Since I’d already watched and written about two of the movies in Criterion’s Monsters and Madmen box set (The Atomic Submarine and First Man Into Space), I figured I’d go ahead and check out the other two, The Haunted Strangler and Corridors of Blood. The fact that both movies starred Boris Karloff as the eponymous madman made this an even easier decision.
One of the first things that struck me when watching these movies is that as opposed to the usual mad scientist who is simply conducting his experiments for purely personal reasons or for no real reason at all, in both of these films, Karloff portrays a man who is motivated by a greater good. In Blood, he is attempting to relieve the pain and suffering that his patients have to undergo anytime surgery is involved by developing a general anesthetic. In Strangler, he is attempting to prove that a man who was hanged for murder twenty years before was actually innocent. (The protagonist that Karloff portrays is actually an author for whom reopening and investigating this type of case is a sideline at which he has been successful in the past.)
Also, these are both movies where the “madness” results from obsession taken to the extreme, and in both of them, it is also the result as much of outside forces as the internal quirks of Karloff’s characters.
In the end, I found both of these to be excellent examples of this particular late-50s genre, and would highly recommend either or both of them to terror fans. Of the two, The Haunted Strangler, with its suggestion that its protagonist may actually be possessed by the spirit of the original serial killer and its Jekyll and Hyde undertones is perhaps the more conventional “horror movie”, but I have to say that watching them back to back I preferred Corridors of Blood, though I can also see where some might consider the latter to be a bit too much on the moralistic or “preachy” side, considering the fact that Karloff’s character is a very well-off doctor who is even more strongly motivated by seeing the results of his surgical procedures on the lower classes, and is at the same time being blackmailed into many of the acts that he performs.
Finally, let me add just a bit of wrap-up here. When I first began watching the movies in this box, I wondered just why Criterion, which generally is more well known for producing high-end disks of “classier” fare such as foreign films or “art house” movies chose to include these films as a part of its collection. Having now watched them, though of course I cannot speak for the company itself, what I can say is that I am glad that they did, as I found all four of them excellent examples of the kind of genre fare that was being produced at the time, highly entertaining, and overall definitely worth viewing especially by those who are genre fans. They are also ones that I would recommend to those who are not, but are simply looking for something relatively light and entertaining and are open to this kind of pulpy B-movie fun as a good way to pass an hour and a half or so of an evening, and perhaps that’s motivation enough.
Here are trailers for both movies:
- The Haunted Strangler (myoldaddiction.com)
- “Cauldron of Blood” Chews the Scenery and Leaves the Bones (Short Ends and Leader) (popmatters.com)
- Even Frankenstein breaks for afternoon tea (mashable.com)