‘He stripped souls as bare as bodies!’
X – also known as X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes and The Man with the X-Ray Eyes – is a 1963 American science fiction horror film produced and directed by Roger Corman from a screenplay by Ray Russell (Mr. Sardonicus; Premature Burial; The Incubus) and Robert Dillon. The movie stars Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone and John Hoyt.
While most of the cast are relatively unknown, Don Rickles is notable in an uncharacteristically dramatic role. Veteran character actor Morris Ankrum makes an uncredited appearance, his last in the movie industry, plus an uncredited appearance by Corman regular Dick Miller as a heckler.
Shot in just three weeks on a budget of $300,000, Corman described the film’s success as a miracle. The movie was notable for its use of visual effects to portray Dr. Xavier’s point of view. While crude by later standards, the visuals are still effective in impressing upon the audience the bizarre viewpoint of the protagonist and it has since attained cult status. American International Pictures (AIP) released the film as a double feature with Dementia 13.
Dr. Xavier (Ray Milland) develops eyedrops intended to increase the range of human vision, allowing one to see beyond the “visible” spectrum into the ultraviolet and x-ray wavelengths and beyond. Believing that testing on animals and volunteers will produce uselessly subjective observations, he begins testing the drops on himself.
Initially, Xavier discovers that he can see though people’s clothing, and he uses his vision to save a young girl whose medical problem was misdiagnosed.
Over time and with continued use of the drops, Xavier’s visual capacity increases and his ability to control it decreases. Eventually he can no longer see the world in human terms, but only in forms of lights and textures that his brain is unable to fully comprehend.
Even closing his eyes brings no relieving darkness from his frightening world, as he can see through his eyelids. His behaviour becomes increasingly erratic, and Xavier’s associates assume that he is going insane…
“The horror is different from the Poes, which are often painfully Freudian. X is both more abstract and more visceral. The premise itself preys on both the vulnerability of our eyes and on their strangeness as the only exposed viscera in the human body. It hides what is happening to Xavier’s eyes behind dark glasses for much of its running time so it can provide a jolt to the audience when they’re finally revealed.” Christianne Benedict, Filmmaker
“The uses for this x-ray vision range from the tawdry (seeing through women’s clothing) to the illegal (cheating at poker) to the disturbing. There’s even a thread of cosmic, Lovecraftian horror running through this flick, as Xavier’s eyes begin to show him visions from outside our universe. Corman didn’t craft many winners, but this film is one of them.” Jim Vorel, Paste magazine
” …at times as bad and ludicrous as anything in the thrill genre, at others as brilliant and expressionist as an Antonioni of the same period. It’s pop art, the Pathecolor tonality and Spectorama effects anticipating the psychedelic genre, just like the renegade doctor and his quest for a higher level of consciousness.” Lawrence Russell, Culture Court
“Corman’s achievement in X – The Man with X-Ray Eyes is, as were invisibly, to have bent the genre to its own ends. The result is one of his undisputed masterpieces, the weak special effects notwithstanding.” Phil Hardy (editor), The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction
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“One of Roger Corman’s strangest films, hampered by inadequate effects and other budget woes yet singularly compelling as it unfolds an allegorical plot…” John Stanley, Creature Features
” …well acted by its small cast, X fully realizes every eerie chill and conceptual horror in Robert Dillon and Ray Russell’s clever screenplay. The movie has a brisk pace (a factor Corman mastered early on) and the direction is clever but simple. Time jumps and scene transitions are never predictable and carry a strange sense of displacement.” Glenn Erickson, DVD Savant
” …the film is mainly interesting because of its visual inventiveness, though Roger’s usual lack of a sufficient budget prevented the possible permutations of the idea being fully realised. Ray Milland makes a good lead, a character who’s not entirely sympathetic … ” Nigel Honeybone, Horror News
“Most viewers come away wishing that the special effects were better and thankful that “Specterama” never caught on. The images of x-ray vision actually look more like double vision. They even remind me of the silly “x-ray specs” that we bought from comic books in the 1970s. The circular “eye” shape that surrounds these shots is unnecessary. The fuzzy rainbow colours quickly become annoying.” Glen Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
“The opening purple twirl sets the strange tone and Les Baxter’s jazzy score keeps toes tapping. You’ll need a sense of humour for the film’s shocking tent revival finale.” Shirley Halperin, Steve Bloom, Reefer Movie Madness: The Ultimate Stoner Film Guide
How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime by Roger Corman with Jim Jerome, Da Capo Press, New York, USA, 1998. Buy from Amazon.co.uk
The Films of Roger Corman by Alan Frank, Batsford , London, 1998
Buy DVD from Amazon.com
Buy DVD from Amazon.co.uk
Buy the soundtrack CD by Les Baxter from Amazon.co.uk
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