Few things warm the cockles of my heart more than a period setting in a horror film, especially when we find ourselves in Merry Olde England, all starched collars and guttering candle flames and crisp accents and more bristling chops than you can shake a silk top hat at. For these reasons alone CORRIDORS OF BLOOD–cheap-sounding in name only, as the film got the prestigious Criterion treatment–was sure to stir loving tingles in my bosom, but that it should star that great King of Terror Boris Karloff and the simmering malevolence of Christopher Lee as Victorian boogeyman Resurrection Joe only made it a more wonderful occasion. (For viewers who crave the same kind of thrills, you can’t go wrong with THE BODY SNATCHER [1945] either, but you should know that by now.) In truth, this Richard Gordon-produced picture is just barely a horror story; the argument could even be made that it isn’t one at all. Physician Thomas Bolton desperately wants to create an anesthetic that will relieve his suffering patients the pain of surgery and amputation. Any expectations that the tale will become a remixing of the Jekyll and Hyde formula with Karloff’s dark side being awakened by his tampering with medical drugs are dashed as it becomes apparent there will be no moony-eyed mad doctors found here. The literate script forgoes any monstrous melodramatics to show us the classic tragical arc of man’s best intentions leading him into a pit of self-absorption, addiction, and obsession that results in his ultimate doom… and, later, reverence by the world, even if it is only after death. There is also an appropriately Dickensian slant to the story, especially in the final act that finds the den of cutthroats infiltrated by the law and Francis De Wolff’s ringleader meeting a gnarlier end than even ol’ Bill Sikes did at the end of his makeshift noose.

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