The Black Sleep (1956)

Not Rated   |    |  Horror, Sci-Fi

The Black Sleep (1956) Poster

Sir Joel Cadman, a mad scientist, kidnaps his victims and cuts open their brains in an effort to discover a means to cure his wife's brain tumor.

Add this title to your Watchlist
Save movies and shows to keep track of what you want to watch.



  • Lon Chaney Jr. in The Black Sleep (1956)
  • Peter Gordon and Akim Tamiroff in The Black Sleep (1956)
  • Akim Tamiroff in The Black Sleep (1956)
  • Basil Rathbone in The Black Sleep (1956)
  • Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., and Basil Rathbone in The Black Sleep (1956)
  • John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr., Tor Johnson, George Sawaya, and Sally Yarnell in The Black Sleep (1956)

See all photos

More of What You Love

Find what you're looking for even quicker with the IMDb app on your smartphone or tablet.

Get the IMDb app

Reviews & Commentary

Add a Review

User Reviews

2 September 2013 | secondtake
| Great fun and not a great film--but what a roll call of horror greats! Lugosi's last real role.
The Black Sleep (1956)

This is one of those campy horror movies, two decades after the great originators, that fans will really love and newbies or outsiders will have trouble getting.

I'm mostly a fan, but even as the titles rolled and I couldn't believe the great cast, I was aware that this was 1956, that Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. were well past their prime. And the lead, Basil Rathbone, was playing an evil doctor (a shade like Dr. Frankenstein, pushing moral boundaries with his surgery), was more known as Sherlock Holmes. Still, along with John Carradine, what a cast!

And this is really Lugosi's last uncompromised appearance in any movie, even though he plays a mute and we don't get to hear him. ("Plan 9" comes after this, but Lugosi's role there is famously limited.) He's terrific! And Chaney's appearance is also mute, a brief each time, and not such a big deal. (Once there is nice, corny subjective p.o.v. camera as he attacks his prey.)

The plot? The title? Well, it's all a bit obvious what's happening, though the opening twenty minutes is more a straight drama that actually suggests a really good movie is ahead. A man is on death row, and Rathbone visits him and gives him the Black Sleep potion, which puts him into a fake death and he is carted away and revived. That doesn't give too much away. For the rest of the movie the potion is really just used as anesthesia at the crazy doctor's castle and is no big deal.

There is the pretty girl in a coma, a misunderstood nursing assistant who is daughter of the Chaney character, another nurse who is oddly cold and efficient (and not a Nazi--this is all 1872), and then there is the main character, the man from death row, who happens to be a crack surgeon that the evil doctor needs for his research.

For the middle half of the movie you see minor tensions and some brain surgery that is meant to seem cutting edge and unscrupulous. Then, in a huge surprise, almost as if the director woke up, a bunch of old patients appear out of nowhere (maybe they escaped their cells). And it's a bit of absolute mayhem, with Carradine playing an angry Moses type, and it's pretty crazy.

Look, I said too much perhaps but you should know this isn't a great movie. But it's great camp. It's silly, it's filled with icons from the old days, and it's not so badly made at all, edited well and filmed better than you would think for this nadir of Hollywood productions. This is around the time of the new Castle low budget films, and early Corman stuff, but this one is clearly from the old school of 1930s Hollywood. See it on those terms and like it!

Critic Reviews

More Like This

  • 4D Man

    4D Man

  • The Return of the Vampire

    The Return of the Vampire

  • The Mad Magician

    The Mad Magician

  • Dead Men Walk

    Dead Men Walk

  • Corridors of Blood

    Corridors of Blood

  • The Ghost of Frankenstein

    The Ghost of Frankenstein

  • The Human Monster

    The Human Monster

  • Voodoo Man

    Voodoo Man

  • The Black Castle

    The Black Castle

  • Bride of the Monster

    Bride of the Monster

  • The Devil Bat

    The Devil Bat

  • The Invisible Man Returns

    The Invisible Man Returns


Plot Summary

Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Horror | Sci-Fi

Featured on IMDb

See what TV shows editors are excited about this month and check out our guide to Star Wars, video games, and more.

Around The Web


Powered by ZergNet

More To Explore

Search on