William Castle does it again with his Barnum-style film fan fair. Here we’re offered a card with a juvenile drawing of a thumb. At the end of the film, we are to vote on whether Mr.Sardonicus ‘yeah, or nay’ thumbs up or thumbs down, if we think he must be punished for his ungodly crimes.
Castle supposedly shot two endings, so the gimmick this time was giving audiences the option of voting on which ending they wanted by holding up the silly glow-in-the-dark ballot. Most movie sources say that there was only one ending ever shot, but modern versions still contain the “polling” segment.
Putting aside all the wonderfully gimmicky shlock, Castle always delivers a memorable classic horror flick that stays with you in all the right ways. Mr Sardonicus is one such film, that has always remained very close to my heart. And I’m a huge fan of William Castle, as he was the master at creating a buzz and energy around the horror film genre but came up with some of the most original and compelling films in the 60s that have maintained its amour propre after all these years.
William Castle holding up the Punishment Poll- Thumbs up or down!
I only wish I had been one of those audience members who got a shock under my theater seat while watching The Tingler. The Gimmick used in The Tingler was called “Percepto!”, which featured vibrating devices in some of the theater chairs which activated in time with the onscreen action.
Mr. Sardonicus 1961 is a Gothic and grotesque tale of ego, madness, cruelty, greed and human suffering, and irony.
A macabre and compelling story surrounding a mysterious man who would stop at nothing to regain his ‘identity’.
Written for the screen by the great Ray Russell who also penned the novel, and directed by William Castle, the film stars Ronald Lewis as Sir Robert Cargrave the doctor who comes to try and release Sardonicus from his affliction. The lovely Audrey Dalton as Baroness Maude Sardonicus and Guy Rolph as Baron Sardonicus/ Marek Toleslawski. The film also stars Oscar Homolka as Krull, the Baron’s sadistic assistant, who plays with leeches and tortures the housemaids and the town’s young girls alike.
After being hounded by his insatiable wife, Marek Toleslawski searches for a winning lottery ticket that has wound up being buried in his dead father’s grave. Pushed to the ghoulish task of grave robbing Marek opens the casket and discovers the expression on the face of his father’s corpse in its own death throws a grimace, Marek’s face freezes in a horrific and grotesque mask that paralyzes his facial muscles.
Now Marek/ Baron Sardonicus forces a specialist, doctor Sir Robert Cargrave, a surgeon who has had great success with muscle relaxation techniques to treat his affliction–But nothing is easy, and there could be more horrifying results in store.
One of Sardonicus’ prisoners is his wife Maude ( the beautiful Audrey Dalton) whom he threatens to harm if Cargrave is not successful with the treatment. It seems that Maude and Robert had once been romantically involved.
See what happens when a cruel and desperate man tries to force nature and the people around him to do his bidding!
“YOU decide the fate of Mr. Sardonicus during the “Punishment Poll”! Vote “mercy” or “no mercy” right in your theatre” seat!