GenreHorror, Sci-Fi ScreenplayJohn C. Higgins CountryUnited States
Release dateJune 1956 (1956-06) Based onstory by Gerald Drayson Adams WriterGerald Drayson Adams (story), John C. Higgins (screenplay) CastBasil Rathbone (Sir Joel Cadman), Akim Tamiroff (Professor Odo), Lon Chaney Jr. (Mungo / Dr. Munroe), John Carradine (Bohemund), Bela Lugosi (Casimir), Herbert Rudley (Dr. Gordon Ramsay) Similar moviesFrankenstein, Grotesque, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Zombie Holocaust, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Phibes Rises Again
TaglineThe Terror Drug That Wakes the Dead!
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 released in 1956 on a double bill with the British sci-fi film The Creeping Unknown. (The Black Sleep was later re-released in 1962 under the title Dr. Cadman's Secret.)
The film was directed by Reginald LeBorg and included in its starring cast Bela Lugosi in his final film role. Also featured were Basil Rathbone, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, and Akim Tamiroff in a role originally written for Peter Lorre. In a "prominent" supporting role was Ed Wood regular Tor Johnson.
The black sleep trailer
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.
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. In 2016 it was released on Blu-ray by Kino with an audio commentary by Tom Weaver and David Schecter.