Corridors Of Blood (1958)


“Tonight I propose to conduct a further experiment on myself, this time using a much stronger formula…”


Director:  Robert Day

Starring:  Boris Karloff, Francis Matthews, Francis De Wolff, Christopher Lee, Finlay Currie, Adrienne Corri, Frank Pettingell, Nigel Green, Betta St John, Yvonne Warren (Yvonne Romaine)

Screenplay:  Jean Scott Rogers




Synopsis:  London, 1840. Although renowned for the swiftness with which he performs his operations, the only way of sparing his patients pain, Dr Thomas Bolton (Boris Karloff) is determined to develop an inhalable anaesthetic, and pursues his research in spite of the scorn of his colleague, Mr Blount (Frank Pettingel), and the doubts of his own son, Jonathan (Francis Matthews), an aspiring surgeon. In addition to his surgical work and his research, Dr Bolton runs a free clinic for the poor in the Seven Dials district. After one session, a tavern-keeper known as Black Ben (Francis De Wolff) begs Bolton to attend one of his lodgers is seriously ill. Reluctantly, Bolton agrees; but at the inn, he is mortified by an encounter with one of his former patients, who survived the amputation of his leg only to lose his mind from the shock and trauma of the operation. Bolton goes upstairs with Black Ben and discovers that the man he was called for has died, to the apparent distress of Black Ben’s wife, Rachel (Adrienne Corri). However, as soon as Bolton has filled in the death certificate and departed, the tavern-keepers celebrate the acquisition of a legal dead body, which will bring them a tidy sum. The body delivered to the hospital by a man known as Resurrection Joe (Christopher Lee), who receives payment from Mr Blount in exchange for the death certificate. Meanwhile, over dinner at home with Jonathan and Susan (Betta St John), his niece, Bolton muses on the desperate need for a reliable anaesthetic, turning angrily on Jonathan when he dares to suggest that this is no more than an impossible dream. Jonathan returns to his hospital duties, while Bolton retreats to his laboratory, where he experiments with nitrous oxide… In the middle of the night, Susan is woken by hysterical laughter and the sound of breaking glass. She rushes to the laboratory and finds her uncle in a strange, overwrought emotional state. She eventually succeeds in bringing Bolton to his senses, but discovers that he has slashed his hand open on a broken bottle. To Bolton, however, the injury is an irrelevance beside the fact that he did not feel it… Carrying his discovery to Charles Matheson (Finlay Currie), the Superintendent of the hospital, Bolton eventually succeeds in convincing him to allow a demonstration of his new anaesthetic. In addition to the usual attendees, who include medical students and other surgeons, representatives from the other major London hospitals are invited to witness Bolton’s “painless surgery”—with scepticism running high. Bolton is nervous but optimistic, but at the very last moment a terrible blow is struck when his chosen patient dies unexpectedly of a stroke. Desperate to go ahead, Bolton chooses a different subject from the waiting-room, a man with an abscess on his arm but whose general condition is excellent. After some resistance, the man does lose consciousness under Bolton’s anaesthetic, and the operation begins—but the dose of the gas is insufficient and the man wakes, screaming with pain and fear and going on a rampage… Despite this humiliating disaster, Bolton persists with his experiments—and with experimenting upon himself. He begins to work with opiates, developing an inhalable derivative. Breathing in the gas, Bolton begins to experience strange visions: jumbled images of his patients, those who lived and those who died; those who screamed in agony, and the one who lost his mind; of the failed experiment, and the mocking laughter; and above all of the sneering voice of Blount, with his insistence that “pain and the knife are inseparable”…

Comments:  Watching Corridors Of Blood has made me ponder the difference between a film that is “pretty good” and one that is “not bad”. To me, the latter expression means that a film has surprised us in some way, given us a bit more than we anticipated – “Hey, that wasn’t bad!” – whereas the former conveys a sense of disappointment, a suggestion that a film was somehow lacking: “Well…it was pretty good…”

Corridors Of Blood, unfortunately, is a pretty good film. In fact—it’s good enough that we can legitimately ask ourselves what went wrong.


