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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Man With the X-Ray Eyes (1963)


Starring: Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone, John Hoyt and Don Rickles
Distributor: Second Sight Films


Certificate: PG
Release Date: 20 April 2020

James Xavier (Ray Milland) is a scientist working on opening the human mind to the complete light spectrum, of which only 20 percent can be perceived. He develops an enzyme and, when the medical institute threatens to remove his funding, he puts the drops in his own eyes. After initial discomfort, he begins to see through things, and even saves a girl’s life after she is wrongly diagnosed. More drops have a cumulative effect, but he suffers regular debilitating headaches and sensitivity to light. He is accused of murder after an accident results in his friend Dr Brandt falling through the flimsiest window I’ve ever seen. On the run, he uses his inconsistent talent as a sideshow act, and then as an illicit diagnosis doctor under an unscrupulous agent. When his friend and prospective partner, Diane Fairfax from the hospital, tracks him down they leave, only for the angry agent to set the police on their trail. On the run, they head for Las Vegas; however, events are about to come to a head for James, as he asks himself if man can cope with seeing the ultimate truth...

Director Roger Corman had a good career during the 1950s, 1960s and beyond with a mixed bag of B-movies and low budget projects. Who remembers Attack of the Crab Monsters, Not of this Earth, The Little Shop of Horrors, and countless others? By the time he was working in colour his reputation improved tenfold, with Edgar Allan Poe adaptations such as House of User, The Pit and the Pendulum, Tales of Terror, and The Masque of the Red Death – all solid pieces of work. The Man With X-Ray Eyes is from 1963. In fact, only the trailers and promotion show the full title; the film print itself just shows “X”. Although this was another low budget film, everything was in place: a well-known name in the central role, a very Poe-like story, and a backdrop of psychedelic images before psychedelia was actually a thing.

Ray Milland plays Xavier with an upright and constantly serious bearing, showing that he has intensity and is driven to the point of obsession. This comes across as convincing, but why Diane even gives him the time of day is beyond me. He doesn’t seem to have friends so much as colleagues. That doesn’t mean we aren’t treated to a humorous scene. In an attempt to have him relax and destress, Diane invites him to a party at someone’s house. The guests are all dancing the Twist, and he is invited to dance by a beautiful young woman. As he struggles unsuccessfully to fit in, his x-ray vision kicks-in and he sees everyone’s bare legs. The camera then moves upwards to the point we see that everyone is naked to his eyes. As Corman and his contemporaries were not allowed to screen nudity at the time, each partygoer is conveniently turned away when we see them.

The most expensive aspect of the movie was the special effects. Although it was fine at the time with what was achievable, it amounted to images fanned-out into four separate colours. The music not quite aiding its otherworldliness. Of course, to journey with him we have to see what Xavier is seeing, but these scenes are prolonged to the point of being a little tiresome. Perhaps something different could have been attempted as Xavier’s vision saw deeper and wider into the spectrum. Today’s CGI would be able to do justice to what’s required, so I would suggest, rather than remake what is already a solid film, that ‘branching’ special effects could have been offered on this release – where you can choose the original or new effects with the film.

Extras include an enjoyable Roger Corman Interview, an Introduction by author and Diabolique Editor Kat Ellinger, An Audio Commentary by Roger Corman, an Audio Commentary by Tim Lucas, the Original Prologue, ‘Trailers From Hell’ with Mick Garris (best known for several Stephen King adaptations), and a Trailer. Joe Dante talking about The Man With X-Ray Eyes is far too short – and I spent most of the time staring at the excellent Piranha artwork on the wall behind him. The Limited Edition set also includes a Slipcase featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys, a Reversible Poster with original and new artwork, and a Soft Cover Book with new features by Jon Towlson and Allan Bryce.


Ty Power

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