The Black Sleep (1956) is an American black-and-white horror film, scripted by John C. Higgins from a story by Gerald Drayson Adams developed for producers Aubrey Schenck and Howard W. Koch, who had a four-picture finance-for-distribution arrangement with United Artists. The film was re-released in 1962 as Dr. Cadman's Secret.
The film was directed by Reginald LeBorg and included in its starring cast Bela Lugosi in his last true film role. Also featured were Basil Rathbone, Lon Chaney, John Carradine, and Akim Tamiroff in a role originally written for Peter Lorre. In a "prominent" supporting role was Ed Wood regular Tor Johnson.
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Set in England in 1872, the story concerned a prominent, knighted surgeon whose wife has fallen into a coma caused by a deep-seated brain tumor. Due to medicine's state of the art at the time, he does not know how to reach the tumor without risking brain damage or death to the woman he loves, so he undertakes to secretly experiment on the brains of living, but involuntary, human subjects who are under the influence of a powerful Indian anesthetic, Nind Andhera, which he calls the "Black Sleep". Once he has finished his experiment, surviving subjects are revived and placed, in seriously degenerated and mutilated states, in a hidden cellar in the gloomy, abandoned country abbey where he conducts his experiments.
Basil Rathbone as Sir Joel Cadman
Akim Tamiroff as Udu the Gypsy
Lon Chaney Jr. as Dr. Monroe aka Mungo
John Carradine as "Bohemund"
Bela Lugosi as Casimir
Herbert Rudley as Dr. Gordon Ramsay
Patricia Blake as Laurie Munroe
Phyllis Stanley as Daphnae
Tor Johnson as Curry
George Sawaya as Sailor Subject
Sally Yarnell as Female Subject
Peter Gordon as Det. Sgt. Steele
Claire Carleton as Carmoda Daily
John Sheffield as Det. Redford
Clive Morgan as Roundsman Blevins
Louanna Gardner as Angelina Cadman
Aubrey Schenck as Prison Coroner's Aide (uncredited)
Produced during 1955, the film went into theaters in the early summer of 1956, just ahead of the TV syndication by Universal Pictures of its two decades of "monster movies" through Screen Gems, under the package title of Shock Theater. Writer Higgins, director LeBorg, and stars Rathbone, Chaney, Carradine, and Lugosi had all been significantly associated with Universal "horror films" or related B movies. It is similar to the two "houseful of monster" films of Universal in the mid-40s, House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, only relying on a completely new cadre of human monsters.
United Artists released The Black Sleep out as the A-film in a double feature with The Creeping Unknown.