“Of all the newspapers, yours was the only one which was fair to me.”
Dr. Ernest Sovac’s (Boris Karloff) best friend professor George Kingsley (Stanley Ridges) is run down by a gangster in a police chase. To save his friend’s live Sovac performs an operation and implants part of another man’s brain into his friend. The brain of a gangster and the man who caused the accident, Red Cannon (Stanley Ridges). The operation is a success, however, when his friend begins to heal, strange things begin to happen to Sovac’s personality.
Sovac is a little freaked out by this, but he is also curious. The gangster had hidden a cache of $500,000 somewhere in the city. While Sovac continues to treat his friend he observes him. He begins to wonder about all the things he could do if he could find the money that the gangster hid. Sovac takes Kingsley to New York to see if he can trigger memories from Cannon. And boy does he.
When Cannon’s brain takes over Kingsley’s body, a physical transformation happens as well. While Kingsley is a soft spoken, mild mannered, professor of literature, Cannon is a brutal gangster that will allow nothing to get in his way. Believing that his own gang set him up, he begins systematically killing each one.
Eric Marnay (Bela Lugosi) is the gangster who was responsible for the accident that caused the death of Cannon and the accident that injured Kingsley. When Cannon surfaces he visits his old girlfriend Sunny Rogers (Anne Nagel). She tells Marnay about the guy who visited her. Marnay understands that the guy who saw Sunny knows everything that Cannon knew. Marnay believes that Kingsley can lead him to the money.
“Black Friday” was released in 1940 and was directed by Arthur Lubin. Although the movie itself may not be the best, Ridges is absolutely dynamic. You would swear they were actually two different people. Lugosi’s part is minimal. Karloff’s is a little bigger. His character goes from kindly doctor to greedy mad scientist. His best friend becomes both an experiment and the means to an end. Neither of the two stars, Karloff and Lugosi, have any scenes together.
According to Curt Siodmak, the original plan was for Karloff to play Kingsley/Cannon and Lugosi was to play Dr. Sovac. Karloff, however, refused to play Kingsley/Cannon as he believed the role was too complicated. The studio then hired Ridges to play Kinsgley/Cannon, thus allowing Kaloff to play Sovac. This resulted in Lugosi being stuck with the minor Marnay role. Whether the story is true or not, I can’t verify it.
It’s a combination of mob movie and science fiction movie. It was totally preposterous but there was something about it that I liked. It reminds me a little of “Donovan’s Brain”.