Movies and Film

Living Though Dead – Black Friday (1940)

Despite featuring two of horror’s biggest icons in Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi and being marketed as such, Black Friday features very little horror, if any. The story concerns Dr. Ernest Sovac as played by Boris Karloff whose friend Professor Kingsley is hit by a car while crossing the street. During said collision, another man was injured who just so happens to be a gangster and to save the Professor’s life, Sovac implants part of the dying gangster’s brain into the Professor’s. While that could be called somewhat horrific with shades of science-fiction thrown in the mix, that was about as far into the realm of horror that the movie feared to tread, instead being more of a crime film than anything else.

Be that as it may, it is still good to see Karloff and Lugosi on the big screen in a film together, even if they did not share any scenes. That too would be a huge mistake on Universal’s part and a missed opportunity as the two actors always worked well together no matter the roles. Such as it is though, Black Friday still turned out to be quite the good film with Stanley Ridges taking the lead more often than not as both Professor Kingsley and the gangster Red Cannon, who while dead, still managed to put in a number of appearances due to a strange transformation that would come over Kingsley, thanks to the brain transplant enacted by Kovac. Ridges would end up putting in a very compelling performance with Karloff more of a supporting character and Lugosi only getting essentially a bit part even though he had top billing alongside his long-time friend. What is most interesting about this movie is that before it had even started shooting, the roles given to Karloff and Lugosi were different than the ones they ended up with, but instead  and supposedly with Karloff’s insistence, things were changed and thus Ridges would get the meatier part out of the three of them.

As it is, the film looked great, though the score was fairly generic and director Arthur Lubin more or less just phoned it in. There was nothing very exceptional about it all, save for the fact that it was a very serviceable B film, a crime thriller to sit alongside any number of the day, but one that featured two of the biggest stars to put Universal on the map, so to speak. For Ridges, this was a great opportunity and more than likely a big surprise to the audience who were probably expecting something quite different than what they were given. What it ultimately boiled down to was a misstep on the studio’s part to let this film go through as it was, wasting the talent within on what amounted to no more than names on a poster. All in all this was a decent movie, but a sad state concerning the talent involved.

3.5 out of 5

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