Wipe That Smile Off Your Face Tonight- Oops, Sorry- "Mr. Sardonicus"!

Posted on September 16, 2023

Tonight, we are happy to be bringing back a creepy Gothic tale- in a manner only the movie gimmick-master William Castle could do! This memorable film gave many a movie-goer nightmares, most of them provoked by the countenance of the title baron - the mysterious and shocking “Mr. Sardonicus”!

This 1961 horror story begins with the introduction of the noble Dr. Robert Cargrave, a medical practitioner using unique breakthrough treatments for paralysis (for that era) in 1800s London. Out of nowhere, he receives an unexpected -and troubling -letter from his long-lost love, who is now the Baroness Sardonicus, asking him to come immediately to her husband’s home in order to insure her well-being. The doctor is concerned by her sense of urgency and immediately heads to Gorslava, a central European country, to see what is plaguing Maude, his former beloved (for whom he obviously still has feelings).

Arriving in Gorslava, he is met by Sardonicus’ oddly-scarred manservant- and, when he arrives at the castle, he is shocked to find a this same disfigured man torturing one of the maids as part of a “therapeutic experiment”, supposedly prescribed by the mysterious Baron. Cargrave puts a stop to the so-called therapy, and then, is finally reunited with Maude, a fragile beauty who is in full fright mode. She begs him, for the good of them both, to follow through on whatever Sardonicus might ask him to do.

Finally, the baron himself appears- wearing a full-face mask, his actual countenance always hidden from sight. Even when dinner is served to his wife and their visitor, he does not remove the mask and partake of the meal, stating that he has already eaten. Later, Sardonicus finally gets around to explaining the mask to the doctor, and recounts his life story – with his beginnings as a poor farmer, living with his pretty wife and his father. Sadly, his father passes away- and is buried in his final resting place. Then, there is some shocking news-one of the locals reveals the fact that the old man had won a rich lottery prize-but it dawns on his son and daughter-in-law that the winning ticket was buried with the old man! The beautiful but demanding wife goads the poor fellow into committing an unspeakable act- digging up his father’s grave to retrieve the ticket, in order to make them wealthy. He heads out to the graveyard to carry out the awful deed- but, while succeeding in doing so makes him a rich man, it also makes him pay a hideous price!

Sardonicus then reveals to the doctor the results of his vile act-and the true reason he must cover his face. This is why Cargrave was summoned- to use his expertise and experimental treatments to restore the baron’s face to its normal form. Should he fail, the Baron threatens to bring unspeakable horrors to both Maude and her former lover- with results awful enough to rival what has happened to the heartless Sardonicus!

Be prepared- this movie does have some truly shocking scenes. It also features one of Castle’s gimmicks- the “Punishment Poll”, by which the audience would supposedly determine the film’s outcome. We will tell you all about that, as well as providing facts about Castle and our cast. We will serenade you with a song a little later than usual in the program, bring you a new lottery with unusual basic face value, and, in a special two-part feature, show you some memories of one of the earliest comics conventions that we visited.

Please note: as always, since we inevitably have some viewers who have not experienced the film, we ask that our blog commenters please refrain from posting pictures from the film, or information that would include spoilers until the show concludes – IN ALL TIME ZONES. Any extra information that we didn’t cover is always welcome- but only AFTER the show has aired everywhere.

“Mr. Sardonicus” brings his grim visage to MeTV tonight at 8 pm eastern/pacific, 7 central, or, if you’re not sure of the time and channel in your area, go to your local listings or visit www.metv.com. MeTV invites our viewers to live-Tweet (or X) each week during the show on Twitter ( or X), using the hashtag #svengoolie - and join the many fans who keep us trending among the most-talked about Twitter topics nationally each week! Chicago area viewers can watch a rematch of the epic battle- “War of the Gargantuas” at 11 am on CW26.

There are some exciting new merchandise items in our store ( all together now: “I have a store?”) here on our website-with more to come soon. Drop into the MeTV Mall for some very special things for yourself or the Sven fans in your life! And- get ready for October to transform into “Svengoolie’s Halloween BOO-nanza” again this year!

Tonight- we invite you to come face to face with the face of fear on MeTV!

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4043 Comments

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mjgoldencae 8 months ago
Rewatching this favorite of mine prompted me to search out and read the original novella upon which it is based.

The novella first appeared in serial form in Playboy magazine. Ray Russell was fiction editor for the magazine.

Russell also wrote the screenplay for Castle.

The story is leaner and tighter than the screenplay. Absent is the film’s addition of a sadistic manservant, who has been disfigured himself by his ghoulish master. No scenes of torturing the maid with leaches. Although Sardonicus’ abundant and frustrated carnality is clearly expressed by the character himself, there is no hint or suggestion that he has preyed upon the daughters of the village, as in the movie.

Indeed, where the film makes Sardonicius’s threat to disfigure his wife if Sir Robert fails to cure him, the story is even more effective in his threat of a “fate worse than death,” for her: subjecting her day and night to his forcible and constant exercise of his “conjugal privilege.”

