The Black Sleep Film Details
Overview: Sir Joel Cadman, a mad scientist, kidnaps his victims and cuts open their brains in an effort to discover a means to cure his wife’s brain tumor.
Tagline: The Terror Drug That Wakes the Dead!
Review: Now THIS is a cast! The screen’s greatest horror stars: Basil Rathbone! Star of “Son of Frankenstein”, “Tower of London”, and ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’! Lon Chaney Jr! Star of “The Wolf Man”, “Man-Made Monster”, and “Spider Baby”! Bela Lugosi! Star of “Dracula”, “The Raven”, and “Murders in the Rue Morgue”! John Carradine! Star of ‘Bluebeard”, “House of Frankenstein” and “Face of Marble”! Tor Johnson! Star of “Bride of the Monster”, “Plan 9 from Outer Space’, “The Unearthly’! and Akim Tamiroff! Yeah, Akim! Star of such horror classics like…uh….uh…I dunno, maybe he snuck in through the back? Any fan coming in to “The Black Sleep’ eager to see his favorite horror stars cavorting in a ‘Bat pack’ of the horror genre will be sorely disappointed, as Basil Rathbone(more of a mystery star and villain in costume dramas than a horror specialist) and Akim Tamiroff(playing a role intended for Peter Lorre) get the juiciest roles, and the rest are relegated to cameos at best. This dilemma has made the “Black Sleep” more of a “Black Sheep” among horror fans, but there are worse things to lose sleep(hehe heh) over, and if you stop yer’ whinin’ for a minute, you’ll find this to be a perfectly satisfying, and quite literate, Gothic horror film which, as has been pointed out, spreads the seeds of what would be sewn in the oncoming Hammer films cycle the following year. Herbert Rudley plays Dr. Gordon Ramsay, a neurosurgeon(and TV chef) who is about to be hanged for the murder of a moneylender which he did not commit. He is saved by his former mentor, Sir Joel Cadman(Rathbone)who has discovered a drug which places people in a death-like coma which he acquired under mysterious circumstances(Friar Laurence needed the money you see, after that little Montague/Capulet scandal…). He arranges to have the body delivered to his wisecracking tattoo artist henchman Udo(Tamiroff); a lecherous gypsy who thinks he’s the reincarnation of dozens of things. Cadman offers Ramsay the chance to hide out in his seaside manor in return for his assistance in performing experimental brain operations. Having no real choice, but grateful to the doctor, our hero accepts.(Hmmm, hero is framed and sent to prison, becomes mad doctor’s assistant, what Hammer Frankenstein movie did I see this in? It may have had a MONSTER in it, FROM HELL possibly). Right from the beginning, it becomes apparent that Cadman’s medical practice is not what it seems, first, the butler named Cassimir(Lugosi) is mute, apparently as a result of Cadman’s experiment, second, a gigantic homicidal maniac named Mungo(Chaney Jr) is loose! Mungo, a mute tard dressed like a medieval highwayman, runs around trying to rape/strangle a servant girl named Laurie, but all it takes to calm him is a command from Cadman’s aged but attractive housekeeper, and then he’s gentle as a lamb. Ramsay recognizes Mungo as Dr. Munroe, a kindly professor from medical school. Cadman claims that he operated on Munroe to save him from paralysis, but accidentally destroyed his capacity to reason. This should be final proof that Cadman isn’t as benevolent as he seems, I don’t know about you, but if a formerly gentle college professor became a gigantic strangler because of a guy’s experiments, who also changed his name to that of a circus gorilla and gave him clothes a few centuries out of style, I’d be mighty suspicious! It doesn’t help that Laurie turns out to be Munroe’s daughter(!!!). The clincher comes when Ramsay witnesses Cadman’s callous experiment on a sailor’s exposed brain(An amazingly graphic scene for this film’s era), then there’s the implication that there have been past victims of the experiments, and more to come, as Cadman is ruthlessly devoted to his secret goal…. Rathbone gives what is probably his best horror performance. His character is ABSOLUTELY a prototype for Peter Cushing & Whit Bisssel’s portrayals of Baron Frankenstein, but with a considerable depth of character, as Cadman has a rather sympathetic goal(his wife is dying of a brain tumor). This also makes him a prototype for Vincent Price’s various Poe-villains. Rathbone masterfully portrays a good man who has become pure evil through his ruthlessness and obsession. Rudley is a refreshingly mature and unattractive leading man, and his romance with Laurie is very convincingly played. The girl playing Laurie generates a lot of sympathy too, as she battles the monster her father has become. Chaney is legitimately menacing as Mungo, but also pitiable. Akim Tamiroff’s wisecracking gypsy provides a great contrast to the dour Cadman: He may be more likable, but he’s just as evil. John Carradine is a laugh riot as a test subject who thinks he’s a medieval crusader(“KILL THE INFIDELS!!!”). I was expecting Ed Wood-level trash, but the superb acting and literate dialogue(overlooking the plot holes and requisite horror trappings)won me over. I really enjoyed this. Don’t miss it.~
Country: United States
Duration: 82 min
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi
Also known as: Somnul negru,A Torre dos Monstros,The Black Sleep,El sueño negro,Dr. Cadman’s Secret,Die Schreckenskammer des Dr. Thosti,Черное бездействие,Sueño Negro,Kâbuslar Şatosu,Il sonno nero del dottor Satana,Les monstres se révoltent,I katara tis Anatolis