THE HAUNTED STRANGLER
GRIP OF THE STRANGLER
There are a number of similarities between Corridors of Blood and The Haunted Strangler. Both star Boris Karloff for one (and from the looks of it may have been shot using the same sets). Moreover, the plots have a number of parallels in both films, Boris Karloff is a 19th Century researcher who becomes obsessed with his field of enquiry and in effect becomes a split personality (a drug-addicted doctor in Corridors of Blood, an actual split personality here). Both stories are essentially Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde tales. Both also make effective contrast between the good Karloff living an upright and moral upper-class lifestyle and his being drawn into a vulgar underworld as represented by seedy inns and dancehalls. The dancehall sequences are directed with an undeniable bawdiness although it is amusing to see The Haunted Strangler today where one of the dancehall girls has the unfortunate name of Martha Stewart.
Corridors of Blood gave the appearance of being a film that started out as an earnest and serious medical drama but was contorted into a horror film by its nearness to the Anglo-horror cycle that was started by Hammer Studios in 1957-8. The Haunted Strangler is much more of an overt horror film. Clearly, the scriptwriters were thinking of the Jack the Ripper killings and came up with a story about a split personality and what for a time looks like a possession story, all wound into a copy of the Ripper killings. Alas, once the films major twist becomes known, The Haunted Strangler collapses into almost complete risibility. The psychological behaviour that the film asks us to believe is preposterous that Rankins wife (Elizabeth Allen) happened to find Dr Tennant while doing charity work at a hospital twenty years earlier, took him home and somehow convinced him to adopt an entirely new identity as Rankin and completely erase all memory of himself as the psychopathic Tennant, and to not only develop total amnesia but to also somehow straighten out his crooked arm and twisted face. In some ways you could almost look upon The Haunted Strangler as a horror movie precursor to A Scanner Darkly (2006) although rather than Philip K. Dicks weird games of split personality identity bending, the film here emerges as clumsy and contrived psychology. Psychology was obviously not one of Robert Days strengths as Corridors of Blood also contains the same melodramatically contrived portrait of drug addiction.
The other risible aspect of The Haunted Strangler is Boris Karloffs theatrical and overwrought performance as the Tennant half of the personality. The performance that Karloff gives, where he seems to twist one side of his face up into an exaggerated snarl and put his arm into a claw, cannot help but seem absurd. While the film starts out promisingly and Robert Day gives it a sober historical realism that was very different from the Hammer films of the period, the last half of the film collapses into a silliness born by its fundamentally implausible psychology and Boris Karloffs hammy performance.