A mysterious and cruel Baron, whose face has become frozen in a horrifying grin, demands that a prominent London physician apply experimental treatments on him to restore his face.


William Castle


Ray Russell (screenplay), Ray Russell (novel)
1 nomination. See more awards »





Cast overview:
Ronald Lewis ... Sir Robert Cargrave
Audrey Dalton ... Baroness Maude Sardonicus
Guy Rolfe ... Baron Sardonicus / Marek Toleslawski
Oskar Homolka ... Krull (as Oscar Homolka)
Vladimir Sokoloff ... Henryk Toleslawski
Erika Peters ... Elenka Toleslawski
Lorna Hanson Lorna Hanson ... Anna


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 M.E. Nelson

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The Only Picture With the Punishment Poll! See more »


Drama | Horror | Mystery


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Baroness Maude Sardonicus (Audrey Dalton) talks with Sir Robert Cargrave (Ronald Lewis) about the culture in her adopted home of Gorslava and mentions they get magazines and stories from London. She mentions reading the works of "Mr. Conan Doyle", obviously referring to Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Even though this movie is set in 1880, and the first Sherlock Holmes story (A Study in Scarlet) was not published until 1886, Doyle's first published piece, "The Mystery of Sasassa Valley", was printed in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal on September, 6 1879 and his first academic article, "Gelsemium as a Poison" appeared in the British Medical Journal On September 20 1879, so the movie's reference to Doyle as a writer published in journals by 1880 is accurate. See more »


A doctor would know better than to yank feeding leeches off of a person's skin. Attached leeches need to be removed carefully or there is a risk of infection (which 'pre-antibiotics' could be much more dangerous than the leeches themselves). See more »


Baron Sardonicus: My name was not always Sardonicus, and I did not always wear a mask.
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Alternate Versions

An alternate version was supplied for drive-ins. For this version, only the footage of 'William Castle (I)' was different. For the drive-in version, instead of the "Punishment Poll" cards, the audience was asked to flash their headlights to vote on the ending. The Columbia exchanges could replace the two William Castle segments to make an existing print suitable for drive-in bookings. As with the theater version, there was only one ending filmed. See more »


Referenced in Premature Burial (1962) See more »


Foggy, Foggy Dew
(English folk song)
Sung by Ronald Lewis
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User Reviews

Sardonicus - still remembered 40 years later!
28 March 2006 | by sue-payneSee all my reviews

My younger sister and I saw this film when we were children and it terrified us - we still mention Sardonicus all these years later when looking for a word to describe a shocked reaction. My sister has just sent me a jokey text message in response to an insult I sent her, saying that she's so shocked that her mouth is in a "fixed Sardonicus grimace of shock" - this made me laugh so much I decided to look up info on the film and here I am!

The film would seem tame to my own teenage son now, but it has obviously had a lasting affect on my sister and me and it would be great to see it again on TV.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

18 October 1961 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mr. Sardonicus See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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