Film: Black Friday
Director: Arthur Lubin
Writer: Curt Siodmak and Eric Taylor
Starring: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Stanley Ridges
This film begins with a man in prison and he is being led to be executed, he is played by Boris Karloff. On the way he stops and gives his journal to a newspaper reporter that he claims was the only one who was fair to him during this whole ordeal.
We then shift into the past to see what led him to this fate. It happened on Friday the 13th. We see an English professor as he finishes up his class, played by Stanley Ridges. He is met by Karloff’s daughter, played by Anne Gwynne. They are going somewhere with her father and his wife, who is played by Virginia Brissac. We see that Ridges is somewhat clumsy. He forgot his hat so he goes to cross the street. At the same time there is a car chase and gunfire. It appears that one car has a group while the other is trying to flee them. This other car crashes, hitting Ridges in the process.
Both men are put into an ambulance and Karloff goes with them. We learn that the man who was driving is a gangster known as Red Cannon and the other car were filled with is crew. He is paralyzed as he broke his spine. He asks Karloff to help him. Ridges is in a coma and unresponsive.
Karloff decides to perform a brain switch in order to help his friend continue to live. It is a success, but Brissac notices some difference in the way that Ridges acts. This is when Karloff realizes that the gangster had hidden away half a million dollars. He gets the idea that maybe some of the memories are still there and wants to see if he can find this money. A trip to New York is taken with just Karloff and Ridges.
Ridges shows that he remembers some things even though he’s never been to New York. They stay at the some hotel and room that Red Cannon used. Karloff waits until he falls asleep and asks him questions. Ridges then wakes up, turning into Red Cannon.
That night he murders someone in his old gang. He wakes up as the English professor, saying he had a strange dream, but couldn’t make sense of it. The gangster then takes back over and goes to meet his old flame, played by Anne Nagel. She is confused, because she knows that her boyfriend is dead. Yet, Ridges knows everything that the gangster knew.
His old gang is now headed up by Bela Lugosi, but his boys are killed off one by one, until it is him and another one left. Lugosi approaches Nagel to help them figure out who is doing this, offering her a cut of the money once they find it. Karloff also wants Ridges to find the money so he can turn him back into his friend and have the funds for a new laboratory. To make things worse, Brissac and Gwynne also show up.
Will Ridges find the money? Who will end up with it? Who will survive until the end? The police are also involved; will they stop Ridges before he finds the money? Can Ridges return to his old self before it is too late?
I have to say that this is an interesting take on the Jekyll/Hyde concept. At first I was confused as to how he could have both personalities, but it does state in the film that there are parts of both brains. A full transfer would have made him be one or the other. I thought the story was good, the concept was solid and the acting was well. Ridges is the real star here playing both the old, English professor who is pure as well as the horrible murderous gangster. He might not be billed as the star, but he definitely is.
I have issues that when Ridges was portraying the two different versions of himself, he would look younger as the gangster. That doesn’t make sense and he shouldn’t have had such a physical transformation. Outside of how he does his hair. I also don’t see how when he became the gangster, his hair was slicked back with product, even though he never uses any.
With that said, I would recommend this film if you are into older films. The acting is good as well as the story and the concept. Ridges was great and having Karloff and Lugosi there to support helped make this film more enjoyable. It doesn’t have a long running time and I thought this would have been a little better with a deeper story, like by adding a subplot or two. I will say that this film is from the 1940s and is in black and white, so keep that in mind before watching this. If you can get past this, it is a pretty good film to view.
My Rating: 6 out of 10