Sardonicus is in the novella (and in the film’s title) simply MISTER. Sardonicus, not a count.

The story makes clear that while the wealth from the lottery winnings was its foundation, Sardonicus has grown it to vast wealth only through shady but effective enterprise.

Virtually the entire story is carried forward faithfully into the screenplay, right down to details like the skull like appearance of the castle. Then of course, there are the additions of purely Castle-esque embellishments.

Sir Robert’s sharing that he had recently attended the English premiere of Verdi’s Ernani at Covent Garden places the novella in or around 1845.

Sardonicus is never masked in the novella. It is suggested in commentary on the film that the legendary makeup was so painful and difficult to work in that actor Guy Rolfe could only abide it for short periods. One wonders if the mask, effective as it is in adding a Phantom of the Opera element to the film, was a dramatic choice or a purely practical one.
Cartoondave 8 months ago
Phone battery is low and closed to dead so I'll just say goodnight and I'll try to be here for cartoons in the morning, we are getting rain from Ophelia which I hope won't be causing power outages?
Cessna1960 8 months ago
Got to drop out for a bit...might try and pop back in afterwhile ..
Drang 8 months ago
I'm at work, so one less competitor for Mikeyyyyyyyyyyy.

All you East Coasters watch out for Ophelia!
Cessna1960 Drang 8 months ago
Don't work too hard Drang !
abc123 8 months ago
My midnight (9pm pacific) post is ready. Alarm set for 10 minutes to 9, so I can go downstairs and play Gauntlet Dark Legacy on my newly resurrected Gamecube. See you all soon.
Cessna1960 abc123 8 months ago
Now there's a man with a plan !
Cessna1960 abc123 8 months ago
Hannibal with The A-Team would be proud!
ihaveamigraine 8 months ago
Cessna1960 ihaveamigraine 8 months ago
I'll bet his Dentist has a field day with him !
Cessna1960 ihaveamigraine 8 months ago
Is your Avatar from "Last Voyage of the Demeter"?
ihaveamigraine Cessna1960 8 months ago
Yes. I finally was able to see it. I found it to be a very enjoyable vampire movie.
Cessna1960 ihaveamigraine 8 months ago
Cool !...hope to see it myself one day
Cessna1960 8 months ago
Cessna1960 Cessna1960 8 months ago
That's the latest on Ophelia
Cessna1960 Cessna1960 8 months ago
It is a strong Tropical Storm at 70mph winds..has to reach 74mph to be a Hurricane.
Cessna1960 8 months ago
Sad animal commercials all through Shaun Of The Dead !..
Cessna1960 8 months ago
Looks like Tropical Storm Ophelia is going ashore in North Carolina and then tracking up through Virginia and points north of that...I know a lot of our Easties live up in that region...
HoneyBee456 8 months ago
Good night friends 🌙
I don’t think I can stay awake much longer. May the best man or woman win first place. See y’all in the morning for toons
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Cessna1960 Bill_K 8 months ago
Hiya Bill_K !
LmerFudd HoneyBee456 8 months ago
Sleep well
Katink Cessna1960 8 months ago
Hey there, Cessna!
1MikeM HoneyBee456 8 months ago
Good night HoneyBee456
Cessna1960 8 months ago
Maybe there won't be any drama for tonites new blog roll out like last week...
HoneyBee456 Cessna1960 8 months ago
That was weird
Cessna1960 HoneyBee456 8 months ago
Yes it was...I have never tried for 1st blogger..
HoneyBee456 Cessna1960 8 months ago
I probably won’t ever win it
Mikeyyy HoneyBee456 8 months ago
It’s fun! I still get excited when I get first blogger….
Cessna1960 Mikeyyy 8 months ago
I am just not quick enough on the draw...the only internet I have right now is my phone...hopefully when finances get better I can get a laptop
FKrueger 8 months ago
I just saw there is a movie called Dracula's Widow. Sounds like an oxymoron. And I also see there is another Son of Dracula with Harry Nilsson and Ringo Star. Now that has got to be funny.
Cessna1960 FKrueger 8 months ago
Hahahaha !...Dracula Dead and Loving It was pretty funny with Leslie Nielsen...
LmerFudd FKrueger 8 months ago
Just watched DW. Lady Frankenstein next
Cessna1960 HoneyBee456 8 months ago
Lol !!....that's him !
FKrueger LmerFudd 8 months ago
That's no lady, that's my wife
HoneyBee456 8 months ago
I’ve been awake almost 24 hours. This is how I feel lol
Cessna1960 HoneyBee456 8 months ago
Bless your heart !!...like my Dr said , sleep when your body tells you too if possible...
HoneyBee456 Cessna1960 8 months ago
I think I’m about ready. I think it’s so cool that you live on a farm. My grandparents used to run a dairy farm in Kansas and I loved going there. It was a lot of fun. Wish I could go back in time
Aceman2 HoneyBee456 8 months ago
When I have trouble sleeping I turn on the golf channel and turn off the volume. Works every time (and I like golf.)
HoneyBee456 Aceman2 8 months ago
I bet it does
Cessna1960 HoneyBee456 8 months ago
Yes ma'am....I have 20 acres and I rent out the farm acreage to a local Farmer who plants hundreds of acres...
HoneyBee456 Cessna1960 8 months ago
That’s great
Cessna1960 8 months ago
Currently watching "Shaun of the Dead" with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost....they also did "Hot Fuzz" and " The World's End" , good Zombie movies...They also started in " Paul" about an alien who was crazy as heck !
Cessna1960 Cessna1960 8 months ago
Simon Pegg also played " Scottie" in the latest Star Trek movies..
Cessna1960 8 months ago
Hello Honeybee and LmerFudd!...
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HoneyBee456 Cessna1960 8 months ago
She was right. I think medicine is just controlled poison
Cessna1960 Mikeyyy 8 months ago
I know the feeling very well brother!
LmerFudd HoneyBee456 8 months ago
Same with NyQuil, if I get a cold, it's DayQuil only. Hate that groggy feeling the next day after NyQuil.
HoneyBee456 LmerFudd 8 months ago
I know. I hate that stumbling around lol
daleuhlmann 8 months ago
"I have known a ghoul" ... Baron Sardonicus (Guy Rolfe).

