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The Black Sleep Plot
Set in Merry Olde England, 1872, young Doctor Gordon Ramsey (Herbert Rudley) thinks it's his lucky day when his friend and mentor Sir Joel Cadman (Basil Rathbone) comes to visit him. Ramsey is, unfortunately, about to be hanged the very next day for a murder that he did not commit. While the eminent surgeon Dr. Cadman cannot save him from the gallows he does give him some sleeping powder to help him through the terrifying experience.
Ramsey gratefully takes the drug, unaware that it is, in truth, the powerful East Indian drug, "nind andhera" ("the black sleep"), which induces a deathlike state of anesthesia. It is this appearance of death that saves Ramsey from the hangman's noose and his body is taken away by Dr. Cadman.
In his remote, secret laboratory, Cadman revives Ramsey and promises to keep him safe in exchange for Ramsey's help with his latest experiment. Bereft of other choices, and grateful for his help, Ramsey agrees to assist him.
Little does Ramsey know that Cadman's experiment's are vile in nature and against all of the oaths that he took as a doctor to harm no one.
But is that all there is to this twisted tale? You can find out the secret further down in this article. If you dare to keep reading.
The Black Sleep Trailer
Cast Of Horror Stars
The Black Sleep is a classic horror film that features a cast of stars that will delight any true fan of terror. The main character, Dr. Cadman, the essential mad doctor, is played by Basil Rathbone. While probably best known for his role as Sherlock Holmes, the supreme detective, Rathbone brings the same gravity to this character as well. No stranger to dark tales, Basil also appeared in The Black Cat (1941) again alongside his co-star in this film, Bela Lugosi.
Odo, the ghoulish corpse collector is played perfectly by Akim Tamiroff who starred in horror film The Vulture (1966). Like in this movie, The Vulture also featured a mad scientist but that one wanted to turn himself into a half-man, half-bird monster to avenge the death of his ancestor.
The deadly man-beast, Mungo, is portrayed by none other than the Wolf Man himself, Lon Chaney Jr. Chaney, of course, needs no introduction, having scared the willies out of us all in the legendary werewolf masterpiece from Universal Studios, The Wolf Man (1941).
Borg, the terrifically insane prisoner entrapped in the prison below Dr. Cadman's estate, steals the show and is brought to horrifying life by the legendary John Carradine. The history of horror movies simply would not be the same without Carradine. Like his co-star in this piece, he has played the dreaded Count Dracula but Carradine has portrayed the vampire lord several times. He even came face to face with the iconic, western outlaw in Billy the Kid Versus Dracula (1966)
Tor Johnson is big, imposing and somewhat scary looking, which is perfect for his part as Curry in this ugly story. Avid film fans will remember Tor from his memorable part in the now infamous "worst movie ever made", Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959). But that wasn't the only time that Tor and Bela Lugosi starred in a film together. There was also Bride Of The Monster (1955).
And last but, undeniably not least, the mute assistant, Casimir, is played by the Prince of Darkness himself, Bela Lugosi. The Hungarian born Lugosi has left an iconic impression on the whole world with how the ultimate vampire should be with the unforgettable horror film, again from Universal Studios, Dracula (1931).
With a cast like this you know you are in for a weird and wild time.
All Star Horror Cast
Dr Cadman's Secret
One of the great finds of my life that has added immense amounts of joy to my movie watching experiences was finding Trailers From Hell. TFH (as it is often referred to as) is where famous talents tell you what they think of movies that made an impact on them. It is like a collection of mini-reviews and it comes straight from the mouths of such greats as Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Stuart Gordon, Jack Hill, Lloyd Kaufman, John Landis, and many others. Besides sharing their opinions and experiences, these insiders also share interesting trivia. For example, like Joe Dante shares in his Trailers From hell introduction to this movie The Black Sleep, I had no idea that this film was re-released as Dr. Cadman's Secret. It's little treasures like that which really add to the whole movie experience for me.
At the end of this article I'll leave a link directly to the Trailer's From Hell home page so that you can discover them for yourself.
Basil Rathbone The Mad Doctor
Basil Rathbone plays this part absolutely straight. Despite the strange story and the incredible characters swarming around him, Rathbone is always serious and that makes him even scarier. The stereotypical mad doctor is usually depicted with a mad cackle, unruly hair and a wild look in his eyes but not our Dr Cadman. This respected lord is calm, composed and believable. He is more terrifying because you would trust this professional man of medicine. You would put the care of your health into his hands with confidence that he would take care of you. This plays as a disturbing contrast to the man we watch perform ghastly experiments and betray his friends.
John Carradine as Borg
John Carradine Another Dracula
Yes he is the father of the renowned Carradine dynasty that includes the world famous David Carradine (Kung Fu, 1972, Death Race 2000, 1975, Kill Bill Vol. 2, 2004, and more!) and Keith Carradine (The Duelists, 1977, The Long Riders, 1980, Deadwood, 2004 and others!). But John had his own marvelous career that spawned those brothers and others too.
John Carradine was such a confident actor that he dared don the dark cape to take up the role of Dracula. After Bela Lugosi gave us the often imitated but never replicated template for the count, those were some intimidating shoes to fill! But Carradine made the role his own and delivered some memorable performances as the blood sucking vampire.
In this horrible tale, The Black Sleep, you could lament that Carradine only gets a bit part with not enough screen time for an actor of his talents. Well his time might be short but oh boy is it unforgettable. If there is anything unsettling and disturbing about this mad doctor tale, it is definitely Carradine. When you see him on the screen you will think to yourself "I would be scared witless to meet this lunatic in a dark alley. Or an elevator. Or a pizza joint. Or anywhere else. he's nuts!"
John Carradine really gives us a special performance in this movie and deserves a monument in his honor because of it. Wait until you watch him, you'll agree.
Goodbye Mad Scientists
The Black Sleep could be considered the last gasp of the classic genre of the mad scientist film that began with Frankenstein (1931) and reached its peak during the 1940s amid a host of cheap efforts churned out at low-budget studios like Monogram and PRC, usually starring Bela Lugosi. After around 1947, the mad scientist film began to die off with the exception of a few stragglers and the genre instead became preoccupied with alien invaders and atomic monster films. The Black Sleep can be considered a swansong to the era. It brings together some of the most famous genre actors of the 1940s – Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr and John Carradine. There are also a couple of others who are associated with the genre but didn’t so much belong to that decade – Basil Rathbone who was most famous during the 1940s as Sherlock Holmes in the series of films made at Universal and appeared in a number of B horror films at AIP during the 1960s, and wrestler Tor Johnson who was part of the Edward D. Wood Jr stock company in the 1950s.
It's Actually A Love Story - SPOILERS!
Despite the despicable things that Dr. Cadman has been doing in his hidden laboratory, he is not the monster that he first appears to be. His madness is driven by the painful emotional anguish of the sickness that has befallen his beloved wife. Tragically she has fallen into a coma and desperately needs critical brain surgery to save her life. But, despite his brilliance, Dr. Cadman isn't sure how to perform the necessary operation without killing her. So he needs to practice.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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