Dare to look into the eyes…of madness!
Roger Corman has a unique history of churning out low budget films in an expedient manner. He's created everything from cheapie sci-fi flicks (Carnasaur, The Wasp Woman) to cheapie cult hits (Little Shop Of Horrors, The Fall of the House of Usher). He's produced and executive produced hundreds of films, and introduced the world to the talents of Jack Nicholson, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron and many others. In 1963 he directed the semi-cult classic X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes starring Ray Milland (Dial M For Murder, The Thing With Two Heads, The Lost Weekend) as a man empowered with the vision to see through everything! MGM presents X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes through their Midnite Movies series, and this shocker will leave you screaming in blind terror!
Facts of the Case
Dr. James Xavier (Milland) has created a new serum that is able to let the human eye see through anything! This new advancement has only been tested on a monkey (who dies in the process), though Dr. Xavier thinks that it will work even better on a human subject. He decides to try the new experiment on himself. After releasing a drop into each of his eyes, Xavier finds that he is able to see things that no mortal man on earth experiences. He is able to see through clothes, through skin, through wood and walls…he is X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes!
Soon Xavier is using his serum over and over again, until an unforeseen complication (the accidental death of a fellow friend and co-worker) force him to run from the authorities, making him a fugitive from the law and a man with the power to save lives! He soon shows up at a carnival sideshow, touted as a "healer" by the slimy Mr. Crane (a young Don Rickles). how did a brilliant doctor fall so low on the ladder of human existence? Sigh…we may never know.
Xavier has discovered something that is so fantastic, he and his sight may never be the same again!!
X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes has a lot of silly stuff going on in it. That's not to say that it's not enjoyable. This is the type of film that encapsulates an era. It's a lot of fun to watch the sequences where Xavier is able to see through things and people; it's like Jim Morrison decided to become a filmmaker. The screen lights up with strange colors and shapes, a psychedelic mix of weirdness and wonder. Director Roger Corman shows that, when given the right script, he can produce a pretty neat movie. X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes was shot within three weeks on a very low budget ($300,000), and what turned out was a classic film of man's foray into destructive curiosity.
The script is your basic '50s/'60s sci-fi junk, preposterous yet gaggles of fun. Everyone tends to speak their dialogue with an urgency and seriousness that makes it sound like the very life of planet earth is in jeopardy. These types of films are always a hoot and a half to watch. You can see that the writer tried in vein to make this up-to-date with science and technology, and by today's standards it all just seems extra laughable.
Ray Milland, so funny in The Thing With Two Heads and Frogs, plays Dr. Xavier as a straight laced, truth seeking doctor. Milland embodies a bit of Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. He is soft spoken, mild mannered, and always looks like his thoughts are on the verge of a huge breakthrough. He's also a nutball for putting a serum into his eyes that looks like week-old urine.
The other standout of the cast is Don Rickles, parlaying some of his funny, mean spirited shtick into his barking sideshow character. He's plays everything for laughs, and it's always fun to see him running around, spewing insults at everyone he meets. A young Dick Miller (a Joe Dante staple in such films as Gremlins and The 'Burbs) also pops up, playing a 27-year-old going on 38.
X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is the first ever widescreen version of this film, and MGM has done a nice job of transferring it to DVD. Colors sometimes look slightly washed and faded, though are usually bright and bold. I did notice some slight grain and dirt, but this was to be expected seeing as this film was released in 1963. Though there are minor flaws, overall the quality of this print is very nice.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital Mono. This track sounds decent, with dialogue sounding clear and effects/music mixed well. This was the original soundtrack that was used in the film, and although X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes might have benefited from a new remix, this track does the job well enough.
When I looked to see what extra features were available for this Midnite Movie, I was surprised to see a commentary track by director Roger Corman. I liked the fact that Corman kept calling X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes a "picture" instead of a "film" or a "movie." Corman is very melancholy, almost sounding like he took muscle relaxers before doing this track. He often drones on in such a low rumble that I almost fell asleep. Otherwise the track is a fun listen for those interested in some of the origins of the film (Corman originally wanted the main character to be a saxophone player), as well as anecdotes about the cast and filming. Not the most impressive track ever recorded, but still a nice piece to have on the disc.
Also included is a rare prologue from X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes. This is a very strange piece of film, as it plays like a 1964 school filmstrip informing the viewer on man's senses and how he uses them. I think it was a very wise decision to keep this off the finished movie. Finally there is a theatrical trailer for X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes, presented in anamorphic widescreen. Bonus points for the trailer, as it uses the term "sexology" in a very lewd and funny way.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes tends to slow in spots, making ones impulse to hit the fast forward button intense. This film is aimed at the sci-fi and horror crowd, though I think diehard horror fans will be somewhat disappointed. The effects are only mildly interesting, and the story is often times disjointed (by the time Xavier gets to the carnival, you have no idea how he made it there). Even with these problems, X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes is still a fun movie to watch…and see…and see THROUGH!
MGM usually puts decent prices on their movies, and X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes is no exception. MGM's entire Midnite Movies collection are very well priced, and for around $15 or so, you can own a good share of fun and terrifying horror/sci-fi flicks from the MGM cannon. X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes is at least worth a rental if you're into older science fiction films. The transfer is good, the audio presentable, and the extras more plentiful than usual.
X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes is released and free to go. How can I lock it up? It as X-ray eyes…it WILL find a way out…
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