Unfortunately, most horror movie fans have not seen on the silver screen the kind of ghoul the Baron probably had in mind. For instance, none of these three movies featured a traditional ghoul as defined by William Castle: THE GHOUL (1933), THE MAD GHOUL (1943), and THE GHOUL (1975). The 1933 film starred Boris Karloff as an Egyptologist supposedly (there's the key word) returned from the dead, but he doesn't chew on not one corpse during the movie. The title menace in the 1975 film of the same name eats human flesh, but it's served to him, fresh, by others; he does not despoil a single grave. David Bruce's character, in Universal's THE MAD GHOUL, periodically becomes a ghoul due to the ancient Mayan gas administered by George Zucco's mad scientist, but is restored to normalcy when he is able to consume a human heart from fresh donors--again, not the standard folklore ghoul

Perhaps the closest thing to the traditional ghouls of folklore would be the creatures in the 1981 Amicis horror anthology film THE MONSTER CLUB, which starred Vincent Price and John Carrradine.

Cessna1960 daleuhlmann 8 months ago
Good stuff as always Daleuhlmann!
daleuhlmann Cessna1960 8 months ago
Thanks, Cessna!
daleuhlmann Cessna1960 8 months ago
That would have been in that final installment, starring Stuart Whitman.
Jack daleuhlmann 8 months ago
That's a fascinating topic, Dale, one I'd love to *ahem* dig into. But alas, my computer is on the fritz, so my research capabilities are greatly reduced, and my phone's screen is just too d@%# small!

_Pickman's Model_ has been adapted to screens of variable size a number of times. There was a _Night Gallery_ episode in the 1970s, and recently Guillermo del Toro did a version for a series on Netflix. I think there was a film version in 2012, but that's when my computer crashed. A Google search pulled up a lot of "ghoul films," but I expect most apply a fast and loose definition of _ghoul_.

Mebbe it's me, but I always felt Tolkien's orcs had ghoulish inclinations, sensu stricto. I haven't seen the Peter Jackson films, so I can't say whether that came through on screen.

A related topic is necrophilia. That is one of the themes of _The Black Cat_. I'd argue that it's also an aspect of Norman's relationship to Mother Bates in _Psycho_.

Somehow, I can't imagine nobody in film studies hasn't looked into ghouls (and necrophilia) in horror films. I'll look into that when I've got a reliable computer.
PatS Jack 8 months ago
When I looked up "ghoul", the definition had several variants. The common usage is "a person morbidly and obsessively interested in death, corpses and related subjects." I guess that applies to most of us at times! Stephen King wrote that horror stories are essentially "a rehearsal for death." Ghoulish, right?
daleuhlmann Jack 8 months ago
Definitely related topics, Jack!
HoneyBee456 8 months ago
I wonder who will be first to post this week.
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LmerFudd HoneyBee456 8 months ago
Cleo had plastic springs, which she loves swatting around and chasing. She flings them up in the air when she gets feisty. Always makes me smile.
HoneyBee456 LmerFudd 8 months ago
I love to watch cats play. They’re so cute
Mikeyyy Katink 8 months ago
You’re consistently in the top bunch!
Katink Mikeyyy 8 months ago
I do well enough to want to keep trying, Mikeyyy!
NoPersonalChicks 8 months ago
It's finally 5 o'clock on a Friday.
Check y'all tomorrow.
Mikeyyy NoPersonalChicks 8 months ago
You just be somewhere! heheheh
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