“In the interests of science doctor anything, anything is justified”
New Gate prison 1872. Sir Joel Cadman (Basil Rathbone) is visiting Dr. Gordon Ramsey (Herbert Rudley). Ramsey is scheduled to be hanged for murder the next day. A murder he did not commit. Cadman, an eminent surgeon was Ramsey’s mentor. His excuse for the visit is to talk to Ramsey about giving him a proper burial.
During the visit he gives Ramsey a sleeping powder. Cadman says to get him through the night. Ramsey takes the drug unaware it is really an East Indian drug called "Nind Andhera" ("the black sleep"). The drug induces a deathlike state of anesthesia. Ramsey is pronounced dead in his cell. His body is turned over to Cadman for burial. Instead, assisted by Udo the gypsy (Akim Tamifoff) Cadman revives him.
Cadman explains to Ramsey that he believes in his innocence. He also says he needs his talents to help him in a project. He takes Ramsey to his home in an old abbey. At his home is introduces Ramsey to the others in the household. A mute, Casimir (Bela Lugosi), Ramsey’s nurse, Daphne (Phyllis Stanley), Dr. Munroe AKA Mungo (Lon Chaney Jr.), a maniac that can only be controlled by Daphne and Dr. Monroe’s daughter, Laurie Munroe (Patricia Blake).
Cadman’s specialty is brain surgery. Ramsey assists Cadman in an experiment. Exploratory surgery on a brain. Ramsey comes to find out that the patient is still alive. Ramsey is horrified. Later Laurie tells him that Cadman is responsible for her father’s condition. Eventually he learns that there are six people that Cadman experimented on.
Cutting out parts of their brains while they were under the “Black Sleep”. But he’s not done. His wife is comatose from a brain tumor. He will do anything to cure her. His next experiment will be on another woman. Laurie will do nicely.
“The Black Sleep” was released in 1956 and was directed by Reginald LeBorg. It was actually pretty good and quite interesting. Basil Rathbone makes a nice mad scientist. Akim Tamiroff as Udo the gypsy is disarmingly creepy. John Carradine’s cameo was as over the top as usually. He may have been covered with hair, but you cannot disguise that voice. Shakespearian crazy man is right up his alley. And of course, Tor Johnson was… Tor Johnson. Sometimes I wonder if he was born with those milky eyeballs.
The hands performing the brain operation are actually that of a real neurosurgeon at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles, hired by the producers to make the operation look authentic. Bela Lugosi was reportedly very unhappy with his lack of dialogue and pestered director Reginald Le Borg to give him some lines. Although Le Borg did eventually shoot some extra dialogue scenes with the actor, they were never used. John Carradine and Tor Johnson have bit parts at the end.