Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr, and Tor Johnson are all in this 1956 horror film, prompting one to think that if they'd gotten Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price in cameos, they would have just about every well known horror actor from that era in one film. Sure, Basil Rathbone is not strictly a horror actor, but just look at those fuckin names. Man, this movie is like "The Expendables" of horror movies. Tons of great actors all in one place. Plus it was directed by "The Mummy's Ghost" director Reginald Le Borg.
The problem I had with The Black Sleep is that despite the cast, and despite a relatively well shot movie with a great idea, it's just nothing but boring. The scenes drag on endlessly, the pacing is slow, the horror scenes are not convincingly executed or interesting, and most of that great cast does little to nothing in the movie. So those are all very good reasons to avoid this movie.
Basil Rathbone plays Sir Joel Cadman, a very typical crazy doctor dude who has mapped out the human brain. He recruits another doctor, Dr. Ramsay (played by Herbert Rudley, who was in some well known TV shows and not much else) after saving his life, and shows Dr. Ramsay his goals in brain surgery. You see, along with mapping the brain he is also doing sinister experiments that messes with the brain, and changes people. It's exactly what you would guess at this point, he has created a few monsters (Tor Johnson, Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr) and some of them are semi-threats for the length of the film.
Every other cheesy stereotype here is exploited: one monster responds to voice commands by only one person (Chaney as Mungo), one monster is a mute servant (Lugosi as Casimir), one monster is the "big burly whatever guy" (Tor Johnson as Mr. Curry), and one is just plain nuts (Carradine as Borg). Lon Chaney is the only one that is given real credence as a threat, and then he promptly disappears about a third through the film. Tor Johnson and John Carradine don't show up till the very end. Lugosi practically could've been played by any actor, he doesn't get to do anything in the film, and is not used at all. It's pretty fucking lame.
This was Bela Lugosi's last real movie, also. Given that the footage of him in Plan 9 was shot a while ago, this footage is the last of his to survive. And it sucks. He has no fucking lines, he does nothing, and he should've not even been in this movie. Why do evil scientists always need a mute weirdo anyways? Wouldn't it be easier to have a guy that can talk?
All joking aside, this movie was dulls-ville, I don't recommend it, and I'm not even saying so bad it's good. I'm saying, if you watch it while tired you will fall asleep. I did. Just for a few seconds.
I give it one star, for the cast.