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The Black Sleep

Released Jun 7, 1956 1h 22m Horror List
Reviews 35% Audience Score 100+ Ratings
Victorian Sir Joel (Basil Rathbone) prepares for his wife's brain surgery by practicing on locals supplied by a Gypsy (Akim Tamiroff). Read More Read Less
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The Black Sleep

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Critics Reviews

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Matt Brunson Film Frenzy The Black Sleep isn’t nearly as bad as its reputation, but a higher budget and a more accomplished director might have yielded a more respectable horror yarn. Rated: 2.5/4 Oct 14, 2023 Full Review Dennis Schwartz Dennis Schwartz Movie Reviews A mediocre film that has earned a rep for wasting an all-star caliber cast of some of the greatest horror actors. Rated: C+ Sep 26, 2007 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

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Audience Member Reginald Le Borg was a banker in Austria and a director in America, making low budget horror at Universal like The Mummy's Ghost and Weird Woman. Released along with The Creeping Unknown, it was ahead of the Shock Theater package that would ignite a new interest in Universal's horror movies. It's also Bela Lugosi's last movie, although footage of him appears in  Plan 9 from Outer Space. Dr. Gordon Ramsay (Herbert Rudley) claims that he is innocent yet remains in jail, guilty of murder, when surgeon Sir Joel Cadman (Basil Rathbone) offers him a chance at redemption. All he has to do is assist him with some experiments, starting with taking a potion called The Black Sleep, which will put him into a deathlike slumber. After the "dead" body of Ramsay is discovered in his cell, Cadman takes the body for burial and revives Ramsay back in his lab. There, he's attempting to learn the mysteries of the brain so that he can bring his wife Angelina (Louanna Gardner) back to life. One of his servants, Mungo (Lon Chaney Jr.) was once Doctor Monroe, one of Ramsay's former teachers. Now he's a monstrous beast barely under control. And then there's the mute -- and frightening -- Casimir (Bela Lugosi). So why do Laurie (Patricia Blake), Odo (Akim Tamiroff, who replaced Peter Lorre, who wanted more than this production could pay for) and Daphnae (Phyllis Stanley) work for him? It turns out that Laurie is Mungo's daughter and wants her father to be normal again. That said, there's an entire basement filled with experiments that haven't worked, broken human beings -- like Tor Johnson -- led by a maniacal preacher named Borg (John Carradine). They're so close to breaking through the doors to the lab... The Black Sleep has a great cast but doesn't do much with them. But it's a fast movie and if you don't think too much -- or want to hear Bela speak -- you may enjoy it. Rated 1.5 out of 5 stars 02/06/23 Full Review Audience Member A smoldering classic, with many of the biggest horror stars of the period. Some say that Chaney and Lugosi were wasted but even their parts were not badly played by them. The story is a bit light for the subject matter, but the actors make it shine. Nice to watch on a cold or stormy night. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/14/23 Full Review Audience Member Rathbone and Tamiroff creepy and Chaney gets some time and Lugosi doesn't get near enough. I really enjoy this movie when it is on. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/12/23 Full Review Audience Member Gets a pass for an interesting story. Lugosi and Chaney are present but not accounted for as they don't even speak! Herbert Rudley is quite good as the hapless prisoner that the main actor in the movie but doesn't get billing. Rathbone is a bore, and well the climax is unintentionally hilarious. Up until the last 15 minutes it very good though. Be warned this is not Lugosi's or Chaney\s or Carradine's best by far. A very good bad B Movie. I've seen worse big production movies recently that are far worse than this one. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 01/25/23 Full Review Audience Member If only it had Karloff and Price it would have collected nearly all the significant horror actors of that generation. Mostly carried by Basil Rathbone of long-running Sherlock Holmes fame who in this film gets to play the bad guy instead when Scotland Yard comes calling. The rest of the cast was mostly reduced to cliched versions of the Frankenstein monster again and again. Basically about a doc that experiments on other people's brains while alive in some desperate hope to restore his wife from her brain tumor. Rated 2 out of 5 stars 01/14/23 Full Review Audience Member Of its type not bad helped by a cast full of stalwarts of the genre. Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars 02/27/23 Full Review Read all reviews
The Black Sleep

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Cast & Crew

Movie Info

Synopsis Victorian Sir Joel (Basil Rathbone) prepares for his wife's brain surgery by practicing on locals supplied by a Gypsy (Akim Tamiroff).
Reginald LeBorg
Howard W. Koch
United Artists
Production Co
Bel-Air Productions Inc.
Original Language
Release Date (Theaters)
Jun 7, 1956, Limited
Release Date (Streaming)
Sep 1, 2016
1h 22m
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