Black Friday (1940)

     On April 12, 1940, Universal Pictures released Black Friday (1940), a thriller starring Boris Karloff.  Bela Lugosi shares top billing with Karloff but has a minor role in comparison to Karloff.  The true stars of the film are Karloff and Stanley Ridges.

     Karloff plays Dr. Ernest Sovac, a brain surgeon driving his friend Professor George Kingsley to the train station.  While Professor Kingsley starts to cross the street, two sedans  exchanging gunfire speed towards Dr. Kingsley.  Red Cannon’s vehicle hits Dr. Kingsley as bullets from the other sedan paralyze Cannon.  Dr. Sovac knows if he does not do something quickly, Professor Kingsley will die.

boris-karloff

Boris Karloff from the Public Domain

     Realizing no one will ask questions about a gangster’s death, Sovac implants Cannon’s brain into Professor Kingsley to save his life.  Sovac’s experiment succeeds and Kingsley survives the accident.

      However, Kingsley begins to manifest some of Red Cannon’s behavior.  Dr. Sovac picks up on Cannon’s brain trying to exert itself on Dr. Kingsley, played by Stanley Ridges.  Sovac decides to take Kingsley to New York to see if Kingsley’s new brain will lead them to Cannon’s hidden loot.

     Bela Lugosi plays Marnay, who ambushed Cannon during the chase, which injured Professor Kingsley.  As Kingsley begins to manifest more of Red Cannon’s behavior, Dr. Sovac has less and less control of his patient.

     While Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi received top billing, Stanley Ridges stole the film with his portrayal of Professor Kingsley and alter-ego Red Cannon.  Stanley Ridges spent most of his career on stage and only acted a few films 1934, when he was 43-years-old.

     Ridges was born in Southhampton, Hampshire, England on July 17, 1890.  He played in musical comedies before coming to America and playing on Broadway.  He appeared in five films starting in 1923 but found success in Crime Without Passion (1934).  Ridges then focused on working in films.  His filmography would grow to 62 films before his untimely death at 60 years of age on April 22, 1951.

     Being an entertaining “B” film, Black Friday comes in at about 70 minutes.  A must for Universal Horror film fans, Boris Karloff fans and/or Bela Lugosi fans.  Just expect both to be overshadowed by Ridges as Kingsley.

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