Mr Sardonicus (1961)

December 29th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: William Castle | Cast: Oscar Homolka, Ronald Lewis, Audrey Dalton | US Horror 90’

William Castle usually located his films in a very contemporary America but this time he transferred his activities to a mythical nineteenth century European country called Gorslava.

The template this time was the Hammer horrors and Roger Corman’s adaptations of Poe, with a nod towards ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, “The Man Who Laughs’ and ‘Eyes Without a Face’.

It’s full of the usual staircases, torture chambers, dungeons and graveyards but despite a much larger budget Castle was still far too stingy for colour. For fans of old movies there’s the presence of Vladimir Sokoloff as Sardonicus’s father and Oscar Homolka as a wall-eyed retainer with a penchant for leeches.

Without divulging the famous trick ending, Castle probably also pinched that too, since it bears a suspicious resemblance to the finale of ‘Casanova’s Big Night’. @MeredithTaylor

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