Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Black Sleep (1956)

Doctor Ramsey (Herbert Rudley) is condemned to die for a murder he did not commit. He is visited by his old medical school professor, Sir Cadman (Basil Rathbone), who gives him a drug to make the final execution painless. Painless, indeed!

Ramsey dies of an apparent heart attack and the body is delivered to Cadman, who gives him an antidote to wake the dead doctor up. Odd way to recruit assistants, but who am I to judge?

Well, the good Doctor Cadman brings the good doctor Ramsey to his eerie castle to perform horrible brain experiments on anonymous "volunteers". Things are going well until the troublesome hottie Laurie (Patricia Blair) interferes. It seems the evil Mungo (Lon Cheney Jr.) who is always trying to kill her, is her father. He got that way after Cadman experimented with his brain. Spoil sport.

Not a bad movie, on the whole. Low budget and not terribly original, but worth the time spent watching it. This was Bela Lugosi's last film (Plan 9 does not count) and he looked mostly dead as the mute butler. John Carradine had a small but memorable role and Creighton was serviceable as the mute brute. What Tor Johnson was doing in the film, I have no idea. I don't think he had more that 30 seconds of screen time. I guess they wanted to get as many famous horror names in as possible. Karloff had more sense, but what was Basil's excuse?

Akim Tamiroff had a memorable role as a gypsy who retrieves the volunteers for Rathbone's experiments. The role was offered to Peter Lorre, but he asked for too much money. I can totally see him in the role, but Tamiroff was diabolically excellent. I'll keep an eye out for more of his work.

All in all, vaguely creepy, nice atmosphere, and nice to see all the familiar faces. Totally unoriginal and lacking a little punch, but better than some I've given a 3.0 to.
"Mungo only pawn in game of life."
No, wait. that was a different movie.

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