The one really outstanding quality of this film is the production design of Anthony Masters, which exhibits a remarkable degree of attention to detail. Masters’ excellent work in recreating the realities of mid-19th century medicine and research is also well-supported by the moody black-and-white cinematography of Geoffrey Faithfull. The result is a film that, whatever its dramatic shortcomings, looks fabulous. (Though we doubt it ever looked better than it does today, thanks to its inexplicable adoption by Criterion.)

Also on the positive side of the ledger, this film has both a fascinating premise and a terrific cast; and though neither is used as it should have been, together they help to hold the viewer’s interest. Despite Boris Karloff’s headlining performance, it is the supporting cast that tends to attract attention, with several actors here now better known for their later appearances for Hammer, including Yvonne Romain, Adrienne Corri, Francis De Wolff, Francis Matthews, Nigel Green…and of course, Christopher Lee.

Hammer did not let the grass grow under their feet in getting their production of Dracula into the cinemas, following the unexpected success of The Curse Of Frankenstein. Consequently, while Lee was cast in Corridors Of Blood off the back of his performance as the Creature, by the time he appeared before the public in it, he had become a star: a situation that explains both the hasty rewrites that brought Lee into greater prominence in this film and the inclusion of the “…and CHRISTOPHER LEE as RESURRECTION JOE” title in the opening credits.

COB58-title1b  COB58-title3b

At the same time, one of my major annoyances with this film is that two-thirds of its female characters are unnecessary. Only Adrienne Corri as Rachel makes any significant contribution to the story. Betta St John is second-billed as Susan, but her character is a complete nonentity. I can only assume that her inclusion was intended to lighten the gloom a little, via her tepid and equally unnecessary romance with Jonathan.

(Or perhaps they were trying to illustrate the stifling narrowness of Victorian life for young ladies? – at any rate, I ended up amusing myself by trying to calculate what percentage of Susan’s dialogue concerns either her uncle’s meals or whether he’s getting enough sleep.)

Equally pointless is Yvonne Romain as Rosa, although she does serve to highlight the fatally divided attitude of the film-makers. Presumably a prostitute (the script coyly never confirms it), Rosa contributes nothing to the story beyond a little sleaze, drifting around in a transparent nightgown – transparent enough to show off her distinctly un-1840s panties – and suffering attempted rape by Resurrection Joe, in moments bizarrely out of step with the tone of most of the film.

And indeed, in the end Corridors Of Blood is a film that falls between two stools. This should have been either a full-blooded horror movie, or a serious consideration of a critical moment in the history of medicine. Ultimately it tries to be both, and ends up being neither. The overriding impression here is of a horror movie made by people embarrassed to be making a horror movie. The result, as we might expect, is annoyingly mealy-mouthed. The film serves up body-snatching and murder-for-profit and surgery without anaesthesia with a distinctly apologetic air, as if constantly seeking to reassure the audience that these unpleasantnesses will be gone in a moment and we’ll be back to the staid period drama that lurks behind the eruptions of nastiness.

COB58-hospital1b  COB58-hospital2b

But even this tonal uncertainly is not what truly damns Corridors Of Blood. The film’s fatal flaw is in the character of Dr Thomas Bolton, who might be brilliant, but certainly isn’t very smart. The decline and fall of this dedicated man of medicine is pitched as a tragedy, but the fact is that his failure is not the result of bad luck, or the machinations of his enemies, or even of Fate: it’s entirely his own fault. Every action taken by Bolton, every decision he makes, is just plain stupid. Watching a supposedly intelligent man do one idiotic thing after another becomes exasperating beyond the point where we can sympathise with the character; we react to his travails not with, “How terrible!”, but with an impatient, “Well, what did you expect?” Not even Boris Karloff can put this nonsense over.

It is, truly, remarkable in how many ways this film manages to undermine itself. It does so from the opening title, which not only tells us that we are in the London of 1840, but that this is “Before the discovery of anaesthesia”. Because, you know, the audience couldn’t have figured that out for themselves from the opening scene of a fully conscious man screaming in agony while getting his leg amputated.

