‘X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes’ is a Roger Corman classic

Roger Corman, the legendary Hollywood producer, is often associated with low-budget horror movies that feature multi-eyed monsters and screaming, scantily-dressed heroines. Quality is not exactly a word thrown around his resume. And yet there are many genre gems in his repertoire, and X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes stands as one of the best. Starring Ray Milland as a doctor who tests fate, the movie is an early ’60s time capsule featuring a clever concept, lush imagery and often-enjoyable thrills. Almost 50 years after its initial release, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, which Corman directed himself, can still entice a modern-day audience.

Dr. James Xavier (Milland) is a one of those prototypical sci-fi heroes; one could even call him Shakespearean for his ambitions and faults. The man develops special eye drops that can give anyone x-ray vision, and he decides to use himself as the first test subject. In other words, he gains a power that every single little boy dreams about. With the ability to see through walls, the doctor becomes a powerful force. But with every mad scientist, the experiment begins to go horribly wrong. Soon Xavier learns the value of “be careful what you wish for.”

For me, the most memorable scenes in the movie feature Milland’s character as he increasingly realizes what a horrible idea x-ray vision can be. His eyes take on a metallic tinge, and Xavier becomes like a mutant creature. Seeing the blackened orbs emanating from the scientist’s eyes is still creepy and unforgettable.

This being a somewhat cheesy thriller, there’s some filler in the film. But X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes never overstays its welcome. Running a slim 79 minutes, Corman’s movie achieves its objectives and then rolls the end credits. There’s not much beyond the plot and its central character, although film buffs should look for an interesting performance from a young Don Rickles.

The movie has not dated itself, at least not as much as other 1960s sci-fi flicks. The thrilling car chase that closes out the film still provides some engaging entertainment, and Milland’s performance is believable, despite the unbelievable scientific plot. This one is that rare Corman masterpiece: an effective movie free of cheap gags and thrills. There’s not a 10-foot spider or slumber-party massacre anywhere in sight.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes

  • 1963

  • Directed by Roger Corman

  • Written by Ray Russell and Robert Dillon; based on Russell’s story

  • Starring Ray Milland, Don Rickles and Diana Van der Vlis

  • Running time: 79 minutes

  • Rating: ★★★☆

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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