Black Friday (1940)

Black Friday (1940)

“I never know when the murderous brain of Red Cannon may take possession of Kingsley, but I will not stop my experiments. I must find where Cannon’s money is hidden!”

An ambitious surgeon (Boris Karloff) saves the life of his injured friend, Professor Kingsley (Stangley Ridges), by giving him the brain of a dying gangster named Red Cannon. When Dr. Sovac (Karloff) learns that Cannon knew about the existence of $500,000, he hypnotizes his friend in order to bring Cannon’s personality to the surface.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Bela Lugosi Films
  • Boris Karloff Films
  • Flashback Film
  • Gangsters
  • Mad Doctors and Scientists
  • Mind Control and Hypnosis
  • Multiple Personalities
  • Revenge

This Universal Studios horror flick suffers from two unforgivable gaps in logic: why does Cannon’s brain retain any traces of the professor’s personality at all? And why does Professor Kingsley’s appearance shift (his hair is darkened and he no longer wears glasses) whenever Cannon’s personality takes over? Given that these blatant illogicalities are never explained, I was too distracted to enjoy the remainder of the film, even once it shifted into a rather standard gangland revenge flick. On the positive side, Karloff is appropriately cast as the greedy yet well-meaning Dr. Sovac:

… and Ridges does an admirable job shuffling between the personalities of professor and gangster. Lovely Anne Nagel is also excellent in a throwaway role as Cannon’s old girlfriend.

Unfortunately, however, the fine performances aren’t enough to save this B-thriller from its frustratingly illogical script.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Stanley Ridges as Professor Kingsley/Red Cannon

  • Anne Nagel as Red’s singer-girlfriend, Sunny
  • Atmospheric cinematography

Must See?
No. It’s not clear why Peary lists this modest B-thriller — an unwieldy hybrid of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein — in the back of his book.


One thought on “Black Friday (1940)

  1. First viewing. I honestly don’t think I’d seen this one before – but, if I did, it was lovely seeing it again and I giggled throughout. Must-see!

    This is what I wrote at my facebook group, ‘The ’40s-’50s in Film’:

    [‘Black Friday’ (1940): “Transplanted human brain cells will live and function! What a triumph!” ~…Or is it? Found this on YouTube. One of the films Karloff & Lugosi joined forces for is this gangster/’mad doctor’ mix dealing with loot, revenge and medical ambition. When the three elements combine, a lot of people end up dead. This is all played very legit in a handsome A-list production, but it’s still rather unintentionally hilarious. At 70 minutes, things fly by – and it’s all very entertaining!]

    ‘BF’ is utter nonsense from start to finish – but, perhaps if you are fine with that going in, you can give over to the sheer goofiness of it and have a ball. I did!

    btw: Stanley Ridges – a character actor in a number of well-known films – really gets a chance to shine here in his leading, polar-opposite, dual role.

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