X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes is one of those high-quality films that managed to slip out of the Roger Corman factory of cheap crap. It hits a level of genuine creepiness that is rarely achieved by Corman.
Dr. James Xavier is a good man and a good doctor. He has been researching a way to enhance human vision to help get a more accurate diagnosis for the sick. He and his friend came up with eyedrops that let the human eye see in X-ray and ultraviolet. When giving the eyedrops to some monkeys, the animals see something that scares them to death. Not put off by this terrifying prospect, Dr. Xavier decides to test them on himself.
It’s not long before he can see through clothes and even saves a young girl from malpractice. In a series of unfortunate actions, he accidentally kills his friend and fellow Doctor. Knowing how it’s going to look, he goes on the run while continuing his use of the eye drops. He continues long past the time anyone with sense would have stopped. Every now and again he sees things beyond the visible reality. Things that are looking back. Things that don’t like being seen.
The ending of the movie is one of the best, most striking endings of any horror movie you will ever see. The movie starts off in a light-hearted tone and just gets darker from there, ramping up the feeling of unease.
Every time we see Doctor Xavier’s eyes after he removes the dark glasses he wears, we see something getting worse. Ray Milland does a great job selling us on the intense strain the Doctor is feeling, and you can tell something big is building.
Corman says the idea for the film was his. It was originally about a scientist, but then he felt that was too obvious. He rewrote it with the protagonist as a jazz musician who had taken too many drugs. After being five pages into his outline, he threw the whole idea out, and started back and went back with the scientist, the original idea.
The film was shot in three weeks on a budget of approximately $300,000. X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes was announced as part of AIP’s release lineup for June 1962, with Lou Rusoff as the producer. Corman made X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes after his 1963 H. P. Lovecraft film adaptation The Haunted Palace.
In his non-fiction book Danse Macabre, Stephen King claims there were rumors the ending originally went further, with Milland crying out “I can still see” after gouging out his eyes. Corman has denied the existence of that ending but expressed enjoyment with the idea, saying:
“Now it’s interesting. Stephen King saw the picture and wrote a different ending, and I thought, his ending is better than mine.”
This movie is an October must-see for me.
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