What Might Have Been: Crowe and Hopkins and…Zack Snyder?

This is one I intended to post a few days ago, but after my “blegh” week, I had it put aside for another time. Seeing that this is the 25th anniversary (Wait! Twenty-fifth? WOW!)…Where was I? Oh yeah, seeing this is the 25th anniversary for the Australian release of Spotswood aka The Efficiency Expert, this might actually be a good time to run with this.

I don’t know how many of you get to see Svengoolie, which pops up Saturday evenings on such nostalgia channels as ME-TV. The show is like a throwback to the Sixties and Seventies where one host in horror-type makeup and a goofy costume introduces a classic (or not so classic) movie, usually of the Universal horror era of the 1930’s and 1940’s. So we’re speaking of the time of the Frankenstein Monster, the Bride of the Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, The Mummy, Dracula, etc. Now and then, one of the films might not feature a monster per se but would have some type of suspenseful or thriller plotline, and would also feature one of the studio’s main stars.

One such movie aired on the Svengoolie show January 14th, 2017. It was entitled Black Friday, starring two of the legendary actors of Universal’s classic monster movies: Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi (although they never appeared in a scene together in this film). Released in 1940, it is not so much a horror movie as a psychological exploration, delving into the ethics of scientific and medical issues, when something seen as beneficial might not be for the best in the long run. While Karloff and Lugosi do what they do best (and Lugosi to a lesser extent since his role is minor), it is the British born Stanley Ridges who pulls off a stunner in a double-role as a mild-mannered college professor and as a sociopathic gangster. The film’s synopsis: ‘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.‘  That’s it in a nutshell. Come along for the 70-minute roller-coaster ride.  

One of the release posters for Universal Studio’s 1940 ‘Black Friday’ starring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Stanley Ridges

Universal’s ‘Black Friday’ with Karloff and Lugosi. Take a good look at the cursive writing excerpt, which is from the diary of our movie’s Mad Scientist (Karloff). 

Now, once I saw the movie I wanted to know more because although it wasn’t a box office success, you can still see there’s a hint of something special. That’s when I ran across an interesting little tidbit on IMDB. In 2007, a commenter on the messageboard for Black Friday, announced the following: ‘Anthony Hopkins, and Russell Crowe are in talks with Universal for the lead roles in a remake of their 1940 thriller ‘Black Friday’, If all goes as planned, Hopkins will play the role originated by Boris Karloff, while Crowe would portray the volatile recipient of a partial brain transplant gone awry. Early word is Zack Snyder is also in talks to helm the film which would have a targeted release date of Spring 2007.’ 

I’m not exactly sure why Zack Snyder. In 2007 his best known films were Dawn of the Dead and 300. If the movie was “targeted” for spring 2007, he would have been known for Dawn when you figure the production on the thriller remake would have been in 2006. Had this project come about as described, the releases of Black Friday and 300 might have been around the same time frame (the latter was released in March 2007).

All that aside though, the thought of Spotswood/The Efficiency Expert actors Crowe and Hopkins pairing up again on the screen 15 or so years later would have been an interesting project. Think about it. By that time, Crowe had played Bud White, Jeffrey Wigand, Maximus (and won an Oscar), John Nash (almost won an Oscar), Jack Aubrey and a host of others. To see these two fine actors together, expanding on a Universal B-movie – sorry it didn’t happen. I also haven’t learned why the project didn’t come about, but of course, it did say ‘in talks’ and often times, those talks lead nowhere and everyone moves on. 2007 did see Russell in a remake, but it was 3:10 to Yuma. As I’ve mentioned, Snyder shot to directorial stardom for 300 – same year. Hopkins saw 3 movies to his credit in 2007: BeowulfSlipstreamFracture.

What might have been!


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