Reviews

You Don't Need 'The Man With X-Ray Eyes' to See That Roger Corman's Film Is Dated

The Roger Corman B-movie classic is still something to see.


X - The Man with the X-Ray Eyes

Director: Roger Corman
Cast: Ray Milland, Dana van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone, Don Rickles, John Hoyt, Morris Ankrum
Length: 79 minutes
Studio: American International Pictures
Year: 1963
Distributor: Kino Lorber
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
UK Release Date: Import
US Release Date: 2015-05-12

Roger Corman is the king of B-Movies, and he has a trailer (and dust bin) worth of titles to prove it. While many of these films are low in quality as well as budget, it is undeniable that Corman has also made some good movies. In fact, there are some real gems in the bunch. How good can he be? Well, as a director he has given us classics like The Raven (1963) and The Masque of the Red Death (1964) not to mention the subject of this very review. As producer, he has helped to launch the careers of protégés like James Cameron, Ron Howard, Joe Dante, Francis Ford Coppola and even Martin Scorsese.

But back to X - The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, which is most assuredly a B-Movie horror/sci-fi flick that fits comfortably into the Corman library to be sure. Yet this film was made with the same care and fascination that Corman put into many of his best films. Furthermore, he took the film seriously and helped to make the strange tale believable.

And a “strange tale” it is. X - The Man with the X-Ray Eyes might have fit perfectly in any given 1950s horror comic from Tales from the Crypt to Weird Fantasy to, well, Strange Tales. Still, the story, supposedly conceived by Corman but actually written by Robert Dillon and Ray Russell, was high quality enough to attract Oscar-Winner Ray Milland (1945’s The Lost Weekend). True, Milland’s career wasn’t quite at its height, but he gives a command performance here and surely must have felt that the script deserved his best.

Milland portrays Dr. James Xavier, a dedicated physician with a big idea to improve vision for the better diagnosis of patients. To this end he creates a special eye drop that enhances eyes to give a sort of comic book advertised “X-Ray Specs” power. At first Xavier can control this talent and uses it for fun (such as seeing through ladies’ clothes at parties, like an 11 year old might) as well as science (like performing surgery while seeing every ailment he can eliminate with one procedure). However soon Xavier’s powers become erratic, as does his behavior, and he is forced to wear special glasses to block his visions and he works as a sideshow performer while on the run.

Yes, Xavier somehow manages to transition easily from intended hero to villain and rubs elbows with sleazy carnival owner Don Rickles. While the plot can be somewhat disjointed and episodic, the story and acting (although somewhat dated, admittedly) do manage to hold viewer interest throughout. The action progresses to a disturbing but fitting end as Xavier’s power and personality both become out of control, also hearkening back to the classic horror/sci-fi comics.

Unlike the lion’s share of DVDs and Blu-rays of today, this Kino Lorber 2015 release actually has some quality bonus features to shed light on and enhance the viewing experience. Director Joe Dante appears in a short called “Terror Vision!” while Mick Garris comments on the trailer in his “Trailers from Hell” segment. The original trailer can also be viewed without commentary. The feature itself has two commentaries, one from film historian Tim Lucas and one from Roger Corman himself in that distinct, calm voice he sports. The extras round out nicely with the rarely seen deleted opening sequence.

Kino Lorber should be applauded for opposing the recent trend of not only leaving out new extras but also deleting existing and readily available bonuses from previous releases.

As for X - The Man with the X-Ray Eyes itself, there is no question that the film is dated. The title alone practically screams “B-movie!” as loudly as It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958). While films like this might not be popular in today’s movie market, it is surprising how well the film stands up after this many decades. Even the bizarre ending has a resonating factor that helps enhance the film’s enjoyment quotient. The underlying question is all about how much one can desire to see before one sees far too much for any human to bear. This metaphor for the search for knowledge has helped X - The Man with the X-Ray Eyes to find its audience and fans (including author Stephen King) decade after decade. Luckily, the distributor cares enough about the film to lay on some good quality extras to make the disc worth the asking price. Do you “Dare to Look Into the Eyes of Madness?”

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.