The 1958 film Corridors of Blood is a loose depiction and dramatically hightened story about the discovery/invention of anesthesia in 1840’s London. Dr. Thomas Bolton (played by Boris Karloff, the godfather of horror actors) is the surgeon destined to find the cure for patient suffering in medically necessary amputations and other major surgical procedures after seeing the traumatic aftereffects on one of his former patients. His desire evolves into obsession, and his obsession leads him into unintentional addiction to the drugs he’d been testing primarily on himself. His reliance on the chemicals to both feed his compulsions and further his research causes others with less noble intentions to blackmail the doctor into fraudulently signing death certificates so that money can be claimed for the cadavers of murder victims.
None of this sounds particularly horrific, does it? Well, it’s about as horrific as it sounds. It truly is an emphatic representation of a horror gray area. The only components in the film that are found commonly in the horror genre are murders (though not gruesome) and a few actors who appeared frequently in many of the Hammer horror productions (Christopher Lee and Francis Matthews) of the 1950s through the 1970s. However, contained within the content of the film is an unintentionally representative depiction of human attraction to withstand watching others in serious pain. Dr. Bolton is not only a surgeon, but a professor and all of his surgeries in the film are done in the presence of spectators who are either wanting to learn, or want to see how quick the doctor can be in order to minimize the extent of excruciation.