Plot: Dr. Sovac (Boris Karloff) had to go to drastic measures in order to save the life of his friend, Professor Kingsley (Stanley Ridges). A car accident left the professor near death, but Sovac was able to save him with a long shot surgical procedure, one most doctors wouldn’t have dared even think of. Sovac performed a partial brain transplant and implanted a segment of criminal Red Cannon. The operation is a success, but as it turns out, the transplant resulted in some unexpected side effects, as Red’s brain is not quite passive. In some situations, Red is able to take control of the professor’s body and while this worries Sovac at first, he soon learns that Red has a trove of stolen loot hidden and sees a chance to cash in. But has Sovac gone too far this time and as Red murders his way to the riches, what will become of Kingsley?
Entertainment Value: Black Friday has a fun premise, with Boris Karloff engaged in a brain transplant that leads to a Jekyll & Hyde scenario and a crime thriller narrative is also woven in. So if you’re here for horror elements, this movie won’t do much in that regard, as it is more of a crime drama with some light horror touches, mostly tied into the persona switches. The story makes no sense of course, but the b movie cheese and plot holes are part of the appeal here, as Black Friday isn’t going to be taken as a serious thriller. The tone is serious, but has some melodrama at times and Stanley Ridges dials up his effort as a result. The persona issues are often humorous, but I wish the movie ran with the silliness a little more, as it never pushes across that b movie line into all out unintentional humor. The pace is part of the problem in that regard, as some stretches are on the slow side, despite a 70 minute duration. But I think there’s enough fun to be had to recommend this to fans of Karloff, Lugosi, and classic horror, as long as you keep your expectations reasonable.
I think horror fans will appreciate Boris Karloff in the role of the doctor this time around, but I wouldn’t rate this as one of the legend’s better efforts. He turns in his usual solid performance, but he isn’t given a lot of chances to shine, often taking a backseat to his costar Stanley Ridges in this one. Karloff does have a good amount of screen time however, so if you’re just here for Boris, at least he’s around a lot. The same can’t be said for Bela Lugosi, who has a much smaller role than normal and isn’t able to much with the character he’s given. I still like to see Lugosi of course, but I wish he had a more interesting role to play or at least more time to develop the one he has. I should also mentioned that Karloff and Lugosi don’t share any scenes in Black Friday, which is a disappointment. Stanley Ridges is fun to watch in the Jekyll & Hyde roles, but I still wanted more from our horror legends, so while Ridges is fine, I kept hoping Karloff and Lugosi would show up. The cast also includes Anne Nagel, Jack Mulhall, and Anne Gwynne.
The Disc: This movie has been given a new 2k scan, thanks to Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release as part of their Universal Horror Collection: Volume 1. The movie looks solid in this new version, but shows considerable print issues and while not soft, doesn’t have the kind of detail fans might expect. A full restoration might yield sharper, cleaner visuals, but this does look passable and a step up over the DVD editions I’ve seen, so that’s at least some good news. The contrast is solid as well, but also shows some concerns, leaving us a competent, if flawed visual presentation. The extras includes a featurette on the making of Black Friday, a film historian commentary track, a radio program of The Tell-Tale Heart with Boris Karloff, some still photos, and the film’s trailer.