PLOT: A 19th Century doctor uses a mysterious anesthetic he calls the Black Sleep, which puts his patients in a suspended state while he operates on their brains.

The Black Sleep was probably a big deal when it was made in 1956. It boasts a cast of absolute legends of the horror genre: Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Basil Rathbone, and Ed Wood favorite Tor Johnson. It’s an accomplishment to compile that sort of cast list, but the film itself lacks any kind of ingenuity or innovation. This is a film that is caught in a transitional period of filmmaking, but it feels like it still belongs with the films made a decade earlier. It also doesn’t help that Hammer films were pushing the boundaries of what you can do in a horror film around the same time in the UK. What you get is a movie that is predictable, safe, but not terrible.

gore 1

Nothing. The makeup to create a believable looking exposed brain is pretty good for the time period, but in this sort of subgenre, blood splatter is usually a minimum.


Gore Rating: 0 out of 5


Not too scary. It’s hard to believe that even people in 1956 thought this movie was scary, but maybe it wasn’t the point. It’s more of a story about one doctor driving himself crazy in order to try and come up with a cure.


Scare Rating: 0 out of 5

sex nudity

This is 1956, so there’s nothing here; there isn’t even an onscreen kiss, if my memory serves. There’s some allusion to one of the women the doctor tries to use for his experiments being a prostitute, but it is never explicitly mentioned.


Sex/Nudity Rating: 0 out of 5


This movie is more of an accomplishment to bring all these horror greats together than it is about the story it tells. Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, and Tor Johnson all together in one film is pretty impressive, even if some of them don’t have a whole lot to do. Rathbone is the obvious standout as Sir Joel Cadman; he’s a man that will stop at nothing to save the woman he loves and it drives him insane. It’s a classic story, but it’s probably been told in better movies.


Overall Rating: 5 out of 10