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Black Friday

Entry updated 4 April 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1940; vt Friday the Thirteenth). Universal Pictures. Produced by Burt Kelly. Directed by Arthur Lubin. Written by Curt Siodmak (credited as Kurt Siodmak), Eric Taylor, and Edmund L Hartmann (uncredited). Cast includes Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Stanley Ridges. 70 minutes. Black and white.

Kindly Professor George Kingsley (Ridges) is shot in the head during an assassination attempt by mobster Eric Marnay (Lugosi). Realizing the only chance of saving Kingsley's life is by an experimental brain operation, Dr Ernest Sovak (Karloff) transplants brain tissue from the deceased criminal "Red" Cannon into Professor Kingsley's injured brain, saving his life. All seems well at first, but the Professor develops a split personality, intermittently reverting to the Identity of Cannon. During these Identity Transfer episodes he seeks revenge on Marnay and also tries to find fifty thousand dollars in stolen money hidden by Cannon. Kingsley cannot remember his actions from periods when the Cannon persona has taken over. As Cannon he eventually kills Marnay and is himself slain by the police, having taken part in several other murders. Told in flashback by Dr Sovak just before his own execution for the illegal brain operation, the film is an early mixing of crime and sf genres. Elements of Siodmak's novel Donovan's Brain (September-November 1942 Black Mask; 1943) are prefigured in the screenplay. Ridges' performance in the dual role, probably his best work, won him considerable praise. Occultist Manly P Hall (1901-1989) reportedly hypnotized Lugosi for the death scene in which, trapped by Kingsley/Cannon within a cramped closet, he suffocates. [GSt]


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