A search for a winning lottery ticket in his dead father's grave causes Sardonicus' face to freeze in a horrible grimace, until he forces a doctor to treat his affliction--with even more ... See full summary »
Dr. Warren Chapin is a pathologist who regularly conducts autopsies on executed prisoners at the State prison. He has a theory that fear is the result of a creature that inhabits all of us.... See full summary »
A 12-year-old orphan who has just inherited a fortune is trapped on an island with his uncle, a former British intelligence commander who intends to kill him. A young girl is the boy's only... See full summary »
A search for a winning lottery ticket in his dead father's grave causes Sardonicus' face to freeze in a horrible grimace, until he forces a doctor to treat his affliction--with even more grotesque results! The audience gets an opportunity to vote--via the "Punishment Poll"--for the penalty Sardonicus must pay for his deeds... Written by
William Castle had cemented his reputation as a director of fun, gimmicky horror films by 1961, but for this one he's (almost!) dropped the fun feel and replaced it with a more serious tone; and in doing so has gone and created his best film! The film opens with an introduction from the director (I said he'd ALMOST dropped the fun feel), and from there we move onto a macabre tale of greed, curses, grave robbing and disfigurement. Based on a novella by Ray Russell, the film takes obvious influence from George Franju's masterpiece 'Eyes without a Face' in that it follows the horrifying idea of someone having their face scarred beyond belief. The tale puts greed at its centre, and it is that deadly sin which is to blame for the title character's affliction. We follow a prominent English doctor who is called to Europe on the request of his ex-lover. While there, he meets the cruel and sinister Baron Sardonicus; a man who is forced to wear a mask as his face is too hideous to look at. It's not long thereafter that we learn the reason for this facial deformity, as the man retells the tale of how he robbed his father's grave for a winning lottery ticket.
William Castle may not be the greatest director of all time, but here he creates just the right tone for the story to flourish in. The Gothic locations, sinister score and foreboding mood combine to ensure that the story is both gripping and as hideous as its central protagonist. This is helped along by the fact that the central characters are well fleshed out, and all of their motives make sense. Mr Sardonicus himself verges on comic book villainy at times, and as the plot is fairly ludicrous, this isn't always the easiest film to swallow. However, Castle ensures that the action always makes sense, and it has to be said that the tale has been given as good handling as it could afford. Castle's love for showboating shows through towards the end, however, when he tries one of his 'interactive cinema' tricks regarding the fate of Mr Sardonicus. It is these sort of things that make William Castle films what they are, and it fits films like The Tingler; but here Castle's segment feels out of place, given that the tone of the movie is largely serious. However, it's not enough to spoil what is a great Gothic horror story and overall I highly recommend this film to horror fanatics!
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