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Boris Karloff gives a decidedly compassionate performance as a London surgeon madly trying to develop a gas of some kind to use in operations to relieve his patients of the inevitable pain that comes with surgery. The film chronicles much of the trial and error, ridicule from colleagues, and unfortunate reliance on opium based gas that surrounds Dr. Bolton, Karloff's character. Karloff walks in two circles: the first is at the hospital where he works with his son and is surrounded by other doctors and students - the second is a very poor part of the city where he helps the poor and is taken advantage of by a section of thieves and killers led by Black Ben(nice performance by Mr. De Wolf) and Resurrection Joe(played in a characteristically eerie fashion by Christopher Lee). Lee and De Wolf have a side business of killing wayward drunks and selling their bodies to the hospital. All they need is a signature from a doctor...that is where Karloff comes in. Although the film is not a "horror" film, it has some horror elements. Karloff really gives a nice, in-depth portrayal of a man destined to find a new way. The film has a great cast of British stalwarts such as De Wolf, Lee, Finlay Currie and Nigel Green. Production values are low, but the quality of film based on the budget used is exceedingly good.
Boris Karloff, as usual, is a joy to watch, as is Christopher Lee, who was right on the verge of becoming a big star in the Hammer films. This film is also notable for strongly evoking the grimy atmosphere of those out-of-the-way areas in 1800's England, worthy of comparison to David Lean's "Oliver Twist" (1948). Coincidentally, not long after seeing this film I happened to read the true life story of Horace Wells (1815-1848), a Connecticut dentist who experimented on himself with ether, chloroform, and laughing gas in an effort to discover a painless method of oral surgery. He succeeded, but became an addict in the process; his behavior subsequently became so violent that he was placed in prison, where he committed suicide. I wonder if Karloff's character in this film is at least partially based on Horace Wells.
Boris Karloff gives one of his best performances as a tormented doctor
trying to invent anaesthesia. In the process he becomes addicted to the
narcotics and begin associating with various London low-lifes - including
grave-robber Christopher Lee in a rivetting performance.
This is less horror than an atmospheric character study - and it is really very good.
Long before anesthesia, operations in London hospitals were wards of screaming patients in great pain and suffering. In 1840, Dr. Thomas Bolton (Boris Karloff),a great humanitarian surgeon, tries to eliminate all the pain and suffering connected with surgery. Bolton tries out experiments on himself and as a result becomes addicted to the drugs which he is taking. Some of Dr. Bolton's pain-killing gas works against him and a patient revives and attacks employee's of the hospital, therefore, Dr. Bolton is dismissed. Bolton wanders into the Seven Dials, a disreputable tavern and is taken over by the innkeeper, Black Ben(Francis De Wolff) and his assistant, Resurrection Joe(Christopher Lee)(The Dracula of the 60's) This film was originally titled "Doctor from Seven Dials, and this film was produced back-to-back with "The Haunted Strangler" by the same director, Robert Day. This film is a great old gaslite melodrama of Old London in B&W and gives you the creeps with all the cries of pain, blood and pain. Karloff plays a very calm doctor in Wolf's clothing, ready to do his THING!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Corridors of Blood (1962) is the story of a doctor trying to discover
the secret of painless surgery. While less a horror film and more a
study of the decline in an individual caused by drug addiction, it does
have several creepy and frightening moments. Some of the surgery
sequences are gruesome. And, any film with both Boris Karloff and
Christopher Lee has got to have its share of horror moments.
The basic story - Karloff plays the doctor. He experiments on himself with the gas he is developing to be used in surgery. He becomes addicted to the narcotics he is using. Soon, he is unable to function and is released from his position as a surgeon. He meets up with a couple of baddies played by Lee and Francis De Wolff who agree to help him get the drugs he needs. All Karloff has to do is sign some blank death certificates. Revealing anymore of the story would be too much.
Karloff is terrific as the doctor. You can feel his anguish and pain as he realizes what the drugs have done to him. But, you can also see the underlying need he has for the gas. Lee is so incredibly ruthless. His character (Resurrection Joe) kills with no remorse or qualms. This is one character I would have liked to see more of in other films. Also present is an excellent supporting cast lead by De Wolff and Nigel Green.
