"Only the gods see everything," cautions one scientist as Dr. James Xavier (Ray Milland) experiments with a formula that will allow the human eye to see beyond the wavelength of visible light. "I am closing in on the gods,... more »" he responds with the hubris that is doomed to destroy his overreaching ambition. A mix of Greek tragedy and sci-fi potboiler, Roger Corman's X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (simply identified as X in the eerie, odd opening credits) is a familiar tale of a scientist who risks everything to explore the unknown and is finally driven mad by, literally, seeing too much. Peeping through the clothes of comely women is all good adolescent fun until the gift becomes a nightmare as his sight rages out of control. The possibilities suggested in the hints of addiction and inconsistent bouts of megalomania remain tantalizingly unexplored in the unfocused script, and Corman's cut-rate special effects are often more hokey than haunting (the "city dissolved in an acid of light" that Xavier poetically describes becomes fuzzy photography through a series of color filters). Don Rickles offers a venal turn as a scheming carnival barker turned blackmailing con man, and Diana Van der Vlis is understanding as a sympathetic scientist who tries to rescue Xavier from his spiral into tortured madness, but in the tradition of Greek tragedy, he is doomed to be destroyed by the very gifts he desires. MGM's widescreen disc also features commentary by director-producer Corman. --Sean Axmaker« less
"In X - The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963) Dr. James Xavier, played by Ray Milland, desires the ability to `access the entire wavelength spectrum' so that he may see what no one else can...what male hasn't had that dream? Seriously, if you ever read a comic book, there was always an advertisement, usually between ads for Wildroot hair tonic, how to become a muscle man, or an offer for real Texas rattlesnake eggs, that touted `X-Ray Glasses' featuring a crudely drawn illustration of a guy wearing said glasses and not only having the ability to see the bones in his hand, but also being able to see through a woman's clothes...and I bet a great deal of them were sold, not because they actually worked (most of us, on some level, knew they wouldn't), but on the very slight possibility that they might. Produced and directed by Roger Corman (Pit and the Pendulum, The Masque of the Red Death), the film stars Oscar winner Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend, The Big Clock). Also appearing is Diana Van der Vlis (The Girl in Black Stockings), Harold Stone (Spartacus), John Hoyt (Attack of the Puppet People), and Don `Mr. Warmth' Rickles (Beach Blanket Bingo, Kelly's Heroes).
As I already mentioned, Milland plays Dr. James Xavier, a man with an obsession. You see, as humans, we only see about ten percent of what's actually out there, and he wants more (greedy bastich). During his research he develops the X formula, which in experiments allows a monkey to see through cardboard, but has a curious side effect of death...Xavier chalks this up to the monkeys minuscule brain not being able to comprehend what it sees, thus shutting down and causing the demise, but humans are smarter than monkeys, so shouldn't have the same problem, right? Right...so Xavier begins experiments on himself, and finds success, but not without a price. After the accidental death of a colleague (or murder, however you want to look at it), Xavier is forced to take a hasty leave, joining a carnival, calling himself Mentallo, using his newfound ability to scrounge a few bucks by impressing the rubes, and donning sunglasses much like those Terminator glasses your grandmother wears. This leads to his involvement with a rather odious carnie and small time hustler named Crane (Rickles), who convinces Xavier to open an inner city clinic and earn even bigger bucks by `healing' the poor. Things start out relatively well, but that changes as this new venture eventually falls apart, so what's next? Well, if you have X-ray vision and need a lot of dough, where would you go? Las Vegas? Sounds like a plan, but initial success is yet again tainted by dismal failure, and soon Xavier is on the run again...oh yeah, did I mention the effects of his continual use of the X formula results in cumulative effects?
In case you're wondering if there are any scenes where Xavier sees through women's clothes, yes there is, as at one point he is talked into going to a swinging party, featuring all kinds of comely, young females. Do we get to see what he sees? Kind of, as we see a bunch of naked backs and legs, but that's about it...it was oddly creepy as Milland presents such a intense and focused character throughout the story, but for a few moments we see a lascivious side that's counteracts the serious nature of the film and his character...speaking of oddly creepy, check out a mature Milland (he was in his mid 50's at the time) frugging it up at the party...it's a brief scene, but one that will be stuck in my minds eye for quite some time. Milland does quite a good job here (acting, not dancing), the scientist ultimately punished by his own arrogance, but one can't help feel an overall sense of sadness in that such an accomplished actor was now resigned to appearing in somewhat schlocky material as this...and it got progressively worse, with such features as Frogs (1972), The Thing with Two Heads (1972), and The Attic (1979) looming in his future. Oh well, work is work, I suppose...the rest of the cast is rather bland, except for Rickles, who gets in a few good zingers at some carnival patrons expense. While this is certainly an inexpensive feature, Corman generally always, in my opinion, seemed to be able to get the most for his money in terms of his films having better production values than expected. The direction is very good, as the pacing is quick (the running time is a minimal 79 minutes). Probably the most interesting aspect of the story is the notion that the main characters power of sight keeps developing (that whole cumulative effect I spoke of earlier). This presents the idea that eventually the characters ability will extend ad infinitum, allowing one to speculate that eventually he'll be able to see into the very core of the universe, and depending on your beliefs, possibly even the Creator himself. The special effects are not particularly spectacular, but they worked for me, and I'm sure at the time they probably appeared quite trippy and psychotropic (check out the opening scenes featuring bloody eyeballs). There are rumors that the ending provided here was actually shortened, that Milland's character had one more line, and the abrupt ending of the film seems to support this, but Corman has maintained this wasn't true. Regardless if this is true or not, it's still a memorable ending.
The wide screen anamorphic (1.85:1) presentation on this DVD from MGM looks very clean and sharp, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono audio comes through clearly. There are a couple of special features including the original 5-minute theatrical prologue that provides the audience an introduction to the five senses (when they started talking about the sense of taste, watch for some kid massacring an ice cream cone), a running audio commentary track with Roger Corman, and an original theatrical trailer.
The most atypical and probably the best Roger Corman film
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 11/30/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One of the reasons that "X - The Man With the X-Ray Eyes" looks half-way decent in Ray Milland's film career is that when he started his spectacular drop from winning the Oscar for his performance in 1945's "The Lost Weekend" he was still almost a decade away from making "The Thing With Two Heads." I always figured this 1963 film from director Roger Corman was inspired by the infamous add for X-Ray specs that appeared inside the front cover of virtually every comic book produced when I was a kid. However, the screen play is credited to Robert Dillon ("Muscle Beach Party," "French Connection II") and Ray Russell ("Mr. Sardonicus"), based on a story by Russell. The plot is as simple as the ad: Dr. James Xavier (Milland), is a world famous scientist who is experimenting with human eyesight and develops a serum that will allow him to see fun things like ultraviolent rays and (gasp!) through objects. Of course, this is one of those things that seems like a good idea at the time...The film is really much more of a science fiction film than it is the traditional sort of horror film you expect from Corman, who has a script that suits his ability to bring out the weirdness in situations. The film has remarkably little to do with voyeurism and actually more to do with the nature of reality. It is ultimately a psychological drama, because as Xavier sees human beings reduced to their skeletons, he becomes incapable of dealing with them on a personal level. In terms of movies where the mad scientist goes off the deep end with a god complex, this one makes the main character the victim of his own experiments (contrast this with Claude Reins in "The Invisible Man"). After accidentally killing a colleague, Xavier hides out in a carnival sideshow where he works as a faith healer. Clearly his x-ray vision functions as a metaphor for the ability to have insight into the sad side of life, but, ironically, Xavier cannot see where his own life is heading. His "visions" become increasingly worse until a fateful meeting with an evangelist at a revival meeting in the desert.Although not a traditional horror or monster movie, "X - The Man With the X-Ray Eyes" has a sense of bleakness that becomes rather overwhelming by the end. As always, Corman is working with a limited budget, and while this does not affect his direction, it does limit the film's effectiveness because the special effects (i.e., optical tricks) can barefly suggest the depths of Xavier's "visions." However, if you get into the spirit of things you can let your imagination carry the load. Considered by many to be Corman's masterpiece, it remains a most atypical Corman film, which makes a kind of sense. Certainly, this has the most unforgettable ending of a Corman film."
