In X - The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963) Dr. James Xavier, played by Ray Milland, desires the ability to `access the entire wavelength spectrum' so that he may see what no one else can...what male hasn't had that dream? Seriously, if you ever read a comic book, there was always an advertisement, usually between ads for Wildroot hair tonic, how to become a muscle man, or an offer for real Texas rattlesnake eggs, that touted `X-Ray Glasses' featuring a crudely drawn illustration of a guy wearing said glasses and not only having the ability to see the bones in his hand, but also being able to see through a woman's clothes...and I bet a great deal of them were sold, not because they actually worked (most of us, on some level, knew they wouldn't), but on the very slight possibility that they might. Produced and directed by Roger Corman (Pit and the Pendulum, The Masque of the Red Death), the film stars Oscar winner Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend, The Big Clock). Also appearing is Diana Van der Vlis (The Girl in Black Stockings), Harold Stone (Spartacus), John Hoyt (Attack of the Puppet People), and Don `Mr. Warmth' Rickles (Beach Blanket Bingo, Kelly's Heroes).
As I already mentioned, Milland plays Dr. James Xavier, a man with an obsession. You see, as humans, we only see about ten percent of what's actually out there, and he wants more (greedy bastich). During his research he develops the X formula, which in experiments allows a monkey to see through cardboard, but has a curious side effect of death...Xavier chalks this up to the monkeys minuscule brain not being able to comprehend what it sees, thus shutting down and causing the demise, but humans are smarter than monkeys, so shouldn't have the same problem, right? Right...so Xavier begins experiments on himself, and finds success, but not without a price. After the accidental death of a colleague (or murder, however you want to look at it), Xavier is forced to take a hasty leave, joining a carnival, calling himself Mentallo, using his newfound ability to scrounge a few bucks by impressing the rubes, and donning sunglasses much like those Terminator glasses your grandmother wears. This leads to his involvement with a rather odious carnie and small time hustler named Crane (Rickles), who convinces Xavier to open an inner city clinic and earn even bigger bucks by `healing' the poor. Things start out relatively well, but that changes as this new venture eventually falls apart, so what's next? Well, if you have X-ray vision and need a lot of dough, where would you go? Las Vegas? Sounds like a plan, but initial success is yet again tainted by dismal failure, and soon Xavier is on the run again...oh yeah, did I mention the effects of his continual use of the X formula results in cumulative effects?
In case you're wondering if there are any scenes where Xavier sees through women's clothes, yes there is, as at one point he is talked into going to a swinging party, featuring all kinds of comely, young females. Do we get to see what he sees? Kind of, as we see a bunch of naked backs and legs, but that's about it...it was oddly creepy as Milland presents such a intense and focused character throughout the story, but for a few moments we see a lascivious side that's counteracts the serious nature of the film and his character...speaking of oddly creepy, check out a mature Milland (he was in his mid 50's at the time) frugging it up at the party...it's a brief scene, but one that will be stuck in my minds eye for quite some time. Milland does quite a good job here (acting, not dancing), the scientist ultimately punished by his own arrogance, but one can't help feel an overall sense of sadness in that such an accomplished actor was now resigned to appearing in somewhat schlocky material as this...and it got progressively worse, with such features as Frogs (1972), The Thing with Two Heads (1972), and The Attic (1979) looming in his future. Oh well, work is work, I suppose...the rest of the cast is rather bland, except for Rickles, who gets in a few good zingers at some carnival patrons expense. While this is certainly an inexpensive feature, Corman generally always, in my opinion, seemed to be able to get the most for his money in terms of his films having better production values than expected. The direction is very good, as the pacing is quick (the running time is a minimal 79 minutes). Probably the most interesting aspect of the story is the notion that the main characters power of sight keeps developing (that whole cumulative effect I spoke of earlier). This presents the idea that eventually the characters ability will extend ad infinitum, allowing one to speculate that eventually he'll be able to see into the very core of the universe, and depending on your beliefs, possibly even the Creator himself. The special effects are not particularly spectacular, but they worked for me, and I'm sure at the time they probably appeared quite trippy and psychotropic (check out the opening scenes featuring bloody eyeballs). There are rumors that the ending provided here was actually shortened, that Milland's character had one more line, and the abrupt ending of the film seems to support this, but Corman has maintained this wasn't true. Regardless if this is true or not, it's still a memorable ending.
The wide screen anamorphic (1.85:1) presentation on this DVD from MGM looks very clean and sharp, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono audio comes through clearly. There are a couple of special features including the original 5-minute theatrical prologue that provides the audience an introduction to the five senses (when they started talking about the sense of taste, watch for some kid massacring an ice cream cone), a running audio commentary track with Roger Corman, and an original theatrical trailer.