X - The Man with X-Ray Eyes (1963) poster

X – The Man With X-Ray Eyes (1963)


aka The Man With X-Ray Eyes; X

USA. 1963.


Director/Producer – Roger Corman, Screenplay – Robert Dillon & Ray Russell, Story – Ray Russell, Photography – Floyd Crosby, Music – Les Baxter, Music Co-ordinator – Al Simms, Photographic Effects – Spectarama, Special Effects – Butler-Glouner Inc, Production Design/Art Direction – Daniel Haller. Production Company – AIP.


Ray Milland (Dr James Xavier), Diana van der Vlis (Dr Diane Fairfax), Don Rickles (Crane), Harold Stone (Dr Sam Brant), John Hoyt (Dr Willard Benson)


Dr James Xavier experiments to perfect a serum that will expand the range of the spectrum that the human eye can see. In an effort to prove himself before the grants committee, Xavier uses the serum on himself, He soon finds that he has x-ray vision. He is forced to flee when he accidentally kills a man. On the run, he hides by employing his talents as a fairground mystic. Under the tutelage of an exploitative barker, he poses as a healer, before trying to break the bank on the Las Vegas tables.

X – The Man with X-Ray Eyes is usually acclaimed as one of the best of the numerous no-budget films that director Roger Corman made during the late 1950s and 1960s. The Man with X-Ray Eyes was also one of the last no-budget films Corman directed after his series of Edgar Allan Poe films beginning with The House of Usher (1960) afforded him a greater respectability and better budgets. X – The Man with X-Ray Eyes has attained a small cult among genre fans.

Roger Corman works with a script from Ray Russell, the horror writer who wrote Mr. Sardonicus (1961) and Corman’s Premature Burial (1962). X – The Man with X-Ray Eyes falls fairly and squarely into the type of mad scientist film that was all the fad during the 1930s and 40s. In fact, the script that Ray Russell delivers is one of the most remarkably tortured and personalised of all mad scientist films. Mad scientist films invariably fall into the model represented by the myth of Icarus – the seeker after knowledge who flew too close to the sun and fell to his doom – in that their quests after forbidden knowledge unleash catastrophe and disaster.

No mad scientist film seems to echo this myth as consciously as X – The Man with X-Ray Eyes. No mad scientist film ever had the grandiosity of having a character see into the very centre of the universe – and report a giant eye looking back at him, something with Corman’s customary penny-pinching the film only deigns to describe rather than depict. And there is the wonderfully overwrought, incredibly resonant climax with Ray Milland running into a revivalist preacher’s tent and taking the utterance “If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out” literally. No mad scientist film ever seemed to operate on such a direct and conscious level of Old Testament thunderousness.

Ray Milland with x-ray eyes in X - The Man with X-Ray Eyes (1963)
Ray Milland with x-ray eyes

Roger Corman has of course made X – The Man with X-Ray Eyes on the cheap. It does have the benefit of being in colour, which most of his pre-Poe films did not. The x-ray effects are economically conducted with the use of coloured lighting effects and the filming of construction sites in order to represent skeletal buildings. There is one scene at a party where Ray Milland sees the partygoers naked, which are all hilariously shown below the butt or dancing with their back turned to the camera.

Nevertheless, Roger Corman has a directorial grasp that reaches out well beyond the confines of a B-budget film – there is that moment where Ray Milland wakes up from the initial injection of droplets and we look up at people from his point of view before Corman pulls away to show that Milland is wearing bandages over his eyes. Ray Russell’s dialogue is often memorable – the cruise through the city with Ray Milland describing what he sees: “a city that is newborn, hanging as metal skeletons, signs without support.”

A remake has been discussed several times in recent years – this is one film that would benefit enormously from the full CGI treatment.

Roger Corman’s other genre films as director are:– Day the World Ended (1955), It Conquered the World (1956), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), Not Of This Earth (1957), The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Journey to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent (1957), The Undead (1957), Teenage Caveman (1958), War of the Satellites (1958), A Bucket of Blood (1959), The Wasp Woman (1959), The House of Usher/The Fall of the House of Usher (1960), Last Woman on Earth (1960), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Creature from the Haunted Sea (1961), Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Premature Burial (1962), Tales of Terror (1962), Tower of London (1962), The Haunted Palace (1963), The Raven (1963), The Terror (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), The Trip (1967), Gas; or It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It (1970) and Frankenstein Unbound (1990). Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011) is a documentary about Corman’s career.

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