Everybody Who Was Ever Scary Is In It!
Greenbriar Deep In The Black Sleep (1956) --- Part One
|BS Was No Classic, But Stills For It Surely Were|
|Best Since Dracula and Frankenstein? According to Anecdotes,|
A Lot of 1956 Kids Thought So
First, an acknowledgement of source from which data flows. 90% of what's out there on The Black Sleep --- interviews, research as in boots-on-ground --- is work of Tom Weaver, who dug into detail of the film's production years ago when many of participants were still among us (virtually all gone now). He is the reason we know so much of The Black Sleep, so be assured that everything here is merely Greenbriar's read on what Weaver wrote. And incidentally, he has a new book out in a few weeks, the definitive history of all three Creature (as in Lagoon) features made by Universal-International in the 50's. This will be answer to prayers of sci-fi fandom and all those who revere the Gill Man, a most hotly anticipated 2014 publishing event (The Creature Chronicles: Exploring The Black Lagoon Trilogy, available from Amazon).
|Tor, Carradine, and Herb Rudley Chill Out Between Takes|
Back to The Black Sleep. There is so much, maybe too much I'd say about The Black Sleep. At what point does one's enthusiasm for a topic outrun everyone else's interest, or patience? And so I guess Greenbriar is an only place I can Sleep sound, and dream of what took place for those couple or three weeks during which the show was shot, and what circumstance brought a fabled cast to say Boo in underpaid unison (that last is the fan in me talking --- I'd have been for giving Rathbone, Lugosi, Chaney, Carradine, even Tor Johnson, a million each --- of Aubrey Schenck's money). Most, I'd suppose, were grateful for the work. They all seemed to have shown up, in any event --- but what more invitations went out, and to whom? Was Karloff approached? You'd think he'd have been first. Peter Lorre had his chance, but said no. A "billing dispute," according to Variety (1/23/56). Lorre was to have had the Akim Tamiroff role. A pity we lost him, as Tamiroff was an only white sheep among a black flock, his resume notably shy of horrific content.
|I'd Visit The Louvre If They Had This Framed and Six-Sheet Size On The Wall|
Trades also reported Lesley Selander being replaced by director Reginald LeBorg. Were we poorer for the switch? From what I've seen of respective work, may-be. Selander was better at tempo, and could uplift weak material, but belief at the time was that LeBorg had higher pedigree for chilling (his many for Universal during the 40's). Or maybe it was just money. For all I know, Selander wanted $100 more to direct The Black Sleep, and that queered him. The film was shot at rented facility (Ziv, where TV magic was made with Highway Patrol and etcetera). The last Mrs. Lugosi visited the set and reported it a dump, but she would say that because Hope seemed to have little hope for humanity, let alone any of Bela's ventures (what a dark cloud this woman was upon BL's last horizon). LIFE magazine actually sent a photographer to cover The Black Sleep shoot during February of 1956 (they must have intended to do a magazine feature on the film --- did that transpire?). The LIFE visit yielded oodles of great art and backstage glimpses. Everyone is caught candid, looking tired, maybe a little resigned. No, this wasn't MGM, but by 1956, even MGM wasn't MGM anymore.
A great and unheralded thing about The Black Sleep was stills they took ... I mean beyond the LIFE captures. Wonderful, moody portraits of all the cast, plus group posing to better evoke a haunted house than for any chiller I've seen advertised from that period. Others say The Black Sleep was like a 40's Universal,
|Lugosi Gets a Leather-Bound Copy of Black Sleep's Script|
Part Two Of The Black Sleep is HERE.