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When his friend George Kingsley (Stanley Ridges), a well-meaning
professor of English literature, gets into a carchase between gangsters
through no fault of his own, & ultimatley gets run over, his best
friend, the brilliant brainsurgeon doctor Sovac (Boris Karloff), tries
everything to help him ... but it is not until Red Cannon - the gangster
who ran Kingsley over & is now dieing - with his dieing breath
promises Sovac a share of the loot of his last heist if he saves his life,
that Sovac has one of these typical B-movie ideas ... why not transplant
the brain of the gangster into the body of Kingsley (not instead of
Kingsley's brain but additional to it), which would save Kingsley's life
... & the Red Cannon brain could tell Sovac where the money is.
Slowly, Kingsley seems to be recovering, & for the most part the
Red Cannon brain seems dormant, so Sovac tries a drastic measure, take
Kingsley to New York, to exactly the hotel where Red Cannon hid out &
try to confront him with a few of Cannon's favourite spots, & his
moll, nightclub singer Sunny (Anne Nagel), & bring the Red Cannon
persona to the fore .... & wouldn't you know it, it works.
It works to well though, because, Kingsley, as Cannon, falls into the
gangster's old habits of being a brute & avenging himself & the
like, & soon, two of the men (Paul Fix, Raymond Bailey) who chased him
& caused his accident (& death - his old body's death anyways) are
dead, murdered by him.
Then he visits Sunny, to pick the romance up where he left it off 2
months ago, when he died. Sunny, need I say it, is mighty confused.
However, soon she decides to throw in with Marnay (Bela Lugosi) &
Miller (Edmond MacDonald) - the two gangsters who have caused Cannon's death
& are still alive, & while he promises her to get his loot (half a
million, no less) & then take off with her to South America, she sells
him off to them.
So when Kingsley/Cannon is off to fetch the dough, Marnay & Miler
are right behind him & try to kill him ... with little success, Cannon
kills Miller instead. Marnay though takes off with the loot, but
unfortunately hides at Sunny's, the first place Cannon coes looking for
him, & in a fit of rage, he kills both Marnay & sunny, then takes
off with the money ... & on the way to the airport in a taxi to make
good his getaway, he turns back to mild professor Kingsley & suddenly
asks to be taken to his hotel, where Doc Sovac, eager to get his hands on
the money, awaits him, calms him down, puts him to sleep & somehow
alleviates Kingsley of his money (about which he can't remember anything
anymore anyhow).& even on the next day, when the police comes snooping
abouut, nobody would even try to suspect mild-mannered Kingsley ... &
Doc Sovac of course does his best to let Kingsley's Cannon-persona lie
Everything seems to work fine for a few months, & Kingsley resumes
his job as professor for English literature as if nothing has happened,
until one day in class, he hears a siren ... until one day he hears a
siren that reawakens his Cannon-persona, & it doesn't take long before
he remembers that Doc Sovac has tried to doublecross him, & for that,
he has to die ... or so Cannon thinks, but Sovac pulls his gun first &
shoots Cannon, & with him his best friend Kingsley - for which Sovac
is soon convicted to the chair. & on the way to his death, he hands
his diary which details his advancments in brain surgery, to a young
reporter, in the hopes that it may some day used for good, too ...
This blend of science fiction, horror (especially Jekyll
& Hyde springs into mind), & hard boiled gangster story
is enjoyably silly but features a well-structured plot that keeps things
going at a steady pace & keeps the audience entertained throughout.
By the way, Boris Karloff & Bela Lugosi do not appear in a single
scene together, second-billed Lugosi is merely a supporting character, but
he delivers a fine character performance.