“Mr. Sardonicus” (1961) was directed by legendary veteran thriller-horror film director William Castle, known for “Macabre” (1958), “House on Haunted Hill” (1959, w/ Vincent Price), “The Tingler” (1959, w/ Price), “13 Ghosts” (1960, w/ Charles Herbert) and “Homicidal” (1961, with Glenn Corbett).
Years before he worked on his trademark macabre gimmick thrillers, Castle directed several features in Columbia’s “The Whistler” mystery film franchise series with Richard Dix in the title role (in 1944, 1945 and 1946).
He also directed several of the studio’s “Crime Doctor” mystery film series with Warner Baxter in the title role (in 1943, 1945, 1946 and 1947). Castle also served as an associate producer on Orson Welles’ Columbia film noir/crime drama with Rita Hayworth; “The Lady from Shanghai” (1947).
This will mark Sven’s second coast-to-coast big broadcast of William Castle’s 1961 Columbia macabre thriller classic on Me-TV. He previously aired “Mr. Sardonicus” (1961) back in April 2018.
Who was in William Castle’s “Mr. Sardonicus” (1961)?
The players who appeared in “Mr. Sardonicus” (1961) were Oscar Homolka (as Krull; Homolka previously appeared in the role of Blackie in third Universal “Invisible Man” production, “The Invisible Woman” in 1940), Guy Rolfe (in the dual roles of Baron Sardonicus and Marek Toleslawski), Audrey Dalton (as Baroness Maude Sardonicus; Dalton previously appeared in Jean Negulesco’s “Titanic” in 1953), Lorna Hanson (as Anna), Ronald Lewis (as Sir Robert Cargrave), Vladimir Sokoloff (as Henryk Toleslawski) and Erika Peters (as Elenka Toleslawski).
Based off of a short story
According to the American Film Institute’s database entry on Castle’s 1961 Columbia thriller, “Mr. Sardonicus” was adapted from Ray Russell’s short story of the same name. Russell also worked on Castle’s feature film adaptation adaptation as a screenwriter.
According to IMDB, the cinematography for William Castle’s “Mr. Sardonicus” (1961) was done by veteran Hollywood cinematographer Burnett Guffey. In addition to “Mr. Sardonicus,” Guffey worked as a cinematogpher on “All the King’s Men” (1949), “From Here to Eternity” (1953, Guffey won an Academy Award in 1954 for Black and White cinematography on the feature) and “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967).
The “Sardonicus” grin
According to Lisa Mateas’ article on William Castle’s “Mr. Sardonicus” (1961) for Turner Classic Movies,the “Sardonicus” grin design was uncomfortable for Guy Rolfe. Rolfe spent multiple hours in the make-up chair for Columbia make-up artists to perfect the “grin” for his character. The make-up design for Rolfe’s “Mr. Sardonicus” grin was created by veteran studio make-up artist Ben Lane, who worked on numerous Columbia/Screen Gems productions for the majority of his career.
Castle’s gimmick for “Mr. Sardonicus” (1961) The “Punishment Poll”
Castle’s 1961 Columbia cinematic thriller contained “punishment poll” card gimmick, where theatrical attendees of “Mr. Sardonicus” would use ballots to determine the fate of the title character; according to the American Film Institute. According to additional research from a 1961 Columbia Pictures press kit for the “punishment poll” cards in “Mr. Sardonicus,” the ballot cards were “glow-in-the-dark” style cards (activated by a “punishment poll activator” in theater lobbies).
Theatergoers who attended the original 1961 release of “Mr. Sardonicus” could vote on the villain’s fate through a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” vote; in addition to introductory and concluding on-screen filmed cameo appearances by Castle.
Be sure to watch or record Svengoolie and the return of “Mr. Sardonicus” (1961), this Sat. on Me-TV!
With an ensemble cast featuring Homolka, Rolfe, Dalton, Hanson, Lewis, Sokoloff, Peters and cameo on-screen appearances by Castle; you will not want to miss out on Svengoolie’s upcoming big broadcast showcase of the return of “Mr. Sardonicus” (1961), this Sat. on Me-TV! With Sven’s extended fun facts, Doug Graves’ musical intermission and Kerwyn’s “mail call” segment; this will be a perfect post-Thanksgivng treat for all fellow SvenPals and aficionados of William Castle’s classic macabre gimmick thrillers! Highly recommended!
And happy early Thanksgiving to all fellow SvenPals from coast-to-coast from the author of “Silver Screen Reflections!” –C.H.
Sat., Nov. 24 at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central on Me-TV
In the Frederick, Maryland/Washington, D.C. area: WTTG-5.3/Cable 196/FiOS 489/Antietam Cable 194 (also on QAM digital 68.6 for Antietam cable subscribers)
In the Baltimore, Maryland area: WBAL-TV 11.2/Cable 208/FiOS 460
In the Hanover/Gettysburg/York, Pennsylvania area: WGAL-TV 8.2/Cable 248/FiOS 460
Live-tweet with all fellow SvenPals from coast-to-coast during #Svengoolie (via Twitter) and his big Me-TV broadcast of William Castle’s “Mr. Sardonicus” (1961)!
“Silver Screen Reflections” flashback post on Svengoolie’s Aprill 2018 big Me-TV broadcast premiere of William Castle’s “Mr. Sardonicus” (1961, including additional information on the “punishment poll” gimmick and the William Castle fan club)!
Official Sven/Me-TV Online Store Holiday Sale Promo (now until Nov. 26):
If you watched Svengoolie’s big Nov. 17 Me-TV broadcast premiere of “The Gorgon” (1964), you may have noticed an ad for the official online Sven/Me-TV Holiday sale, occurring now until Mon., Nov. 26! All official Sven and Me-TV items in the Sven/Me-TV store are 15% off the original price), by entering the coupon code “MeTVHOLIDAY” at checkout! Get yourself an official Sven long-sleeve shirt (“so much sleeve!”), an official Sven T-shirt, Sven magnets, any of the Sven button sets (including the Alex Ross/Scott Shaw limited edition Sven/Kerwyn art buttons), the Sven “It Came From Berwyn” poster or any item from the official Me-TV store! Any of the aforementioned items makes a great gift for any fan of Sven! A perfect gift (in order of the calendar of holiday observances) Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or any other holiday/special occasion and/or birthday! Be sure to enter the coupon code “MeTVHOLIDAY” before checkout (offer good until Mon., Nov. 26)! And to quote the famous phrase from Sven, “no personal checks!”
Be sure to give generously to help out one our fellow super SvenPals’ friends: Be sure to help out one of the friends of fellow super SvenPal Jamie Lee from the PM&L players group by donating generously to her friend’s GoFundMe fund to help offset the astronomical costs of additional medical treatments. Any amount helps! Be sure to spread the word/give generously to help one of Jamie’s friends! –C.H.
In relation to “Mr. Sardonicus” (1961):
“Mr. Sardonicus” (1961) is also available on Blu-Ray as part of the “William Castle Double Feature” Columbia thriller set with “Homicidal” (1961) from Mill Creek Entertainment (by arrangement with Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Entertainment/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment).