X – THE MAN WITH THE X – RAY EYES
(director/producer: Roger Corman; screenwriters: Robert Dillon/Ray Russell; cinematographer: Floyd D.Crosby; editor: Anthony Carras; music: Les Baxter; cast: Ray Milland (Dr. James Xavier), Diana Van Der Vlis (Dr. Diane Fairfax), Don Rickles (Crane), Harold J. Stone (Dr. Sam Brant), John Hoyt (Dr. Willard Benson), Morris Ankrum (Mr. Bowhead); Runtime: 76; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Samuel Z. Arkoff; American International Pictures/MGM; 1963)
“One of the better sci-fi cult films.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Famed exploitation B-picture director and producer Roger Corman switches gears with X – The Man with the X-Ray Eyes and comes up with an intelligent visionary supernatural thriller. It’s helped by a superb performance by Ray Milland as Dr. James Xavier, whose experiments with x-ray eye-drops allow him to invent a serum for advancing human vision. When he self-medicates, this gives him the power to see through solid objects: women’s dresses at a party, internal body organs during a medical examination, cards while gambling, and eventually to the frightening depiction of confronting God.
When Xavier accidentally kills his colleague and friend, Dr. Sam Brant (Harold Stone), he goes on the lam and winds up hiding out in a carnival, posing as a fortune teller with the ability to read minds. He’s exploited by sleazy carnival operator Don Rickles, who rattles him when he becomes suspicious that he’s not a fake and begins probing into his life. Xavier runs into doctor Dr. Diane Fairfax (Diane Van der Vlis), who attempts to cure him but his powers instead increase to seeing into the beyond–as a result causing him to lose his earthly eyesight. Xavier becomes rattled as he sees beyond the material world, and seems about to come apart after seeing the forbidden mystery of life. Though the low-budget special effects are not that great and no great philosophical depths are uncovered, the value of the film is that it leaves you thinking about all the ideas presented.
The film builds on the tension as Xavier makes his way through the Nevada desert fighting for survival and we begin to see through Xavier’s eyes. At the climax, he has become an unfeeling healer losing his human emotions and finds himself at a religious tent revival where his x-ray vision reaches the point of godly visions. His view of things opens up moral dilemmas and scientific conflicts. Which are some of the questions Corman raises about Xavier’s new found powers, as we’re left to ponder how such a person would be received by society (one already corrupted by greed and intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy). It makes for one of the better sci-fi cult films.
REVIEWED ON 1/11/2004 GRADE: B +