Dr Thomas Bolton (Boris Karloff) is one of the finest surgeons of the early 19th century – at least with him, the patient has a chance of survival.
He is also a humanitarian, constantly experimenting to find some way of making cruel surgical operations painless (in the days before anaesthetics when patients were strapped down by leather bands and held down by brawny assistants as they were having limbs amputated while still fully conscious).
He also runs a free consulting room in a London slum.
Two other residents in the slums are bodysnatchers Black Ben (Francis De Wolff) and Resurrection Joe (Christopher Lee) who run a profitable sideline in dead bodies for medical dissection.
Joe has a constant source of corpses because he murders the people himself.
At last, Bolton is convinced he has found the solution to anaesthesia and arranges a demonstration at the hospital, but the preparation is not strong enough and halfway through the operation the patient regions consciousness.
The doctor is disgraced, dismissed from his post and denied access to any further experimentation.
Addicted to his own gases, Bolton gets in deeper and deeper with the criminals Ben and Joe in order to continue his search for the perfect anaesthetic.
Christopher Lee and Francis De Wolff are excellent as the repulsive gang leader and his sidekick, lending the film an air of seedy degradation while Karloff balances this with a thoughtful performance of subtle pathos.
Between them lie a collection of characters whose actions and inactions contribute to the horror, including the appalling doctors who simply don’t care about the suffering they are inflicting on their patients.
“You can’t have operations without screams,” insists the dreadful surgeon Mr Blount (Frank Pettingell).
Corridors of Blood is more historical drama than straight horror film but there are plenty of dark and nasty moments.
Although filmed in 1958, the movie was not released until 1962.
Dr Thomas Bolton
Betta St. John
Francis De Wolff
Ned, The Crow
Yvonne Romain (as Yvonne Warren)
Charles Lloyd Pack