Desperate to retrieve a winning lottery ticket, a greedy baron unearths his father's corpse. An enormous jackpot is his reward, but not without a price: his face is frozen permanently into a hideous grin. He enlists his fiendish one-eyed servant to help him lift this horrible curse, but their schemes fail. Finally, he turns to a noted neurosurgeon - and his wife's former lover - to cure him.
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William Castle's tribute to the gothic horrors of the 1930s is a ghoulish spin on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by way of Eyes Without a Face. The mysterious Baron Sardonicus (Guy Rolfe) lives in a lonely Central European castle, hiding his face behind a mask and his sadism behind aristocratic manners. Neither remains hidden for long as he pressures a London doctor (Ronald Lewis) into working miracles on his hideously disfigured face. Oskar Homolka steals the film as the Baron's loyal, long-suffering servant Krull, who wields surgical knives and slimy leeches in his reign of torture. Castle, less a stylist than a showman, has little feeling for mood but knows how to stage a shock and spring a gimmick, and this film features a doozy: the audience-participation "Punishment Poll," hosted by Castle himself in a clever (if improbable) break before the film's satisfyingly devious finale. --Sean Axmaker
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