Sunday, 15 February 2009

X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes

X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963) is a haunting, low budget sci-fi/horror film directed by Roger Corman from a script by Ray Russell and Robert Dillon. The underrated Ray Milland, heading towards the tail end of his career where only a few gems stood out among pretty dire movies like Frogs ( 1972) and the heavily (not to say turgidly) symbolic The Thing with Two Heads (1972), plays Dr. James Xavier, a famous scientist, who develops eyedrops to increase the range of vision.

Using himself as a guinea pig, he realises he can see through people’s clothing and he saves the life of a girl whose medical conditon had been diagnosed incorrectly; however, his continued use of the drops increases his “x-ray” powers until he can no longer control them and he can only see textures and lights that he cannot understand. As a result,his beahviour becomes unpredictable and his colleagues fear for him.

Things go from bad to worse when he accidentally kills a friend and has to go the lam. Initially, he gets work in a carnival and then he usees his owers to win at a casino. After driving into the desert, he ends up in a religious revival meeting where he explains to the preacher: “No. I've come to tell you what I see. There are great darknesses. Farther than time itself. And beyond the darkness... a light that glows, changes... and in the centre of the universe... the eye that sees us all.”

The preacher replies, “You see sin and the devil! But the lord has told us what to do about it. Said Matthew in Chapter Five, ‘If thine eye offends thee... pluck it out!’” - which he does, to save his sanity, but Corman inserts a freeze-frame optical effect that seeks, for a fraction of a second, to show Xavier with empty eye-sockets...

This was Milland’s second Corman film, coming just after the excellent, if liberal, adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s Premature Burial (1962) and his self-directed post-apocalypse gem, Panic in the Year Zero (1962). Corman shot the film in just three weeks on a budget of $300,000. A highlight of the movie is the is Corman’s use of (admittedly crude by modern standards) visual effects to show Xavier’s point of view, especially the almost surreal journey through Las Vegas, where the audience sees the skeletons of buildings floating in space through his eyes.

A couple of youtube links:

The Man With X-Ray Eyes Gold Key comic book adaptation (only 12 cents!). For more details see:

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