Taking place in England circa 1872, Reginald Le Borg's The Black Sleep opens with young Dr. Gordon Ramsay, a man who has been sentenced to be hanged for a murder he didn't commit. He received a visitor, his old mentor Joel Cadmund, who gives him a sleeping aid to help him through the night. It turns out this isn't a sleeping aid but a powerful East Indian drug that induces anesthesia. Pronounced dead the next morning in his sell, Ramsay is turned over to Joel Cadmund, who promptly revives him. Now awake, Gordon Ramsay is convinced by Cadmund to help on his latest project - which is vaguely described as a new-age experimental study pertaining to the brain. Reginald Le Borg's The Black Sleep is a middle-of-the-road, mad scientist film that's strongest attribute is its incredible cast. Featuring Basil Rathbone's over-the-top portrayal of the mad scientist Jole Cadmund, as well as smaller roles by Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr, and John Carridine, The Black Sleep is full of talent, though some actors are without question wasted in their small roles. The Black Sleep is inline with many of the tropes associated with the mad-scientist sub-genre, featuring a lead antagonist in Joel Cadmund whose morality has been completely dissolved due to his love of his dying wife. Cadmund's willingness to sacrifice countless lives for the sake of his wife is one of the more compelling aspects of the film, as Reginald Le Borg uses this to subtlety create an interesting discussion centered around our mortality and the moral argument centered around weighing the lives of one vs. the lives of many. Cadmund's love of his wife and desire to cure her brain has consumed him, with The Black Sheep exposing the powerful grasp love has over everything, including our morals and beliefs. Featuring an ending that is reminiscent of Tod Browning's Freaks, which see's those experimented on individuals rise up against their captor, Reginald Le Borg's The Black Sheep is a moody and atmospheric goth story that doesn't do enough to stand out from other similar films.
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