Monday, May 26, 2008

The Black Sleep

Last night I was in the mood for an old-time horror movie. But what to watch? How about one starring Basil [Sherlock Holmes] Rathbone [as the mad scientist], Lon [The Wolfman] Chaney, Jr. [as one of the monsters], Bela [Dracula] Lugosi [as Rathbone's assistant], John [Dracula] Carradine [as a madman] and Tor ["Plan 9 from Outer Space] Johnson [as another monster]? Yep, "The Black Sleep" fit the bill perfectly!

What, you've never heard of "The Black Sleep"? I wouldn't be surprised. Unless you're a real aficionado of the horror genre, you probably haven't. I guess that's what makes it a cult film. The sad thing is, "The Black Sleep" is one of the better low-budget 50's horror films. So let's take a look at it...

The Pitch: "Frankenstein" meets "The Island of Doctor Moreau." A mad scientist [Rathbone] frames a former student [Herbert Rudley] for murder and then helps him escape the gallows. In return Rudley must help Rathbone with his evil experiments which turn his subjects into monsters.

The Good: The movie is introduced by Lon Madnight! Having Lugosi [in his final role] along with Chaney, Carradine, Johnson and Rathbone sharing screen-time is a hoot for any horror fan. Akim Tamiroff as Odo the Gypsy steals every scene he's in. The screenplay is more complex than most of the genre -- we have the mad scientist performing evil experiments, but he does so in hopes of learning a way to save his dying wife -- we have a framed hero who must solve a murder mystery in order to clear his name -- we have monsters chained in hidden cells below the castle, but they are victims of Rathbone's experiments -- at the same time the police are following leads leading to... a great climax with the monsters breaking free just as... ah, but that would be giving it away! [Be sure to keep watching after "The End" credit appears -- there's an added bonus!]

The Bad: What the experiments do to the subjects! Poor Bela is regulated to the role of a mute assistant -- he was in terrible health in his final days. The hero's name is Gordon Ramsay [and yes, it reminded me of him.]

The Ugly: Tor Johnson, Lon Chaney and the rest of the monsters! Also there's a great scare with a beautiful girl who's suddenly revealed to be one of the monsters!

In Summary: "The Black Sleep" is a welcome addition to any horror fan's library. The transfer is crisp and clean with excellent sound. The disc also includes trailers for other films in the AC DVD library [some you can see HERE], as well as the first chapter of a Blackhawk cliffhanger serial. "The Black Sleep" is another winner from Bill Black and AC DVD.


Anonymous said...

What else could ya want ?! And a cool poster to boot.

I'll hafta put that one on my ever growing 'to watch' list...


Craig Zablo said...

Yes, yes you do! LOL!