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Corridors Of Blood (1958)

Made as a companion piece to the dusty but mental Grip Of The Strangler, Corridors Of Blood has the same prehistoric look about it, but it's a very different animal indeed.

It even features the same star in one Boris Karloff, who has very similar problems (he's in the grip of a diabolical force, again). But whereas Grip Of The Strangler is barking mad and proud of it, Corridors Of Blood (despite the exploitative title) has something serious to say.

This, unfortunately, is its ultimate downfall - for although it's very worthy of the filmmakers to stick to their guns and delve seriously into the (admittedly horrific) world of wide-awake surgery, it's also painfully ironic that a film about the lack of anaesthetic is enough to send you to sleep. Boom, boom.

There are some excellent bits in it, though. Karloff is as great as ever (he's just such a nice bloke, even when he's forging death certificates for the local gangster), the idea of undergoing an operation fully awake with a bunch of fat doctors looking at you is quite hideous, and the Victorian squalor is nothing if not realistic. I also love the names of the East End scum - there's Black Ben (he's actually a fat white bloke with a big beard), Scrivener Sam, Resurrection Joe (played by the not-famous-yet Christopher Lee) and even Ned The Crow ("there's no better than 'im fer spottin' the peelers", apparently - whatever that means).

Karloff is surgeon Mr Bolton, who is fast with the knife, but doesn't like chopping up screaming patients, for some reason. He also does a lot of philanthropic work, unfortunately this takes him to Black Ben's pub in The Seven Dials area of Edinburgh, where, being the trusting mug he is, he starts signing death certificates for people Ben is surrupticiously bumping off.

"This place must breed a hundred fevers." Bolton comments on entering the place.

"You're right there, doctor," replies Ben, unfazed. "I got it cheap when they pulled down the old smallpox hospital."

Whilst there, Bolton comes across an example of his handiwork - a man, sans leg, still in a state of shock. Back home he vows to solve the problem of pain free surgery once and for all. "I can't rest until we rid surgery of such horrors!"

Unfortunately, he's busy testing his home made anaesthetic on himself. Alone. At night. So when he wakes up, he can't remember what he's done, the berk. Luckily, he manages to cut himself whilst staggering about like a loon, and his niece points out that he's not felt any pain. Aha.

Unfortunately, when he tests his concoction out on a willing patient in front of the doctors at the hospital, it doesn't work. Not only that, but it sends the patient a bit loopy and he starts beating everyone up.

Bolton tries a stronger dose, and starts having strange visions. What's worse, the hospital doesn't want to know after the last farrago, and they tell him to bugger off.

"I tell you you can't stop me!" he tells his detractors at the hospital. "Operations without pain are possible, and I'll not rest until I prove it to you. To all of you!"

Now, of course, he's addicted to the drugs he's been taking, and ripe for blackmail from Black Ben who, along with his accomplice Resurrection Joe, is busy bumping off half the populace of the Seven Dials.

As the drugs and the gangsters take control, Karloff becomes a philanthropic Baron Frankenstein, determined to solve the problem of pain-free operations at any cost. "I tell you you can't stop me!" he tells his detractors at the hospital. "Operations without pain are possible, and I'll not rest until I prove it to you. To all of you!"

Events gather momentum towards an ending that involves mucho police brutality, some vitriol in the face (nasty), and assorted stabbings and impalings. Once the dust has settled, anaesthetic is invented. Ta-daaa!

It's not that Corridors Of Blood is a bad film, it's just a bit slow. So if you're a fan of Karloff, or want to see what Lee's acting was like before he got ideas above his station, give it a try. It's worth searching out to see what a babe Adrienne Corri was in the 50s, as well.

Director: Robert Day Writer(s): Jean Scott Rogers (also story)

Cast: Boris Karloff - Dr. Thomas Bolton, Betta St. John - Susan, Christopher Lee - Resurrection Joe, Finlay Currie - Supt. Matheson, Adrienne Corri - Rachel, Francis De Wolff - Black Ben, Francis Matthews - Jonathan Bolton, Frank Pettingell - Mr. Blount, Basil Dignam - Chairman, Marian Spencer - Mrs. Matheson, Carl Bernard - Ned The Crow, John Gabriel - Dispenser, Bernard Archard, Nigel Green - Inspector Donovan, Yvonne Romain - Rosa


Last updated: February 17, 2010

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