And this is doubly annoying because this opening scene is otherwise wonderfully executed. A bell rings, and all over the surrounding district certain men – all powerfully built – leave their occupations to obey its summons, all of them receiving uneasy looks as they depart. These men, we learn, are employed to hold down those unfortunates required to undergo surgery. They make their way into the operating theatre of the local hospital where a terrified patient lies on a stretcher: an audience composed of medical students and doctors gathers, and a maidservant strews sawdust on the floor, to soak up the blood inevitably spilled…

COB58-hospital4b  COB58-blount1b

As I say, there are some things that Corridors Of Blood does well and one of them is capturing the bizarre and tasteless “spectator sport” aspect of mid-19th century surgery, with people there to gape rather than to learn, and two of the attendees timing the surgery, hoping for a new record. This is surgery not just without anaesthesia, but with bare hands, and without disinfectant (I say again: where is Joseph Lister’s biopic, hmm?); where all that could be done to spare the patient was to get it over with as quickly as possible. It is this for which Dr Thomas Bolton is celebrated: the steadiness of his hands, the remorseless rapidity of his work…

But Bolton is sickened by the demands of his profession, and devotes what little spare time he has to trying to develop an inhalable anaesthetic. His research is considered an absurd dream by many, even as going against Nature – or God. In particular, Bolton’s colleague, Blount, scoffs at his ambitions, insisting that “pain and the knife are inseparable”…

…a line which, by the end of this film, will make you scream, although not for its medical implications. We get it, okay? – we understand Bolton’s motivations, and we understand, too, that there is a measure of sadism in the resistance of Blount, and others like him, to the idea of anaesthesia. We really didn’t need the screenplay to ram that phrase down our throats with such monotonous regularity.

If Bolton’s research provokes the contempt of his associates, so too does the fact that a doctor of his professional standing wastes his time and expertise (as they view it) by running a free clinic for the poor in the slum district known as Seven Dials. As he is packing up after his long day’s work, a reluctant Bolton is called away to a local tavern (a thieves’ haunt, we gather – and worse) by its proprietor, Black Ben, to treat one of his lodgers who is ill with a fever. As the two approach, an alarm is called and a number of the tavern’s habitués flee through a hidden door in the wall; another, a tall, scar-faced man, withdraws into the shadows and from there keeps a close watch…

COB58-clinic1b  COB58-amputee1b

One further person who does not flee is the one-legged man sitting at the foot of the stairs, whose otherwise rather vacant expression crystallises into one of terror as he recognises Bolton. The doctor, in turn, knows the man as one of his former patients: the removal of his leg has saved his life, but cost him his sanity.

As Bolton and Black Ben approach the room of the sick lodger, the latter’s wife, Rachel, casts herself into her husband’s arms and announces tearfully that they are too late… Bolton examines the dead man and finds nothing that contradicts the tavern-keepers’ account of his illness and death, although he deplores their delay in summoning medical help, which stricture they meekly accept. There is, in short, no overt reason why Bolton should not fill out a death certificate—beyond, perhaps, the very eagerness of Rachel and Black Ben to have him do so.

No sooner is Bolton out of sight and earshot, however, than the two openly celebrate their successful hoodwinking of the reputable doctor. They are soon joined by the scar-faced man, whose sobriquet, “Resurrection Joe”, makes his choice of profession clear enough. The trio make plans to dispose of the corpse at the local hospital, where – illegal though it is – the doctors frequently buy the bodies necessary for their surgical and anatomical research.

It is, in fact, none other than Mr Blount to whom Resurrection Joe delivers the body. Blount hesitates until Joe produces the death certificate; and whatever disagreement he may have with Bolton, Blount accepts this assurance without hesitation. Joe stretches out an eager hand for payment…

COB58-joe6b  COB58-certificate1b

Resurrection Joe is an interesting early role for Christopher Lee, though coming as it does, after Dracula, it strikes us today as slightly odd. We judge that Lee was again cast chiefly for his physical presence, which is made even more intimidating via the scar on Joe’s face and his choice of wardrobe, all black, with his natural height emphasised and exacerbated by his top hat and long, button-down coat (both accurate for the period, including the quilting on the latter: see what I mean about attention to detail?). However, it’s a nice performance, too, particularly in the way it conveys a sense of Joe really enjoying his work: that unnerving Lee grin is in evidence at various points. The Cockney accent is a little disconcerting, though.

