It’s time to look at an old horror film about torture and violence. If this doesn’t already sound like a one way ticket to Amityville then brace yourself because we’re in for a very slippery film that just keeps on falling down the tunnel. It’s often hard to say when a film like this one first ends up falling as it couldn’t even start on a high note. What I will say is that the film certainly is impressive in how poorly written it was for the 60s. That era usually had quite solid writing.
The film starts with Robert getting a mysterious letter from an old friend. He was close to Maude for a time but then she ended up marrying a rich baron so Robert traveled overseas to get rich by being a doctor. Well, she wants him to come to her manor to chat about old times and if he doesn’t come then she will surely die. Robert hurries over and is so excited to see her again that he ignores the torture and murder happening within the building. Still, there won’t be anyone left to save him if he dawdles too long. Sardonicus will release him and Maude if Robert cures his face. If he does not, then he shall die. Can Robert do this?
Robert isn’t a very heroic character. He is proud of his Knightly ways and cannot bring himself to harm even a villain. That’s why even though a lot of terrible things are happening in the castle he cannot make a move. To do so would be impolite and as a gentleman he must be courteous at all times. Even when he gives his word to protect one of the servants from any future violence he leaves her alone with the villains multiple times as he heads off to enjoy a meal. It’s hard to root for Robert at all since he isn’t even smart. After reading the letter and everything mentioned above, he is swayed by the sob story of Sardonicus. Maude even tells him upfront after this that her life is at stake and Robert jokes that as a wife of course she is worried for Sardonicus. You’d have to have gotten hit in the head really hard right before saying that to really believe such a thing. Robert is just as dense as a brick. Lets also not forget that he won’t even use any of the risky treatments on Sardonicus because he worries for the villain’s safety. Even though such a decision would result in Maude’s death. This is our main character?
Naturally Sardonicus isn’t a good villain either. His sob story amounts to him trying to rob a grave and getting his face defiled for his efforts. Karma occurred very quickly and now he will take it out on everyone else. I can’t say that I feel bad for him and it just reminds you even more that he is a rather petty villain. His excuse for all of the inhumane experiments is to find a cure, but half of them had no actual correlation to his affliction and he later admits that he just does it as punishment. The guy can’t even decide on why he does what he does.
Then we have Maude who definitely isn’t the smartest of characters. Lets just think about this again. Sardonicus is all alone in the castle except for his one attendant Krull. Krull is often sent on faraway missions like heading to the city to recruit Robert. At that point Maude could have easily escaped. Sardonicus is often locked away in his room as well. Now perhaps her father is still a hostage but then that character would have to be so inept that I can’t even comprehend it. Furthermore the film doesn’t even try to make sense with this. Before I get into it I should mention that the same thing applies to Krull. The film tells us a few times that he is a very strong man who obeys Sardonicus absolutely. But why though? He is strong enough to destroy his master and live a very comfortable life. Especially since nobody actually sees Sardonicus anyway so he could just keep on using his money. Instead he let Sardonicus punish him a few times without actually trying to fight back.
All right, time for the real plot hole here. So, Sardonicus is feared by everyone on the island. It’s to the point where the men of the island allow their daughters to be sacrificed to him every year. Why not move away? Why not storm the building? Again, this could make sense if Sardonicus had a lot of people under his influence like in most similar films of this genre. Here he is just a single man with a single attendant. It would be a simple matter for a mob to enter and liberate anyone still alive. At the very least they could easily destroy him. Instead for whatever reason the police refuse to do anything and people don’t even move away. At most this could make sense if Sardonicus had some kind of political clout, but the sob story showed that he was just an ordinary guy who happened to win the lottery and got rich. That doesn’t give him any kind of diplomatic immunity. The film just couldn’t even think its own plot all the way through.
Overall, This was a pretty terrible film. It’s just gritty to be gritty and none of the characters can think for themselves. They just go along with whatever Sardonicus has planned and never stop to question why they are doing this. The plot’s flimsy and the characters aren’t good. The film feels like it lasts for an eternity before it’s over and the whole time you will just be wondering how this got past pre production. The narrator who appears at the beginning and end of the film is also a chore to get through. His jokes don’t land at all and he takes forever to get to the point. I would highly recommend staying away from this film.