Thomas Bolton (Boris Karloff) is a prominent London surgeon. Unfortunately in the 1840’s there are no methods of anesthesia so surgeons rely on speed when they are amputating limbs from patients. The idea is to quickly remove the limb thereby limiting the length of time a patient is in pain. Bolton believes that here is a way to perform surgery painlessly. His peers are not convinced.

Bolton spends his time between performing in the hospital’s operating theater and helping the poor in the free clinic. When not doing either he is in his laboratory trying to find the right formula that will induce a sense of euphoria so that surgery can be done painlessly. Bolton uses himself as a guinea pig. Eventually he develops nitrous oxide. Bolton convinces the hospital to allow him to demonstrate his discovery. Before the surgery can begin his patient dies. He quickly substitutes the original patient with one that is in the infirmary. After inhaling the nitrous oxide the patient has a violent reaction. Bolton is humiliated in front of everyone.

Determined to prove to his peers that he was right Bolton continues with his experiments. This time using a stronger formula so that the patient is rendered unconscious during the surgery. He is also continuing these experiments on himself. Bolton is becoming addicted to the nitrous oxide. His addiction is affecting his health and his abilities as a surgeon.

With his abilities impaired Bolton is stripped of his duties at the hospital. Now that he is no longer a working member of the hospital staff Bolton is no longer able to get the chemicals he needs to continue his experiments and feed his addiction. Desperate he turns to Black Ben (Francis De Wolff), a crooked innkeeper, and his henchman and body snatcher, Resurrection Joe (Christopher Lee). But Ben wants something in return. Signed death certificates, no questions asked.

“Corridors of Blood” was made in 1958 but not released until 1962. It was directed by Robert Day and is a British-American venture. Although the film is labeled as a horror movie it is more of a quasi-historical drama. There are horrific things in the film but the main premise of the movie relates to true events, at least from a medical perspective, but they are presented and embellished in a shocking and gruesome manner. The Doctor Bolton in the film is a fictional character. William T. G. Morton was an American dentist and doctor. In 1846 he was the first to publicly demonstrate the use of an anesthesia in surgery. Morton was 27 at the time. Karloff was 72 when he made the film. Karloff’s character is said to be a composite of Morton and other pioneers in the field of anesthesia.

Although the film didn’t do well at the box office, time has aged this move nicely. It’s actually pretty good. With some great performances by, not only Karloff and Lee but, the entire cast. In addition there are some good old queasy moments of 1800’s surgery so the film does lend itself quite well to the horror genre. Karloff plays his character as a tortured and troubled soul. His intentions are for the benefit of mankind but he ends up wallowing among the wretches that he so longed to help. His performance alone is worth the price of admission. Toss in some brooding and sinister Sir Christopher Lee and the movie is just plain great.

The working title of the film was "Doctor of the Seven Dials" which is a road junction in the St. Giles section of London. MGM wanted the titled changed since they felt that foreign audiences, specifically American, would not be familiar with that area of London. Rob Zombie wrote a song in homage to the movie called “The Ballad of Resurrection Joe and Rosa Whore”.

Movie

Song

“The Ballad of Resurrection Joe and Rosa Whore”

Insane Blue at the green man inn
Cut the lights and pray that you're dead
Opium dreams through the seven dials
And feel the pillow over your head
Rachel hide from Ned the crow
Keen eye on the peelers
Experiment 53
And no scratch for the dealers

(Refrain)
She wants some more
Sweet Rosa whore
She wants some more
Sweet Rosa whore
I say hell is love
You say I must suffer
She's a motherfucker
Resurrect me
I say hell is love
You say I must suffer
She's a motherfucker
Resurrect me

Sleep well in your killing bed
Give a jig and show some life
Favor for a favor
Don't separate the
Pain from the knife
All the doctors sing
You got to suffer for the cure
As the world fades away
You wonder where you were

(Refrain)
She wants some more
Sweet Rosa whore
She wants some more
Sweet Rosa whore
I say hell is love
You say I must suffer
She's a motherfucker
Resurrect me
I say hell is love
You say I must suffer
She's a motherfucker
Resurrect me

(Repeat refrain)