The day’s events have taken a toll on Bolton, who over dinner with Susan and Jonathan is tired and depressed. He snaps at each of his companions in turn as they try to persuade him to give up, or at least give less time to, his research, Susan out of concern for his health, and Jonathan because he believes it to be futile. Susan manages to broker peace, and after making up the two men separate, Jonathan to his night duties at the hospital, and Bolton to his laboratory.

Ah, the laboratory! – where it is the best of times, and the worst of times. Again, we can only admire the care that has gone into the set decoration of Corridors Of Blood, in this case creating a laboratory with glassware and other equipment correct for its period.

However, this is where the film’s stupidity begins in earnest, as we discover that Thomas Bolton, in attempting to develop his inhalable anaesthetic, not only experiments upon himself, but does so while all alone in his laboratory—while trying to develop a substance that will render him unconscious.


COB58-dinner2b  COB58-dinner1b

And this, as I say, is exactly the overriding problem with Corridors Of Blood: not just that Bolton’s research goes horribly wrong, but that under the circumstances presented, there is no possible outcome but everything going horribly wrong. Are we honestly expected to believe that, even in the absence of an actual assistant, Bolton wouldn’t have a servant present while testing his anaesthetic, just in case something went wrong? – an outcome not just possible, but extremely likely.

But be that as it may, Bolton goes right ahead, trying out a formula based upon nitrous oxide; with the result that, some time later, Susan is woken by the combination of wild laughter and breaking glass. She rushes downstairs and finds Bolton staggering about his laboratory, howling with laughter, ranting wildly, and smashing things.

Susan eventually manages to force Bolton into a chair – without calling for help; it must be a family trait – where he slowly regains control of himself. Susan is understandably frightened by this experience, and distressed to discover that her uncle has cut himself badly on a piece of glass; but it is she who realises the significance of the fact that Bolton did not feel the occurrence of this injury…

After some further experimentation, Bolton is confident enough to carry his discovery to the superintendent of the hospital, pleading for the chance to demonstrate his anaesthetic. Mr Matheson, who is a friend as well as a colleague, allows himself to be persuaded, but warns Bolton that he will be putting his career at risk if anything goes wrong.

COB58-lab4b  COB58-lab2b

An impressive audience gathers for Bolton’s demonstration, consisting of a mix of serious observers, cynics and doom-riders, and curious gawkers. Bolton remains confident, however, at least until Jonathan must break the news that the patient chosen as their subject has died unexpectedly of a stroke.

With the demonstration already running late and the audience getting restless – and Blount sneeringly suggesting that Bolton’s mouth has been writing cheques his butt can’t cash – Bolton refuses to cancel the demonstration. But where to get a new subject…?

Rushing out into the hospital waiting-room, Bolton picks out a patient with an abscessed arm, but who otherwise gives a general impression of health and strength, and promotes him willy-nilly into the role of guinea-pig, without altering the conditions of the demonstration—this in spite of the fact that (i) Bolton knows that the dose of anaesthetic must be calibrated to the physiology of the patient, (ii) the second patient is a much bigger man than his predecessor, and (iii) he was already in a highly agitated state before he found himself in the subject of an experimental procedure, conducted before a sizeable crowd.

And then Bolton has the gall to look surprised when the man wakes up the middle of his surgery…

Hey, Thomas, here’s a suggestion for you: you’ve experimented on yourself before – you know what dose will put you under – so why not show just how confident you are in your anaesthetic by using it on yourself, and letting your surgeon-son cut open and stitch up your arm?

But, no – that would be much too sensible.

