Skip to content
Home » The Black Sleep [Basil Rathbone]

The Black Sleep [Basil Rathbone]

  • by
Spread the love

The Black Sleep (1956), starring Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr., John Carradine, Akim Tamiroff, Tor Johnson

The Black Sleep – Many  of Hollywood’s top horror stars appears in this story  of a mad doctor. He’s performing brain surgery on unwilling victims attempting to save the life of his wife. The story begins in a dark cell of Newgate Prison in London of 1872. Sir Joel Cadman (Basil Rathbone) is an eminent surgeon who is visiting Dr. Gordon Ramsey (Herbert Rudley). He’s a former student who has been condemned to death by hanging for murder. A murder that he believes himself to be innocent of having committed.

Preparing for brain surgery in The Black Sleep

The execution is set for the following morning. But Dr. Cadman puts a potion called the black sleep into a cup. He instructs Ramsey to take the drug early the next morning. The drug puts  Ramsey into suspended animation. It reduces his body temperature, pulse and respiration so that he appears dead, even to a trained physician.  Ramsey is declared legally dead. With the help of a conniving gypsy named Odo (Akim Tamiroff), Ramseys corpse is delivered to Dr. Cadman’s offices where he is revived. In appreciation of this gift of life, Ramsey agrees to assist Cadman in a series of experimental brain surgeries. Where Cadman uses the black sleep as sedative for his operations.

Off to the laboratory

They travel to a remote Gothic castle where Cadman introduces his new associate to a variety of characters. These include  a deranged and dangerous cretin named Mungo (acted well  by Lon Chaney Jr.). Also, a frail mute servant (played by a weakened and elderly Bela Lugosi,  only  a few months before his death). Another resident (played by John Carradine at his best) is a raving lunatic who thinks he is fighting the Crusades. These poor unfortunates have been the victims of Cadman’s experimental brain surgery; Cadman’s wife has slipped into a coma, due to a brain tumor.  So he’s been experimenting on these people and many more to expand his knowledge of the brain. All to try to rescue his wife’s life.  But what will happen when these damaged people escape from Cadman’s castle?

Editorial review of  The Black Sleep courtesy of

The masters of classic horror, Basil Rathbone (Tales of Terror), Bela Lugosi (Dracula, White Zombie), Lon Chaney, Jr. (The Wolf Man) and John Carradine (House of the Long Shadows) co-star in this terrifying horror classic about a crazed brain surgeon and his unorthodox experiments at a spooky old dark house. When the wife of a lunatic surgeon (Rathbone) slips into a coma, the doctor sets out to find a donor for a highly unorthodox brain transplant. The subsequent experiments result in the creation of a number of dangerous zombies, mutants and freaks that are soon unleashed on an unsuspecting populace. The stellar cast also includes Akim Tamiroff (After the Fox) and Tor Johnson (Plan 9 From Outer Space). From Reginald Le Borg, the director of horror classics, Diary of a Madman and The Mummy s Ghost.

Leave a Reply