CORRIDORS OF BLOOD
What becomes apparent in seeing Corridors of Blood is that it is not a horror film at all. It is more of an historical film about early medicine and the discovery of anaesthesia. (The character of Bolton is very loosely based on Connecticut dentist Horace Wells who in 1844 pioneered the use of nitrous oxide as an anaesthetic while pulling teeth. Wells also experimented on himself (although there is no record that he became a drug addict) and was ridiculed by his peers when the patient woke up during a demonstration). In various genre studies, commentators have often called Corridors of Blood a Sadean film and linked it with other films that came out around the same such as Horrors from the Black Museum (1959), Circus of Horrors (1960) and Peeping Tom (1960). In seeing the film, this is not the case either while there are a couple of surgical scenes, these seem more matter-of-fact than lurid and there is nothing in the way of gratuitously sensationalistic murders. Trying to label Corridors of Blood as a Sadean film is surely akin to regarding tvs ER (1994-2009) as a gore show on the basis of its often graphical surgical scenes.
One gets the impression that Corridors of Blood started out as an historical film but other influences came in over the script almost certainly the appearance of The Curse of Frankenstein and the sudden interest in English horror to push it out of shape into being a horror film. This is particularly apparent in the casting of Boris Karloff. He is cast as an earnest but misguided scientist who becomes addicted to his own experimental anaesthetic gas. However, the way the film plays this, it is a portrait of drug addiction that seems to almost be wanting to turn into a Jekyll and Hyde story. It is an entirely melodramatic portrait of addiction one where Boris Karloff undergoes a personality change and even suffers complete blackouts about what he has done while under the influence. The film has many similarities to the Frederic March version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) in that it also draws a dichotomy between the doctors upstanding life in polite society and his consorting with unruly elements in the seedy inns of London, which clearly come to stand in for the dangerously carnal side of life that has been repressed both in the doctors personality and by the polite society he comes from. To add to the horror connection, the film also throws in a subplot involving body snatchers the Burke and Hare story (or some equivalent thereof) seems to hover in the background of a good deal of Anglo-horror and could be considered de rigeur for any film dealing with pre-20th Century medicine.
All things said, Corridors of Blood is a fair and reasonable film, whether considered either as horror or historical drama or some peculiar melange of the two. While clearly operating on a low budget (there is only a single painted backdrop of the city of London beyond the slum area, for instance), the art director has exerted some effort in making the sets and dressings look authentic for the period. Director Robert Day does a fair job and the story is reasonably absorbing. Boris Karloff plays well in the mad scientist role he perfected a scientist whose endeavours seem highly sympathetic and not at all mad, really. Christopher Lee adds a sinister undercurrent as the murderous blackguard, while Francis De Wolff shines as the burly blackmailing innkeeper.
Director Robert Day made a number of other genre films. Having imported Boris Karloff for Corridors of Blood, Day also used him at the same time in The Haunted Strangler/Grip of the Strangler (1958), another very similar period film where Karloff plays an upstanding man with a hidden past as a murderer. Robert Day also made First Man Into Space (1959), a cheapie about a mutating returned astronaut; Hammers lost world film She (1965), also starring Christopher Lee; as well as a host of Tarzan films Tarzan the Magnificent (1960), Tarzans Three Challenges (1963), Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1967), Tarzan and the Great River (1968) and Tarzan and the Jungle Boy (1968). The majority of Days work in the 1970s and beyond was in tv, where he made a number of genre tv movies including Ritual of Evil (1970) about an occult investigator and the psychic powers film The Initiation of Sarah (1978).
(Review copy provided courtesy of Kathy Tipping)