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Before the discovery of anesthesia, operations were bloody, screaming ordeals from which the patient often emerged insane. In 1840, London surgeon Dr. Bolton tries to remedy the situation, but he becomes addicted to his experimental drugs. Following a demonstration during which one of his patients rises from the operating table and attacks the attending doctors and students, the humiliated Bolton takes an overdose of drugs and enters a tavern in the slum district of Seven Dials. There he falls prey to Black Ben and Resurrection Joe, whose main activity is supplying the hospital with bodies for dissection. In exchange for stolen drugs, Bolton is forced to supply signed death certificates for their victims. When one of the grave robbers murders a hospital guard, the police apprehend the criminals, but not before Bolton is stabbed to death. Bolton's son Jonathan continues his father's experiments and becomes instrumental in developing anesthetics.