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X

X - The Man with the X-Ray Eyes

USA 1963
produced by
Roger Corman, Samuel Z. Arkoff (executive), James H. Nicholson (executive) for Alta Vista/AIP
directed by Roger Corman
starring Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone, John Hoyt, Don Rickles, Jonathan Haze, Dick Miller, Morris Ankrum, Benjie Bancroft, John Dierkes, Kathryn Hart, Barboura Morris, Vicki Lee, Cathie Merchant, Jeffrey Sayre, George DeNormand, Cosmo Sardo
story by Ray Russell, screenplay by Robert Dillon, Ray Russell, music by Les Baxter

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Dr. Xavier (Ray Milland) has dedicated his life to explore x-ray vision, and has developed a serum that in an experiment enables a monkey to see through things - but not understanding why this is happening, the monkey dies from shock. This encourages Xavier to try the serum on himself, and at first he's exhilarated by the effects, and it sure is enough to impress Dr. Diane Fairfax (Diana Van der Vlis) of the science board that gives out the grants, and she soon becomes Xavier's girlfriend. However, the board as a whole disagrees, and the grant is cut, Xavier is returned to being a surgeon. When assisting Dr. Benson (John Hoyt) during a heart surgery though, he sees through the skin of their young patient (Vicki Lee), sees the procedure Benson's preparing is based on a wrong diagnosis and would actually kill the girl, and thus first tries to talk Benson out of it, then cuts Benson so he can't operate and leaves surgery to him. He saves the girl, but is suspended from his job for his behaviour. As the serum has a kind of addictive effect, Xavier continues taking it, much to the dismay of his best friend Dr. Brant (Harold J. Stone), who had initially helped him in his experiments. The two men get into an argument druing which Xavier accidently pushes Brant out of a window to his death. In his panic, Xavier makes a hasty escape ...

At a carnival, Xavier has found a job as soothsayer Mentallo, using his x-ray vision in place of actual mental powers. He's a hit with audiences, but it's hardly a satisfying job. Now carnival promoter Crane (Don Rickles) finds out his secret and knows about his past, so he "persuades" him to put up shop as a "healer", using his x-ray vision to tell people what's wrong with them. And that's how Diane manages to track him down, a reunion that gives him new hope. Together they go to Las Vegas to make enough money at the gambling table to find a cure for the condition of his eyes - after all, how could one lose at cards or even slot machines with x-ray vision? And indeed, they win big, so big that the casino management takes them for cheaters and they have to make a hasty getaway - and this where Xavier's x-ray vision really hits him bad, as driving his car, he hardly sees the street anymore, so much so that he becomes a threat to all other drivers, and is ultimately chased by a police helicopter, which he manages to shake against all odds. He crashes his car, but drags himself into a nearby church, where inspired by the sermon of the preacher (John Dierkes), he pokes out his own eyes ...

Roger Corman regulars Jonathan Haze and Dick Miller play two hecklers at the carnival Xavier's working at.

 

Above all, this film is a vital testament of Roger Corman's quality (and also flexibility) as a filmmaker: While his science fiction output during the 1950s was mostly silly (if enjoyably so) and often looked a bit slapdash due to low budgets and rushed production schedules, this film is put together with care and vision, and while not exactly big budget the money spent has certainly met the requirements, and storywise one can't help but being impressed by the stories philosophical undercurrents and the generally very thoughtful treatment of its subject matter. This is also mirrored in a suitably restrained central performance by Ray Milland, leading a very competent ensemble. In short, a genre classic for sure.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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written by
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