Corridors of Blood excels at atmosphere. Even with the small budget, the director (Robert Day) is able to portray the seediness and depravity of the Seven Dials area. Perfect! Not a great film, Corridors of Blood is, however, good and very watchable. Karloff's performance alone is reason enough to see this film.
This is a deceptive little film. First off, because it was made and sat
for four years before release, you might be inclined to think it is a
dud--but that's far from true. The film is very good--good enough to
almost earn an 8. Second, while the film has some horrific scenes and
features Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee, it is not a horror film but
more of a drama. So if you see it, don't expect monsters or
madness--instead, there are just bad people and good people doing bad
The film is set in 1840 and Karloff plays an exceptionally skilled surgeon who is dismayed that there are no drugs to alleviate the suffering of patients during surgery. Basically, people were wide awake and felt EVERYTHING during surgery and amputations! This is true, as the first anesthesias didn't come about until around 1850. Despite his concerns, other doctors didn't share his enthusiasm for change, so Karloff foolishly begins experimenting on himself--inhaling a mixture of various chemicals (including opium). Not surprisingly, he becomes addicted and this once sweet man becomes an unwilling pawn in the seedy underworld.
The film gets very high marks for construction, writing, direction and the performance of Karloff. There isn't much I'd change about the film, though fans of Christopher Lee might be disappointed that his role isn't that big and his character isn't that interesting (despite the fact he's a cold-blooded murderer). Give this intelligent little film a watch--it's really very good.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(Small plot spoilers)
`Pain and the knife are inseparable' is an often-heard line in this film, referring to the fact that surgeons until late in the 19th century had to perform their operations without anesthetics. The always-amazing Boris Karloff plays Dr. Thomas Bolton, a humanitarian medic determined to find ways to perform an actual painless operation. But Dr. Bolton doesn't receive any support from his closest colleagues, nor from the prominent hospital he works for, so he begins to experiment upon himself. Pretty soon, the heavy effects of opium and other hallucinogenic products turn him into an addict and he loses his grip on reality. The hospital precautionary suspends him after a couple of almost-fatal operations, but Dr. Bolton continues his experiments. His search for an efficient anesthetic leads him to a filthy environment of crooks and body snatchers (End spoilers)
`Corridors of Blood' is a modest, but well thought out chiller that can depend on a charismatic performance by Boris Karloff. It's hard to pick a favorite Karloff film with all the milestones he starred in, but this simply has got to be one of his most intriguing performances. The film also is another proof that a giant budget isn't the main requisite to shoot an effective terrifying tale. Director Robert Day succeeds in creating a perfect 1840 London Victorian atmosphere. Even though the basic plot is more of a drama and/or historical study, Corridors of Blood still features several outstanding and pure `horror' moments, like the fast-faced images of patients suffering on the operating table. One last aspect that is certainly worth mentioning is the brief appearance of Christopher Lee as `Resurrection Joe'. Lee, recovering from his very first Hammer successes, impresses as an ultra-creepy villain.
Any film featuring both Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff is an instant
must-see for any horror fan. Alone, either one of these can carry a film;
but together they make a force to be reckoned with indeed!
Karloff stars as the central character; a doctor who, through trying to find a way to separate pain from the knife (create an anaesthetic), becomes addicted to the chemicals he is working with. The character that Karloff portrays here is a world away from his most famous role; that of Frankenstein's Monster, but Karloff has proved time and time again throughout his illustrious career that he can handle all sorts of different roles, and he handles this one brilliantly. Karloff draws you into his character and really makes you believe that his ultimate, and only goal is to create something to ease the pain of his patients. When his character takes a more sinister turn after becoming addicted to his chemicals, Karloff impresses more. The way his eyes look and the atmosphere of weakness that he portrays is fantastic and just by looking at the man you can tell that he is extremely unwell. Karloff is one of horror's finest assets, and he more than proves himself with his role here. Of course, he doesn't need to prove anything to anybody; it's well known that he is one of the masters of the genre. As mentioned, starring alongside Karloff is another horror master; Christopher Lee. Lee doesn't have a great deal of screentime in the movie; but, as Lee would go on to show time and time again in his later career; with just his presence, Lee can create a foreboding atmosphere about his character that is unmatched by almost every other actor out there.
