Tonight on MeTV- we bring back another film that includes both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi- but with a bit of unusual casting! Boris stars as a doctor who tries to save his friend by performing an illegal brain transplant; resulting in turning the man into a Jekyll-and-Hyde case- going from mild-mannered professor to murderous mobster. Bela is, surprisingly, in the role of a gangster, a rival of mobster/professor! This eerie transplant results in the doctor who performed it becoming a selfish agitator urging the kindly professor’s new gangster persona on, to benefit his own agenda. Black hearts and dark deeds mark- “Black Friday”!
Dr. Ernest Sovac ( Karloff) is a "dead man walking" as he heads for his date with the electric chair. We watch as his story is recounted: on a very unlucky Friday the 13th, college professor George Kingsley- Sovac's best friend- is caught in the middle of mob war action on a public street. He’s left in serious condition- as is gangster Red Cannon, who was also seriously injured ( though he was the intended victim). Kingsley has suffered a brain injury, and there is little hope for his survival- until Sovac has a chat with the injured mobster Cannon. The thug has a broken back, and his future is looking grim- so, Sovac surmises that he could take part of the man's brain, transplant it into this friend, and possibly save the good man's life (not caring about the fate of a lesser man like Cannon)! Though such an operation would never be sanctioned- and is far from ethical- Sovac decides to sacrifice the mobster- and do the transplant to save his friend.
Amazingly, the operation is a success- and the professor not only survives the ordeal, but is making a full recovery. And yet- something isn't right- Sovac notices that his pal is acting like the deceased gangster whose brain is now melded with his. Having learned that the late thug had hidden a fortune from a previous crime, the doctor begins to formulate a scheme; if they can find the money, he can use it to fund his research! He makes the excuse that the professor could use a change of scenery to aid in his recovery- and picks the big city, which just happens to be where the late Cannon had his headquarters. Sovac is hoping it will trigger those transplanted brain cells, and revive the memories of where the ill-gotten gains might be hidden!
Not only are memories flooding back, but an unexplainable phenomenon occurs- the partial gangster brain is dominating Kingsley's personality- and even causing a physical change, making him somewhat resemble the late Red Cannon. This new version of Kingsley couldn't care less about Sovac's plan- his main concern is getting revenge on the opposing mob, led by Marnay (Lugosi)! Kingsley starts slipping into Cannon's former life- ready to pick up where he left off with his former gun moll, a nightclub singer-and regain his hidden cash!
Kingsley/Cannon begins a new reign of violent terror - but the waters get muddied by a visit from Kingsley’s unsuspecting family- while Marnay smells a rat, and has his own plans to latch on to the stolen money- and eliminate this somehow familiar stranger!
This 1940 movie is the result of some cast-switching- Karloff was going to play Kingsley/Cannon, but was recast as the doctor- giving Stanley Ridges the role of the professor, which he truly turns into a showcase for his acting skills- convincing playing both personalities, and managing to create two different looks without the use of much make-up. Bela Lugosi was originally slated to play the doctor, but, with Karloff taking that role, he was put into the somewhat unlikely role of the mobster enemy. We’ll tell you more about the cast and the production- and discuss a long-standing rumor about this film with none other than Gilbert Gottfried- plus-some vintage Sven commercial parodies, a visit with the amazing Malcolm McDowell, and more.
“Black Friday” relocates to Saturday tonight on MeTV at 8 pm eastern/pacific, 7 central, or check local listings (or www.metv.com) for time and channel in your area. On Twitter, as usual, fans will be live-Tweeting during the show, and you are invited to join in- always add the hashtag #svengoolie to your Tweet. This morning, on our main local station, CW26, you can relive the “Creation of the Humanoids” at 11 am.
Many thanks to the loyal fans who turned out to visit with me at the Flashback Weekend horror convention last weekend! I certainly have missed the fans as much as they have missed me, and we had a great time, while adhering to safety precautions. Watch for footage from the event in our future shows!
And, watch tonight as a mild-mannered man of learning transforms into a merciless mobster!