COB58-demonstration3b  COB58-demonstration5b

The humiliating failure of his demonstration does nothing to dissuade Bolton from his research, but it does deflect him away from nitrous oxide, and towards the opiates – which he tests upon himself, while alone in his laboratory in the middle of the night…

Really, I can’t forgive this. This isn’t like, say, Vincent Price in The Tingler, self-experimenting with that newly produced and little understood substance, lysergic acid diethylamide – or, for that matter, like the experience of the real-life doctor upon whom Bolton was based, who tested chloroform upon himself. Even in 1840, people knew very well what opiates could do, what their physiological effects were, and how addictive they could be. Yet there goes our Thomas, huffing and puffing away…

Not much to our surprise, though presumably to his, Bolton suffers a series of strange visions under the effects of his new experimental gas: visions in which his recent experiences are jumbled together in a manner both haunting and mocking. Of all of them, it is his encounter with his mentally damaged former patient that has the most profound effect. Before long we find Bolton stumbling through the streets towards the tavern. His behaviour convinces an amused Black Ben that the doctor “has been making a night of it”, though of course we recognise that – not to put too fine a point upon it – Bolton is stoned out of his gourd.

As Black Ben watches in some bemusement, Bolton searches obsessively through the tavern’s patrons, looking for the man whose leg he amputated. It falls to Resurrection Joe to break the news that Bolton’s former patient is “nice and peaceful now”; we are not left in much doubt how he got that way.

COB58-rosa1b  COB58-rachel1b

Through the tavern scenes, we have seen a small boy pick-pocketing – or trying to – some of the other patrons, if not at Black Ben’s instigation, at least with his connivance. When Bolton slumps at a table, still muttering about the one-legged man, the boy manages to relieve him of his watch – and of his notebook – which he delivers up to Black Ben under compulsion. And despite what we do not doubt is the value of the former, it is that latter that catches Ben’s interest. Reading its contents, he is acute enough to realise that Bolton will be desperate to get the notebook back; might, in fact, pay anything for its recovery.

Oh, cruel irony! The only thing that Thomas Bolton does in this film that is not unforgivably stupid is to keep a thorough and detailed record of his experimentation – rare movie scientist that he is in this regard. And yet it is this single sensible act that paves the way for his downfall…

Meanwhile, it is at this point that we discover a second, and much darker, motivation for the tavern girls encouraging some of the patrons to drink themselves insensible. We watch Rosa help one such to a bed, but no sooner has she manoeuvred him onto it than Joe appears, ordering her away from the scene. As the door closes behind her, Joe picks up a pillow…

The next morning, Thomas Bolton picks himself up slowly and painfully from the laboratory floor. It is quickly apparent that he remembers nothing, or at least, he takes his memories for dreams. Noting the passage of time, his first thought is that his new anaesthetic works; his second is to record his findings in his notebook. With mounting panic, Bolton searches his laboratory and then the rest of the house, but of course he cannot find the precious record.

COB58-joe5b  COB58-joe1b

In spite of this setback, Bolton bails up the Chairman of the hospital’s House Committee and tries to persuade him into allowing another demonstration, but finds doors shut in his face all around – literally as well as figuratively. However, neither this nor the lack of a written record stops him persisting with his experiments – even though he admits to himself that he cannot remember the right ratios of his chemicals.

Soon Bolton is staggering off towards the tavern again, where this time he finds Ben waiting for him with a proposition: he may have his notebook back in exchange for his signature on a death certificate. Bolton is taken upstairs to view yet another body – which still has a pillow over its face – and although he cries out that he cannot sign a certificate, both we and his tormentors know very well that this is only a token protest. Defeated by his own desperation, Bolton takes up a pen…

To give the devil its due, another thing that Corridors Of Blood does well is trace the moral and physical degeneration of Thomas Bolton under the effects of his experimental opiate, to which he rapidly becomes addicted: an addiction refuses to admit, either to Jonathan or to himself. The symptoms are clear enough, however, and they bring his tenure at the hospital to an end: with his shaking hands and his occasional incorrect choice of an instrument, but above all due to the loss of the rapidity of action which was always his hallmark, Bolton is “finished, broken” as his colleagues observe, not without a certain satisfied malice.

Simultaneously, the hospital cuts off his access to the supplies of chemicals he needs. Bolton pleads with Jonathan for his help but he, recognising in dismay that his father’s need for the chemicals goes beyond mere experimentation, refuses: a situation which drives Bolton ever deeper into the clutches of Ben and Joe. This time, almost without argument, Bolton signs a pile of blank death certificates, in exchange for a promise of assistance in obtaining the chemicals he needs.

