Friday, March 8, 2013

The Black Sleep (1956)

Director: Reginald Le Borg

Starring: Basil Rathbone, Akim Tamiroff, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Bela Lugosi, Herbert Rudley, Patricia Blair, Phyllis Stanley, Tor Johnson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Out of the evil brain of a twisted scientist comes a fantastic robot army - crushing all barriers...feeding on beauty - lusting to claw the world apart!

Plot: England, 1872. The night before he is to be hanged for a murder he did not commit, young Dr. Gordon Ramsey is visited in his cell by his old mentor, eminent surgeon Sir Joel Cadmund. Cadmund offers to see that Ramsey gets a proper burial and gives him a sleeping powder to get him through the night, which Ramsey takes, unaware it is really an East Indian drug, "nind andhera" ("the black sleep"), which induces a deathlike state of anesthesia. Pronounced dead in his cell, he is turned over to Cadmund, who promptly revives him and takes him to his home in a remote abbey. Cadmund explains he believes Ramsey is innocent and needs his talents to help him in an project, which he is reluctant to immediately discuss further. In fact, Cadmund's wife lies in a coma from a deep-seated brain tumor, and he is attempting to find a safe surgical route to its site by experimenting on the brains of others, whom Ramsey comes to learn are alive during the process, anesthetized by the "black sleep", and are taken to a hidden recovery room in the abbey from which few emerge, though they still live...

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

Basil Rathbone = badass.  He was a class act until he hit the booze.  Lugosi sure is a long way from his Dracula status from 25 years earlier as Rathbone's mute butler.  He was a badass until he hit the smack.  John Carradine liked to think he was a badass even after he hit the sauce.  Lon Chaney Jr. was never a badass but he definitely got worse when he hit the hooch. Less than 20 minutes into this picture and it's looking like a who's who of classic horror substance abusers.

I'm starting to get the idea that Akim Tamiroff is just an annoying actor.  If it turned out he only played annoying characters, he was brilliant at it.  Now then, the rest of the story.  It's quite good, actually.  It straddles the Frankenstein mad scientist vibe but there's plenty to set it apart.  Low budget?  Maybe, but every dollar is on the screen.  The castle set is a plus and all of the names and faces you'll recognize certainly adds to the entertainment value.  I dug it and I can see watching it again.  This one's currently on Netflix instant and it's a quick one at that at only 82 minutes.

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