Boris Karloff was impressed with director Robert Day while working on The Haunted Strangler. He felt Day had the same stylistic approach to filmmaking that Val Lewton did, which Karloff believed were some of his best films in the 1940s. His contract with Amalgamated Pictures gave him an option for a second film, so with a desire to return to England in the summer of 1958, Karloff signed on for The Doctor from Seven Dials, better known in the US as Corridors of Blood.
Despite the fact that horror films were experiencing a resurgence, thanks in large part to the success of Hammer Films, Robert Day was intentionally not resorting to shock factor in his films. The horror elements were more reserved. Corridors of Blood would have Karloff playing Dr. Thomas Bolton, a surgeon in 1840s England researching anesthetic gases that would provide painless surgery. While working at the hospital performing surgeries, he does charity work at a clinic in Seven Dials, a slum where a disreputable character named Black Ben owns an inn that some men enter but never leave. Ben works with his wife, an attractive young girl and his henchman Resurrection Joe (Christopher Lee, Horror of Dracula) to rob poor unsuspecting men after they are left drunk and helpless. Dr. Bolton is tricked into signing a death certificate, an act that opens the door to bigger troubles down the road.
Dr. Bolton begins to obsess about finding the right mixture, especially after his trial demonstration turns him into a mockery. As he continues to experiment on himself, he begins to spiral into addiction, leaving him easy prey for Black Ben. When Dr. Bolton accidently leaves behind his research notes during a drug-induced excursion, he is blackmailed into signing falsified more death certificates to help cover up the murders Ben and his crew are piling up. When the hospital suspends Dr. Bolton as it becomes obvious he needs a rest, the situation becomes desperate and forces him to resort to even more questionable means in the name of science.
Karloff never resorts to playing Dr. Bolton as a typical mad scientist. In fact, he really is a more sympathetic man as he never resorts to criminal activities until he is already addicted and murder never even crosses his mind. It’s almost hard to consider Corridors of Blood a horror film as it really is more suspense and thriller. The supporting cast is good but its’ most fun seeing Christopher Lee in the first of two films he would star alongside Karloff. While Resurrection Joe doesn’t do much, he is perhaps one of the scariest aspects of the film. Coming fresh off his role of the monster in Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Lee is given special star status in the opening credits, a sign of even better roles to come in the years ahead.
While The Haunted Strangler was paired with the equally good Fiend Without A Face as part of a double bill when MGM released it in the United States, Corridors of Blood didn’t do as well. The Haunted Strangler had turned a profit of $140,000 but Corridors of Blood was ultimately shelved for four years due to various changes at MGM Studios. When it was finally released in 1962, it was paired with the lesser Werewolf in a Girl’s Dormitory. Making only a small profit of $14,000, it was a financial disappointment and the last film from Amalgamated Pictures.
On several levels, Corridors of Blood is the better of the two films, telling a better and more believable story but I do enjoy both films equally. I’ve never seen director Robert Day’s film First Man into Space (1959) but now my curiosity has me wanting to check it out. Unknowingly, I’ve already seen some of his other work as he did four Tarzan films as well as the rather notorious Hammer film She (1965). I’d recommend Corridors of Blood so check out the trailer and seek out the Monster and Madmen box set.
Next up, we’ll take a look at the movie Karloff did between his two for Amalgamated…Frankenstein 1970 (1958).