The Black Sleep (1956)

Article #157 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 8-20-2001
Posting date: 1-3-2002

Dr. Joel Cadman frames Dr. Gordon Ramsay for murder, so that he can give him a drug that will cause him to survive his execution. He then uses the doctor as an ally in his brain surgery experiments, by which he hopes to learn a way to cure his wife’s tumor.

What a line-up for a horror film: Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr., John Carradine, and Tor Johnson, with Basil Rathbone and Akim Tamiroff (not really horror actors) thrown in for good measure! And what a waste of horror stars; the two good roles go to Rathbone and Tamiroff. Lugosi is consigned to the mute butler role; it most likely was his very last role if you don’t count the home movie footage used as part of PLAN 9. Lon Chaney, Jr. is a hulking brute (a role he ended up playing way too often in his later years), and Carradine plays a one-dimensional bearded madman. Only Tor is playing at his usual level (as a big, bald, hulking brute with blank eyes), but that hardly counts; despite his screen presence, he was never in the same league with the others. I wonder how Lugosi and Chaney, who had last worked together in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN where they relived their glory roles, felt about their careers at this point. The movie itself is somewhat reminiscent of THE UNEARTHLY (which had both Carradine and Johnson, both in much better roles; they even gave Tor some lines in that one), but, like that movie, the mutants steal the show at the end. Rathbone does a fine job, but I found Tamiroff’s performance a little over the top for my taste.


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