The film isn't so much a horror as a thriller charting a man's decent into addiction, but the movie still features a lot of horror moments; most notably the screams of the patients on the operating table and every scene with Christopher Lee in it. Director Robert Day manages to create a foreboding atmosphere that firmly places the viewer in 1860's London. I didn't doubt it for a second, and that is very admirable; especially when the budget is considered. Corridors of Blood isn't a very well distributed film, and that is a shame as there is much to enjoy about it. However, if you do ever get the chance to see it; be sure to take it. You'll be glad you did.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
CORRIDORS OF BLOOD
Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Sound format: Mono
(Black and white)
London, 1840: Whilst attempting to formulate an anaesthetic solution, a dedicated surgeon (Boris Karloff) becomes addicted to narcotics and is blackmailed by local bodysnatchers.
Riding the coat-tails of a Gothic revival occasioned by the recent success of Hammer's THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), Robert Day's CORRIDORS OF BLOOD is an odd mixture of historical drama and Grand Guignol theatrics. Producer Richard Gordon lured Karloff away from Hollywood - where his movie career had become stalled in a B-movie rut (VOODOO ISLAND, FRANKENSTEIN 1970, etc.) - for a couple of lurid shockers in which good men are thwarted by circumstances beyond their control. In GRIP OF THE STRANGLER (1958), he played a novelist who stumbles onto a horrific secret whilst researching a series of murders from recent history, while in CORRIDORS OF BLOOD, he's a drug-addicted surgeon who falls prey to a gang of criminals masterminded by East End pub landlord Francis de Wolff. Less a horror film than a melodrama with ghoulish trimmings, the movie hedges its commercial bets by including a number of gory thrills (a leg sliced open, a face destroyed by acid, etc.), but the narrative is motivated chiefly by Karloff's altruistic pursuit of an anaesthetic formula that will alleviate the terrible suffering of patients during surgery.
Produced under the title 'The Doctor from Seven Dials', the finished movie went unreleased until 1962 due to indifference by distributors MGM, by which time co-star Christopher Lee had earned a prominent screen credit, despite playing a small - but significant - role as 'Resurrection Joe', a sinister Cockney thug who murders carefully selected patrons of de Wolff's squalid pub and sells the remains to local doctors. Lee filmed this glorified cameo before THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN catapulted him to international stardom, which accounts for his limited screen time, though his intense performance is one of the film's highlights. Adrienne Corri (VAMPIRE CIRCUS) distinguishes herself as de Wolff's partner in crime, and there's a feast of familiar faces in supporting roles, including Francis Matthews (DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS), Betta St. John (THE CITY OF THE DEAD), Finlay Currie and Nigel Green. Superb art direction (by Anthony Masters) and cinematography (Geoffrey Faithful).
If Boris Karloff's character of a Victorian doctor looking for an
anesthetic had the benefit of some scientific journals he might have
read about Morton, Long, and Welles over in America experimenting on
such a project. In Corridors Of Blood the lines of experimentation that
Karloff was pursuing held a lot of danger for everyone concerned.
Corridors Of Blood casts Boris Karloff as a respected London surgeon of the early Victorian era who is seeking a method of painless surgery. But those Americans I cited were using a form of Nitrous Oxide and eventually developed Ether. Karloff has decided to use a concoction that has as its base Laudanum which is an Opium derivative.
The results are what you would expect, Karloff breathing in the fumes of his experiment becomes an addict and starts frequenting the seamier sides of London for Laudanum for his experiments and more for himself. A pair of cutthroats played by Francis DeWolff and Christopher Lee aid him in his search, for a price.
Corridors Of Blood is a moody atmospheric thriller set in Oliver Twist London. Look also for a good performance by Nigel Green as the police inspector looking to break up the den of vice and corruption that Karloff has fallen into. Definitely a must for Karloff fans.
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