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12:24pm on Sunday, 11th March, 2012:



When I was aged maybe 9 or 10, I was staying at my maternal grandparents one holiday and I saw a movie: Sardonicus. It's a gothic horror, the premise of which is that there's this guy (Sardonicus) whose father dies and is buried in a suit containing a winning lottery ticket in the pocket. Sardonicus digs up his father's body to get the lottery ticket but in so doing sees a decomposing corpse with the flesh on the face drawn back into a grotesque smile. His own face freezes into that same smile. Years later, he wears a mask the whole time and lives in a castle with his scared wife and a deformed servant. He's been carryng out experiments on people to try get rid of his smile, but to no avail. Finally, he uses his wife as bait to call in a specialist doctor, whom he forces to try get rid of the smile. The doctor falls for the wife and poisons Sardonicus in one last attempt at a cure. He and the wife then scarper.

OK, so as the movie plays out they keep telling you about Sardonicus's face and you keep seeing people recoil in horror when they witness it, but they put off actually showing you it. It's all building up to a big reveal. Finally, at the climax, they show you the face, and —

 — and I missed it. I covered my eyes, in case the smile was so bad it fixed my face like it that of Sardonicus. My brother saw it, but I didn't. When I decided that my brother's face hadn't been fixed, I opened my eyes but the image was no longer on the screen. I was expecting they'd show it again, but they didn't. The movie I had watched all the way through had just one shot of the bad guy's face, and I'd missed it because I'd covered my eyes. The annoying thing was, I didn't actually believe that it would fix my face, I'd just said that to make it more scary for my brother.

As a result, the only way I would ever see that face was if I saw the movie again, but it never came on again. I saw many, many classic gothic horror movies in my teens, because there used to be a Friday night double bill of horror on Yorkshire TV that I stayed up to watch, but they never once showed Sardonicus. Damn!

Since then, though, the Internet has been invented. This morning, I remembered my experience with Sardonicus and figured I'd look up the image to see what it was I'd missed. This is it.

Yeah. I can see why he'd want to wear a mask.

I can also report that my own face has not gone into that same grin, which is just as well as I have a dental appointment tomorrow.

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Copyright © 2012 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).