The Black Sleep

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The Black Sleep
Directed by Reginald Le Borg
Produced by Howard W. Koch
Aubrey Schenck
Written by John C. Higgins
Based on story by Gerald Drayson Adams
Starring Basil Rathbone
Akim Tamiroff
Lon Chaney, Jr.
John Carradine
Bela Lugosi
Herbert Rudley
Tor Johnson
Narrated by Basil Rathbone
Music by Les Baxter
Cinematography Gordon Avil
Edited by John Schreyer
Bel-Air Productions (Prospect Productions)
Distributed by United Artists
Release date
  • June 1956 (1956-06)
Running time
82 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $225,000[1]

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. 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.


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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tom Weaver, Interviews with B Science Fiction and Horror Movie Makers: Writers, Producers, Directors, Actors, Moguls and Makeup McFarland, 1 Jan 2006 p 211

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