Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Black Sleep (1956)

Poster for The Black Sleep (1956)The Black Sleep (1956) by #ReginaldLeBorg

w/ #BasilRathbone #AkimTamiroff #LonChaneyJr #JohnCarradine #BelaLugosi
Also featuring #TorJohnson!

“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!

“The Terror Drug That Wakes the Dead!”

#Horror #SciFi

I’m not sure how I’d never seen The Black Sleep (1956) before last week. It’s got an amazing cast of horror heavyweights, including Bela Lugosi in his last completed performance. Yes, he appears in Ed Wood’s Trashterpiece Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957), but as well all know, his part was finished by Ed’s wife’s chiropractor(?!) after Lugosi died. 

Aside from the stellar cast, The Black Sleep has a plot that I find immediately endearing. Put simply, it’s about a mad doctor who performs brain surgery on a variety of people in an attempt to find a cure for his wife, who is dying of an inoperable brain tumor. In doing so, he creates a bunch of monsters, many of whom he keeps locked up in the basement.

I’ve always had a thing for brain transplant movies, and while this one isn’t quite that, it appeals to me in the same way. It also feels related to movies like Eyes Without a Face (1960) and Faceless (1987), which are about a mad doctor (or scientist) attempting to restore his wife’s (or daughter’s) beauty at the expense of other innocent victims.

I was surprised to learn that many critics did not like The Black Sleep. I thought it was a whole lot of fun. And it’s developed a substantial following of devoted admirers over the years. Basil Rathbone is outstanding as the mad doctor. He takes the role very seriously, and never plays it for over-the-top laughs (which others might have). He makes Sir Joel Cadman seem very believable. 

The Black Sleep (1956) is, in my opinion, an unfairly overlooked masterpiece of #NotQuiteClassicCinema. I’m not sure how I missed it for all these years, but I will most definitely be watching it again on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn