48 user 40 critic

Black Friday (1940)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Horror | 12 April 1940 (USA)
Dr. Sovac transplants the brain of a gangster into his professor friend's body to save his life, but there is a side effect that causes a dangerous split personality.


Arthur Lubin


Curt Siodmak (screenplay) (as Kurt Siodmak), Eric Taylor (screenplay)

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Complete credited cast:
Boris Karloff ... Dr. Ernest Sovac
Bela Lugosi ... Eric Marnay
Stanley Ridges ... Prof. George Kingsley / Red Cannon
Anne Nagel ... Sunny Rogers
Anne Gwynne ... Jean Sovac
Virginia Brissac ... Mrs. Margaret Kingsley
Edmund MacDonald ... Frank Miller
Paul Fix ... William Kane
Murray Alper ... Bellhop
Jack Mulhall ... Bartender
Joe King ... Chief of Police
John Kelly ... Taxi Driver
Robert Morgan Robert Morgan ... Hotel Associate


When his friend Professor Kingsley is at deaths door, brain surgeon Dr. Sovac saves his life by means of an illegal operation that transplants part of injured gangster Red Cannon's brain. Unfortunately, the operation has a disastrous Jeckll and Hyde side effect and under certain conditions the persona of Cannon emerges. Sovac soon learns of the duel personality and of half a million dollars the gangster has hidden away. He attempts to find the money through the manipulation of his friend, an attempt that brings Kingsley closer to madness as he alternates between a meek professor of English and a brutal gangster out for murderous revenge on those who tried to kill him. Written by Carlos Valverde <revchuck@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A Reign Of HORROR... a man-made monster on the loose!


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Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

12 April 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Friday the Thirteenth See more »

Filming Locations:

Hollywood, California, USA See more »


Box Office


$125,750 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


In spite of Karloff and Lugosi receiving top billing, neither actor would dominate the story-line. Character actor Stanley Ridges took center stage in that regard and arguably gave the best performance in the film. See more »


Professor Kingsley is seen to scream and throw up his hands before the car is doing anything more than moving forward and is not headed in his direction. See more »


Dr. Ernest Sovac: Here's a curious thing George. It seems that Louie Devore, one of Red Cannon gang, was found early this morning in a deserted building dying from the effects of a brutal beating. His back had been broken.
Prof. George Kingsley: Good Heavens, Earnest. Why on Earth bother me with that grusome stuff?
Dr. Ernest Sovac: Sorry George.
See more »


Featured in 100 Years of Horror: Bela Lugosi (1996) See more »

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User Reviews

Starring that Master of Horror, Stanley Ridges! Oh, and Karloff and Lugosi are in it too.
17 September 2005 | by GulyJimsonSee all my reviews

This is not a bad film; it's a serviceable "B" thriller. In fact it is very reminiscent of the fine Columbia Studios Boris Karloff mad doctor/gangster/horror films of the late Thirties and early Forties. Curt Siodmak collaborated with Eric Taylor on a script variation of his "Donavan's Brain" theme. It has the polished look of some of Universal Studio's best "B" movies. Arthur Lubin's direction is competent-he keeps it moving along-but lacks the zest he would bring to the 1943 remake of "The Phantom of The Opera" starring Claude Rains. It has a good supporting cast that includes the lovely Anne Nagel, Paul Fix, Stanley Ridges, and in a brief role as the reporter who is the recipient of Dr. Sovac's notes, James Craig. Most important of all, and this cannot be overstated, it stars Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, the greatest horror team the cinema has produced. At least that is what the credits would have us believe. And this is where the film unfortunately goes all wrong. Karloff and Lugosi were a team with a fine pedigree; "The Black Cat" (1934) "The Raven" (1935) "The Invisable Ray" (1936) and their greatest collaboration, "Son of Frankenstein" (1939). They even did bits together in two slight films, "The Gift of Gab" (1935) and "You'll Find Out" (1940) with Peter Lorre. The chemistry the two generated in their scenes together in their horror films was terrific. Lugosi with his daemonic will to power and Karloff with his unique ability to combine the sinister with the sympathetic have delighted audiences for over seventy years. So it is not unnatural that devotees of their films would approach "Black Friday" with extremely high expectations. And for those expecting another Karloff-Lugosi teaming the disappointment, the sense of being cheated, is enormous. "Black Friday" is not a Karloff-Lugosi film despite what the opening credits suggest. Not only do they not share any scenes together, but Bela is relegated to the perfunctory, unimportant role of Marnay with very little to do except to try to look and act like an American gangster, who coincidently just happens to sound like Count Dracula. So what happened?

It has long been rumored that Karloff was originally going to play the duel role of Prof. Kingsley/Red Cannon-the best part in the film-and Lugosi was to play Dr. Ernest Sovac-the part Karloff eventually took. This would make sense. Sovac has a Hungarian name, so Lugosi's accent would not have seemed out of place and also his daughter makes reference to his being in the process of gaining American citizenship while the Kingsley/Cannon part would have provided Karloff with a nice variation of the type of roles he had been playing at Columbia. Instead for reasons that remain a mystery, Karloff got bumped to the Sovac role-Hungarian name still intact, Lugosi got the thankless part of Marnay while Stanley Ridges, an actor no one wanted to see got the plum role of Kingsley/Cannon! Who was responsible for this ineptitude? Ridges was a good actor with a fine speaking voice, and he had a career in supporting roles, usually playing minor officials or bureaucrats but no one in their right mind would ever think about building a film around him, certainly not a horror film. Not from a box-office point of view. Not when you have the talents of BOTH Karloff and Lugosi on the payroll. Then to add insult to injury when the film didn't perform to expectations instead of blaming it's failure on the moronic casting-imagine MGM casting Marie Dressler to play Juliet and then wondering what went wrong-the studio heads chose instead to believe the Karloff-Lugosi team was no longer box-office. It was a sad end to a great horror collaboration, and the disappointment of Karloff and Lugosi fans is thoroughly understandable.

Unfortunately while the miscasting is the most grievous flaw, it is not the only one. There are other problems at work undermining the film. The most serious being it completely lacks any atmosphere of horror. Like many of Universal's Forties fare the film is slick and professional but utterly lacking in any style. This can be deadly in a horror film. As mentioned before the direction is serviceable while the score-always one of the strong points of the Universal horror films-is simply stock music and forgettable, except when it recycles some of Hans J. Salter's themes from earlier horror films. The same might be said of Elwood Bredell's cinematography-its serviceable but nothing more. And that pretty much sums up this last teaming of Karloff and Lugosi in a Universal horror film. Its serviceable and nothing more and thats sad because with a little more thought and care-and more intelligent casting-it could have been quite good. It is somewhat ironic that RKO Pictures, Universals great horror competitor of the Forties actually provided a more fitting coda for the Karloff-Lugosi team in the beautifully atmospheric 1945 Val Lewton production of "The Body Snatcher". They have only one real scene together but it showcases both stars. And it gives Lugosi, in ill health and drug-ridden as he was, one last chance to show the world he was a fine actor and not just a flamboyant personality.

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