THE BLACK SLEEP (1956). Director: Reginald LeBorg.
A mad doctor (Basil Rathbone) tries to cure a brain disorder in his unconscious wife by experimenting on unwilling victims who are put under his control via a drug known as the “black sleep.” He even goes so far as to frame another doctor for murder so the latter can assist him in his efforts. Eventually Rathbone's pitiful victims break out of confinement and gain their revenge. Bel-Air productions gathered together a terrific cast of solid veterans – in addition to Rathbone there's Tor Johnson and John Carradine as two of the “patients” and Bela Lugosi in a bit role as a mute servant while Akim Tamiroff nearly steals the picture as a ghoulish, amusing gypsy who brings “patients” to Rathbone – but the low-budget company couldn't provide the production gloss and comparative classiness of the old Universal horror films. The movie isn't terrible, just a bit drab and slow. Rathbone is superb and he and the other actors are all pretty much wasted, providing the film's only real interest. Too bad.
Verdict: Tune in if you must but don't expect much. Great cast, though. **.