same that came in all trading card gum packages. Hard, flavorless . . . and strangely dusty.

    flit: You’re welcome! Seriously, it was quite entertaining.

    dcr: HA! So this is how it all started. Women screaming and fainting at the slightest physical imperfection. I think a remake could be awesome, as long as they kept everything EXACTLY the same but used scarier smile makeup.

    cardiogirl: I hope Mr. S. stays out of your dreams. You don’t want to wake up your entire household screaming. To answer your questions: Yes, he had to open the coffin. The suspense was unbearable. The ticket was in the father’s coat pocket. And yes, he did get the money. He went from being a humble but okay-looking peasant to being able to afford a giant scary castle. And plenty of masks.

    Jenny @ Bingo: I couldn’t sleep even after watching all of the movie, but that was because I was coming up with ideas for this stupid post!

    Regan: Yup. In the olden days, people dug up corpses and their faces froze. Nowadays, all you have to do is MAKE a weird face and, voila! Regan Sardonicus!

    Preston: Yeah, you’re right. I’d forgotten about the original Joker and his crazy-ass smiley victims. So I almost won, eh? Humph. I’ll have to amble over and see who did win and offer my fakest congratulations. It was a cool contest!

  23. 23 The Mother

    I do SO appreciate your taking this one on the chin for me. Now, when hubby is flipping through our 700 channels in which there is absolutely nothing on, and he turns on Mr. Sardonicus, I’ll know to go hide in the other room.

    Which is what I SHOULD have done instead of watching “Hypercube” yesterday. AAK!

    The Mother’s last blog post..The Curious Case of the Phone Call in the Afternoon

  24. 24 Will

    Does that say “Zombie Shelter”?

    I agree though, that if I had insomnia, the last thing I would do is get out of bed and watch an old horror movie.

    Will’s last blog post..Health Care Reform and Doctors

  25. 25 Jenn Thorson

    Ah, I’ve seen that photo before but had no idea where it was from. Mr. Sardonicus’ rather– not yours with the photoshopped grin. :)

    Jenn Thorson’s last blog post..Bitter: Twitter for the Disgruntled

  26. 26 Trade Show Guru

    hi JD,
    Thanks for watching the movie Mr. Sardonicus SO I DON’T HAVE TO. :)
    But what a smile you have! I love it! Who’s your dentist?
    ~ Steve, the I’d-rather-be-sleeping trade show guru

    Trade Show Guru’s last blog post..Belated Happy Fathers Day

  27. 27 Waltsense

    Wait a minute? Did I just see Frazier’s dad back in his 30s ?

    That movie look pretty good but I wished they showed some more film from it….to much voiceover from mister rater guy. It was indeed the original mask. I would watch it but that face might freak me out by the end. I would watch just to see if his face during times of sadness and crying.

    Good luck at Blogher!

    Waltsense’s last blog post..Boy Hit by Meteorite and Lives to Tell About It

  28. 28 Natural

    too funny, jd. i have to admit when you tell the story, it sounds interesting and i want to watch the movie, but i don’t do horror or anything scary. i’ll have to take your word for it.

    why did he assume his papa had the winning ticket. i know the dead don’t dress themselves, at least not for their own funeral unless they have premonitions….did he know he was going to die and thought by slipping the ticket in his pocket he concluded: i’ll be dead soon, but i will feel like a million bucks with this? even if he knew he was going to die, didn’t he know that someone would change his clothes at the viewing? you have to dress up for that!

    i need me some answers and your home phone number because i won’t be sleeping after looking at that photo.

    i don’t trust people who smile all the time. they are the craziest ones.

    i’m running on fumes, therefore i ramble.

  29. 29 JD

    The Mother: Hypercube? runs off to look it up on imdb . . . Cube 2: Hypercube? I think I may have seen that! I know I saw the first one, which was pretty gross. Please don’t miss out on Mr. Sardonicus if your husband comes across it. It’s got LEECHES!

    Will: Yes, I have a sign that says “Zombie Shelter.” THANK YOU for noticing it! I will watch a great horror film at any hour, as long as I know I can hide in my Zombie Shelter.

    Jenn Thorson: I hope that photo of me isn’t making the rounds. My hair is all flat on one side.

    Trade Show Guru: Hi! You know, I’m between dentists right now, so if you know of anyone who specializes in horror-movie-size choppers, please let me know.

    Waltsense: Thanks! And who are you thinking was Frazier’s dad? Not the deformed man-servant?! Definitely catch this movie the next time it’s on. They only show the face once, I think. But then there are the leeches, too.

    Natural: I love your ramblings, you know that. Being a peasant, he had only one set of clothes. I think. And I think also that he died suddenly. When Mr. S. is searching the house for the lottery ticket, you see him look at his dad’s closet and remember . . . the jacket that was hanging there. THAT’S where the ticket is! More than you needed to know? We can talk later, at 2 AM when you’re wide awake and thinking of scary smiling JD.

  30. 30 Japanese Dude

    I reckon he looks pretty scary, not bad for 1961.

  31. 31 JT

    OK, first off, the smile is freaky. Second, it’s hilarious. Third, I am so having a nightmare about that tonight.

    JT’s last blog post..A few random bits and pieces

  32. 32 JD

    Japanese Dude: Right, you have to consider the time. I’m very glad I didn’t watch this in the 60s, when I was a kid.

    JT: So how did you sleep last night? You’re right: it’s the perfect combo of funny and scary. Like, you wanna laugh, but not too loud.

  33. 33 Baron von Rochester

    I watched the clips and laughed myself into a stupor. The only thing funnier was the collectible doll, photographed from a variety of flattering angles as though it were a sexy supermodel.

    Baron von Rochester’s last blog post..Random Items in No Particular Order

  34. 34 Florida Girl In Sydney

    Seriously man, the face from the movie is some scary shit. I’m never going to sleep tonight– this is why I can’t watch scary movies. And I actually assumed this post was about David Sedaris– don’t know why i assumed that– but stupid me.

    Florida Girl In Sydney’s last blog post..Two Year Expativersary

  35. 35 JD

    Baron von Rochester: The clips are hilarious. And yeah, the doll. Like all those angles are going to make it more enticing.

    Florida Girl In Sydney: David Sedaris is the opposite of Mr. Sardonicus in that he’s so funny and harmless and meek. At least he seems that way. I hope you dream about him instead of Mr. Sardonicus.


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