Combustible Celluloid
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With: Basil Rathbone, Akim Tamiroff, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Bela Lugosi, Herbert Rudley, Patricia Blair, Phyllis Stanley, Tor Johnson, Sally Yarnell, George Sawaya, Claire Carleton
Written by: John C. Higgins, based on a story by Gerald Drayson Adams
Directed by: Reginald Le Borg
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 82
Date: 03/22/2016

The Black Sleep (1956)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Monster Mash

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Black Sleep is a strange movie. It's an all-star roundup of horror actors made at a time when such things were definitely not in vogue anymore. Even weirder, it seems to have some kind of connection with Edward D. Wood, Jr., who had both Bela Lugosi and Tor Johnson on his roster at the time; but this movie seems to have been made with some kind of budget. Regardless, it's a pretty passable effort, made with a degree of professionalism, if not style. The actual star is the uninteresting Herbert Rudley, who plays a doctor falsely accused of murder and sentenced to hang. Sir Joel Cadman (Basil Rathbone) visits him in his cell and gives him the "black sleep," which gives the illusion of his being dead. From there, the two retreat to Cadman's lab to continue his research. Bela Lugosi is a mute assistant, Lon Chaney Jr. is a failed experiment, a violent brute, and John Carradine is a resident of a secret underground prison. Akim Tamiroff seems to be having lots of fun as "Odo," a not-quite-trustworthy businessman who brings Cadman the "materials" he needs. Kino Lorber released it on Blu-ray, with a commentary track by historians Tom Weaver and David Schecter, a trailer, and a "Trailers from Hell" segment with Joe Dante.

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