Eminent surgeon, Dr. Bolton (Boris Karloff), feels for those who come to him in pain and finds himself on a quest to make something which would ease their suffering especially during surgery. Whilst working with opium as the basis of his anaesthetic Bolton finds himself becoming addicted to it and with supplies short it leads to desperate measures. To get his fix Dr. Bolton ends up working in the poorer areas of the city where he ends up assisting Black Ben (Francis De Wolff) and Resurrection Joe (Christopher Lee) by signing the death notices on the wayward drunks which they kill and then sell to the hospital.
I have to admit that when ever I come across a movie starring Boris Karloff my immediate thoughts are of it most likely being a horror movie. Yet Karloff was such a strong actor that he was just at home in more straight forwards dramas as he was horror movies. And drama is what we have in "Corridors of Blood" as we watch Dr. Bolton in his quest to help those suffering not only becoming a drug addict but ending up on the wrong side of the law as he needs to feed his addiction. Pretty straight forwards although you need to remember this is a movie from 1958 and I would imagine the story would have had a greater shock value on audiences back then.
Now there is more to the storyline in "Corridors of Blood" than just that but whilst that is interesting it is the performance from Karloff which makes the movie. At times he brings a great deal of compassion to his character as he helps those less fortunate, he also makes Dr. Bolton a man weighed down with guilt over being unable to help those in pain and it is a fascinating performance which with him playing a Dr has this almost automatic creepy side as well as if any moment you expect his character to show a dark side. And despite "Corridors of Blood" featuring good performances from the likes of Francis De Wolff and a soon to be Hammer star Christopher Lee it is Karloff who makes the movie.
Now in fairness some credit must go to director Robert Day as well with his vision of the 19th century and he manages to bring the atmosphere in each of the situations. There is an almost a Roman like smugness to the medical fraternity as they look down and laugh at Bolton's exploits in trying to find an anaesthetic. And then there is the squalor of the poorer areas but the joy others share in their simple life which ends up in the bar at the end of the day getting drunk. Day really brings to life the period which makes "Corridors of Blood" more engrossing than you might be expecting.
What this all boils down to is that "Corridors of Blood" is still a surprisingly entertaining drama about a dedicated doctor who not only becomes an addict but falls in with the wrong crowd to feed his addiction. And it is a movie which despite its impressive supporting cast is owned by Boris Karloff who brings many different layers to his character.