Film: Mr. Sardonicus

Baron Sardonicus, masked.

"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. Though rumor claims only one ending was actually shot, William Castle claims both were shot and the 'good' ending was just never chosen; given Castle's tenuous relationship with the truth, who knows.


Baron Sardonicus grins upon:

  • 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, aka rictus grin.
  • 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 (maybe - see above intro).
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: Sardonicus keeps his father's corpse in a locked room.
  • The Reveal: Marek Toleslawski revealing his face to his wife Elenka.