If you are a fan of black and white movies, and particularly old monster movies, then the cast alone should get you to watch this movie. However, the plot and execution will keep you watching until the end.
The Black Sleep (also known as Dr. Cadman’s Secret) is a bit of a old style zombie movie, where the resurrection is not from a virus or infection but a calculated administering of certain herbs or substances. In this feature Dr. Gordon Ramsay (Herbert Rudley) is wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to be hung. He receives a visit from an old friend, surgeon Sir Joel Cadman (Basil Rathbone), who assures him he can save him from this terrible fate. Not that he can get the conviction overturned but that he can help him escape the hangman’s noose. He tells him about a substance from India called nind andhera (the black sleep) which can induce a death-like state where respiration and heart function cease. But with the administering of an antidote within a certain amount of time the subject can be revived and returned to normal.
The plan works and Dr. Ramsay is safely whisked away to Cadman’s home after being declared dead by prison officials. Of course home is a small word for the castle like residence of Sir Cadman. Included in this sprawling residence is a lab and operating room, where Cadman encourages Ramsay to help him with his life’s work; performing brain surgery on live, though under the effects of the black sleep, and very unwilling patients. He conducts these surgeries in an attempt to find a way to operate on his wife’s own brain tumor and bringing her out of a coma. As horrible as this may seem there are even worse horrors for Dr. Ramsay to discover. And there is still the matter of finding the real murderer in the case were Dr. Ramsay was wrongly convicted.
Part murder mystery, part mad scientist feature, part horror, there is a lot going on in this movie. Even with great acting performances,in addition to Rathbone this movie also stars Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, and John Carradine, it is still a B-movie. So yes it’s a bit over the top and cheesy at times. Don’t let that stop you from watching a pretty solid feature.