X - The Man with the X-Ray Eyes
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
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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 ...
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 ...
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.