Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on September 18, 1963
Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Robert Dillon and Ray Russell
Cast: Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone, John Hoyt, Don Rickles, Morris Ankrum, Dick Miller, Lorrie Summers, Leon Alton, George DeNormand, Dick Miller, Cosmo Sardo
I don’t know what happened to actor Ray Milland after 1958, but after vanishing from the silver screen for four years, suddenly he was back in action, only now starring in and directing low-end horror and sci-fi movies; X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes was his second time working with director Roger Corman, after he appeared in his 1962 horror cheapie The Premature Burial.
Here, Milland plays Dr. Xavier, a scientist who really wants to improve his eyesight; he experiments on himself with a test compound that opens up the visible spectrum of his vision, resulting in the ability to see through lab coats, sheets of paper, walls, a man’s tie…you know, the usual. Unfortunately, he keeps pushing it, and soon he’s seeing too much—beyond the capabilities of his mind to comprehend—and he naturally goes mad, before plucking his eyeballs out of their sockets at a religious tent revival, ending the film on quite the chilling note.
With all that, this was still a surprisingly restrained and unexciting horror film, with emphasis more on the cerebral side of things than the laser-eyed mayhem angle you see in the film’s one-sheet poster. If there was a point to it all, I’m not too sure what it was, except maybe that trusting your optometrist to do your eye work may not be such a bad idea, and that the rules of ‘x-ray vision’ will always go haywire in film, as was evident here: Milland could see through this but couldn’t see through that, he could read tiny print from great distances, and so on.
However, he did use his new-found skill to ogle hot women at a dance party, and to cheat at cards in Vegas, but beyond that there didn’t seem to be much more for him, or anyone else, to do. It was strange seeing Don Rickles in a dramatic role, as a carnival barker who took advantage of Milland’s cursed talents, and funny watching him incorporate a few moments of his schtick into his part. Again, we had decent direction from Corman, and some passable optical effects for the time, but most everything else seemed like an opportunity lost. (4/10)