COB58-hallucination1b  COB58-hallucination2b

Perhaps a little surprisingly, the bargain is kept: though of course, there’s only one practical source for what Bolton needs. We find him leading Joe down the darkened corridors of the hospital to the locked dispensary, the door of which Joe jimmies open. Unfortunately, Bolton’s shaky condition causes him to knock over a bottle; the noise attracts the guard on patrol, who freezes in the doorway, staring in disbelief at Bolton, just long enough for the lurking Joe to strike him down – and then, following his instincts, to stick a knife in him. Bolton is horrified by this turn of events—but not so horrified that he leaves his chemicals behind.

This time, when Bolton comes out of his drug haze, it is to find himself still at the tavern. As usual, he has no memory of the night before—not until Ben shows him the chemicals, and Joe looms up with a conspiratory grin, at which point Bolton realises that it wasn’t a dream; none of it has been a dream…

The nature of the chemicals stolen points in one direction only, as both Jonathan and Susan must admit; and they are not surprised when Inspector Donovan from Scotland Yard calls looking for Dr Bolton—although they are when the inspector reveals the reason for his visit: death certificates with the doctor’s signature, but which seem to have been filled in otherwise by someone else. The others hardly know whether to be relieved or dismayed when Donovan expresses his belief that Bolton has been tricked into signing false certificates. In any event, he does not mention the murder, and consequently neither do they.

Irony again—the police themselves have not traced the murder to Bolton on the strength of the evidence that makes it all so obvious to the doctor’s family. Instead, Donovan has a bee in his bonnet over the proliferation of suspicious death certificates, and on this basis successfully argues for a raid upon the tavern.

COB58-tavern2b  COB58-tavern4b

Meanwhile, as Ben and Rachel debate the wisdom of getting rid of Bolton and his inconvenient conscience, that conscience is by no means hindering the doctor from mixing himself a fix. His shaking hands cause him to spill one of his chemicals on the table, however, where it burns and fizzes…

(Presumably this interlude was intended to remind viewers not as well-versed in Victorian sensation fiction as some of us that vitriol is an acid.)

But at long last Bolton has admitted to himself his addiction, and even as he heats his mixture, he manages to strike the vessel to the floor.

That night, Donovan leads an impressive squad to the tavern, which they successfully surround, having subdued and silenced the watch that Black Ben keeps outside as a matter of course. Inside, Ben and Joe are agreeing that Bolton has outlived his usefulness. Ben sends Joe on his way with an admonition to dispose of the body at a safe distance from the tavern.

Joe finds Bolton slumped over a table, and immediately reaches for his favourite weapon, the pillow. Before he can take action, however, the raid begins. Downstairs there is a scene of panic, with Donovan’s men converging and the tavern’s patrons screaming and scattering, though to little avail. Ben makes a break upstairs; a glance out of the window shows him that the tavern is surrounded, and he makes a run for the roof, calling Joe to follow.

Joe pauses, seeing the wisdom of disposing of Bolton, and reaches for his second favourite weapon, the knife. Bolton backs away, but there is nowhere to go, and Joe’s knife strikes home. As Bolton collapses, he manages to snatch up the bottle of vitriol from the table, and dash the contents into Joe’s face. Joe reels away, screaming in agony.

COB58-donovan2b  COB58-vitriol2b

That done, the dying Bolton’s only thought is to preserve his precious notebook…

The police then arrive. Donovan recognises Bolton and calls for an ambulance, though Bolton himself knows it’s no use. He begs Donovan to send for Jonathan and Susan.

Outside, Ben is still attempting a getaway as the police look on, confident that he cannot escape. Indeed, Ben’s exit involves a precarious climb up a ladder that seems unlikely to support his weight; though as it turns out, it’s the gutter above that gives way, precipitating his fall, not to the ground, but onto the inevitable Random Spiky Object. He lands just in time to give Rachel, also making a break for it, a good eyeful…

(The police reaction to this event, a half-impressed, half-horrified cry of, “Oooh!” which always makes me laugh, seems strangely out of place in this po-faced film.)