Cool contact lenses!
Rod Labbe | Waterville, Maine | 02/09/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ray Milland's movie career took an interesting turn in the early 1960's...he signed on to do three films for American International Pictures, an outfit far removed from the majors like Paramount and 20th Century Fox. At the time, AIP was well-known for cranking out black and white cheapie fliks for the teenage matinee crowd, stuff like "The Day the World Ended" and "The She Creature." By 1963, when "The Man With the X-Ray Eyes" was released, AIP was enlarging their budgets by adding color, better sets, and employing good writers (Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont) and actors (Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone, Karloff). Milland's involvement was one more step up the "prestige" ladder for AIP. Mr. Milland had won an Academy Award (Best Actor, "The Lost Weekend" 1945) and was a touch of Hollywood royalty that AIP would not let go unexploited. The first film he did under their banner was "The Premature Burial," directed by Roger Corman. Then came "Man With the X-Ray Eyes," an interesting and philosophical sci-fi thriller. It contains an excellent Milland performance as "Dr. Xavier," who concocts a serum that allows him to see through any object. Eventually, overuse of the drops results in the doctor being able to see into Infinity...and what he finds there is enough to drive anyone insane (or is it? Check out the film!). Production values are good, if a little "TV-like," and director Corman keeps things moving at a quick pace. Mention should be made of Don Rickles (?!) contribution as a sleazy carnival hustler--he's truly obnoxious and completely believable! Not to mention surprisingly skinny! I loved the film's ending, and I, too, heard the legend about the cut line. Corman, in a commentary, remarks on it, giving us the full scoop on whether the scene was ever filmed. Even without this coda, the conclusion is a shocker! I love all of MGM's Midnite Movies--the quality of their presentation is beyond criticism, as far as I'm concerned. Beautiful prints, rich, vibrant colors, with great extras! What more could you ask for, especially at such a bargain price! Snatch "The Man With the X-Ray Eyes," pronto! And I'm keeping my fingers crossed that "Premature Burial" and Milland's third AIP feature--"Panic in Year )"--will soon make it to DVD!"
The curse of the man-god
mythologue | 10/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Even when told by a colleague that his vision is excellent, Dr. Xavier is not entirely satisfied: he wants to see what no other man has seen before. To do so and close in on the gods, he has created a substance enabling nothing short of x-ray vision; he takes one drop of it in each eye, even though a monkey he tried it on just died. Taking more of the substance, he soon begins to challenge his colleagues's medical decisions, and is forced to flee after accidentally killing one of them. In the film's first half, Dr. Xavier goes from man to semi-god to exploited freak; eventually posing as Mantallo, he becomes a `healer' who can't even heal himself. In the second half, his substance abuse gets worse: while trying to find a reversal, he uses more of it to better his chances of getting the money he needs. His voyage of self-discovery ends when he reaches a point of no return and recognizes it. This multi-layered film is rooted in a genre of fiction that we could call `the curse of the (wo)man-god', and which goes all the way back to the Greek concept of `hubris'; in such works, a human unsuccessfully tries to transcend his/her own nature through his/her specialised branch of knowledge. The most interesting of these inevitably carry theological and philosophical implications, and `X' is no exception. The way the movie highlights the different stages of the character's downfall is especially effective: everything from the music, the shapes, the colors, and the editing to Milland's acting denotes this degenerative process."
One of the Great "B" Movies
P. McGrath | Orlando, FL United States | 05/20/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Corman hits the nail on the head with this classic Sci-Fantasy tale. Milland fills his role - as the doctor/scientist madly in search of the "truth" - perfectly. The visual effects are quite unique as well. Each addictive eye drop forces Milland's character to see deeper and farther - first underneath clothes, then through tissue into the recesses of the human body, then through slot machines and black-jack hands (permitting him to win big at the casino), THEN through buildings and skyscrapers - which become ghostly objects with underlying steel girders being the only discernible objects. Finally, circumstances force the out-of-control Milland to confront the endgame of his experiment and his unintended goal: to see the ultimate truth - the overwhelming, blazing face of God himself. His method of escaping the piercing light is obvious yet still provides a jarringly satisfying ending to this wonderfully direct and ironic film."