“THE BLACK SLEEP” (1956)
Reminiscent of a poverty level variation of H.G. Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, “The Black Sleep” is also a distant poor cousin to the clubhouse monster films of the waning days of Universal’s horror films such as “House of Frankenstein” which would assemble the various fading monster attractions for one last gasp at box office hurrahs. In this case, it’s not the monster characters that are resurrected but the roster of performers including Basil Rathbone, Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi and John Carradine. Directed by Universal veteran Reginald Le Borg and written by John C. Higgins who penned a number of surprisingly gritty noir features for Anthony Mann, the film enjoys the pedigree for a promising horror film, but the talents all seem asleep at the wheel in what is not only a painfully derivative tale of “mad scientist” syndrome that had been done to death a decade before, but also a horror film without horror, chills, suspense or a genuine reason for any of the featured horror veterans to be appearing onscreen. Neither Chaney nor Lugosi have a word of dialogue to speak-yet still manage to be appallingly unconvincing- while Carradine, in what is basically a glorified cameo, brings enough ham to his role to feed a starving nation.
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