So much for the bad guys; the overt bad guys. Upstairs in the tavern, Jonathan and Susan have arrived in time to hear Bolton’s dying speech and apology. Naturally, his final action is to exact from Jonathan a promise that he will carry on with his research, while pressing upon him the precious notebook…

(…a work which by this time we might well imagine bears a certain resemblance to Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions Of An English Opium-Eater…)

…which Jonathan does, apparently giving up his career as a surgeon for one as England’s first anaesthetist, as medicine moves into a glorious new future of painless surgery…

COB58-end2b  COB58-end3b

…a future in which Thomas Bolton could have shared, if only he hadn’t been so FRICKING STUPID.


Watching this frustrating film, it is impossible not to compare it with Val Lewton’s The Body Snatcher, which occupies more or less the same territory, but is in every way a superior work—one which reflects, in a fascinatingly non-judgemental manner, upon the ethics of medical research in the era of the body-snatcher, while functioning simultaneously as the confronting horror movie that Corridors Of Blood simply refuses to be. Furthermore, The Body Snatcher contains one of the finest of all of Boris Karloff’s performances, a brilliant and terrifying characterisation that is likewise in stark contrast with the rather limp result we get here—something we may blame chiefly upon the screenplay. Boris tries hard, as always, but there is little he can do with such an annoyingly written role.

Corridors Of Blood was put into limited release in the UK late in 1958, and then shelved for nearly four years; not because of any perceived shortcomings – although there seems no doubt that, in the wake of The Curse Of Frankenstein and Dracula, audiences found it (you should pardon the expression) rather bloodless – but because of a change of management at MGM, which left the studio in control of the completed film but with no interest in promoting it. Corridors Of Blood did not attain a general release in the UK until 1962, after a second turnover at MGM; almost a year later it opened in the US, where its new distributors expressed their opinion of it by double-billing it with Werewolf In A Girls’ Dormitory. Perhaps not surprisingly, this was the last film produced by Amalgamated Productions.

Want a second opinion of Corridors Of Blood? Visit 1000 Misspent Hours And Counting.


chrisbanner1This review is part of Tall, Dark And Gruesome, the B-Masters’ tribute to Sir Christopher Lee.

This entry was posted in Horror and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Corridors Of Blood (1958)

  1. Dawn says:

    It is interesting to compare the Medical Establishment policy of that time (assuming the movie is accurate) with “Pain and the knife are inseparable”, with how long it took the same Medical Establishment to allow some type of pain relief for giving birth. Even after anesthesia was widely used in surgeries, it was considered unnecessary (and downright blasphemous) to relieve the pain of labor. After all, in Genesis, God tells Eve, “In pain you shall bring forth children.”. (another reason why I don’t agree with taking the Bible literally)
    Yes, a true movie about the research into anesthesia would have been fascinating, if they hadn’t been trying to copy “The Body Snatchers”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Galaxy Jane says:

      Apropos of nothing, I’ve got a weird affection for Francis de Wolff and his villains, jolly and sinister by turns. I first knew him as a kid for his nasty turns as Jedikiah on the original “Tomorrow People”, and subsequently began to recognize him turning up all over the place as I moved into my Hammer Horror phase. And as The Ghost of Christmas Present, naturally.


      • lyzmadness says:

        Yes, and he’s good in this – he and Adrienne Corri are very good together – though it’s not a major role. (Which, as indicated, is one of the film’s problems.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Galaxy Jane says:

        Not nearly enough of his roles really are as big as I’d like. But this is one I’ve been meaning to track down for a while, and you’ve given me good reason to go ahead and do it.


    • lyzmadness says:

      Well, we can thank Queen Victoria for breaking through that barrier – a bit difficult to say something’s wrong when it’s been done by the Queen of England and the Head of the Anglican Church! 😀

      Yes, I think there’s a lot of room in this area for straight medical dramas (which would still have plenty of horror!).


  2. dépaysement says:

    Christopher Lee with a Cockney accent?

    (I need to be able to put this in italics, WordPress, I really do!)


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