Welcome to Psycho Drive-In’s 31 Days of Schlocktober celebration! This year we’ve decided to present the ABCs of Horror, with entries every day this month providing Director information, Best-of lists, Genre overviews, and Reviews of films and franchises, all in alphabetical order! Today brings us X is for X – The Man with the X-Ray Eyes! Let’s start by saying it straight out. I cannot express how much I enjoyed watching this movie, fair and unbiased critique be damned. X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes is 1950s-60s sci-fi horror at its best. I mean, just read the title! Can’t you hear a cheesy adventure serial voice over in your head shouting “X: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES!” The film’s opening sequence starts with a glaring disembodied eye floating in a beaker and then the title screen fades in over a psychedelic hypno-spiral. I imagine this is 1950s code for “shits about to get weird, dude.” You’d be forgiven for going into this film the same way I did, expecting at best a “so bad it’s good” style monster movie about a mad scientist and a guy with the bafflingly unscary power of being able to see through stuff. Dirk Manning, writer of the online horror comic Nightmare World, wrote a column in which he explained that he rated a truly good horror story not by screams, gore, or even the number of times it makes you jump out of your seat. Instead, good horror is about the ability to use unconventional or even supernatural elements to expose something potentially dark and disturbing about the human condition. With X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, director Roger Corman sets the audience up for a sci-fi horror popcorn flick, but as the main character’s powers grow, the director slowly reveals a story about the existential horror of a man who can see more than any human was meant to. (Man’s instinctual desire to “see more clearly” leads the main character to struggle with concepts of mortality and the insignificance of humanity compare to the size of the universe. Things even get a little Lovecraftian at the end as the hero’s power allows him to finally pierce the veil of our reality and brings him face to face with a malignant force at the center of the universe.) Our ill-fated hero Dr. Xavier is portrayed by Ray Milland, a solid actor who captures the tragic mix of idealism and recklessness that makes Xavier’s suffering resonate with the audience. With one of academy award under his belt for his lead role in The Lost Weekend, Milland provided the film with enough legitimacy to catch people’s attention. Supporting Milland is a solid cast of characters actor which includes insult comic Don Rickles playing an unscrupulous Carnie out to use Xavier’s power to swindle himself a fortune. While only a small part of the movie Rickles’ character does have a standout moment when he shamelessly declares if he had Xavier’s abilities he would use it to “see all the bare naked women my eyes could stand.” This is notable because it may be the greatest villainous motivation I have ever heard. Roger Corman is known for his long history writing, directing, and producing low-budget B movies spanning every possible genre. His directing credits alone cover about 50 films and Corman himself estimated in an interview the total for directing and producing credits was around 130. His films range from well crafted, psychological horror (Masque of the Red Death) to “hey, let’s film hot babes in bikinis and sell it as a movie!” (She-Gods of Shark Reef). At the time, Corman was churning out films for production studio API with a razor thin budget and working on a rotating 10 day schedule. X was a unique case because the studio gave Corman around $300,000, color stock, and a whopping 15 days to shoot. If everything else is in question, I’d say that confirms Corman was, at the least, a competent director. Think about it. Could you make a professional quality, feature-length film in 15 days? I doubt I could, unless you’re willing to write off half the cast being portrayed by sock puppets as “artistic license.” The film was deemed a financial success and earned the Best Film Award in the First International Science Fiction Festival. To this day it is well regarded by critics, earning mention as part of the resurgence of horror in film. Young directors, producers, and screenwriters re-imagined the black and white monster classics of their child hood, replacing werewolves, black magic, and swamp monsters with mad scientists and invaders from beyond the stars. While Corman has a dubious reputation in some circles, this is definitely one of his better movies and a solid blend of classic sci-fi and psychological horror. There is some low budget awkwardness here and there but the best thing about these kinds of movies is that every once in a while the filmmakers run across something they can’t afford to shoot the way it is in the script. This forces them to do something inventive that winds up being more interesting than just filming the scene straight out. My personal favorite moment is when the camera simulates X-Ray vision for the first time by circling around and then zooming in until we “pass through” the back of Xavier’s head and into his brain. It’s both exciting and creepy as the camera sits there looking out through his eyes as the wall dissolves and reveals the room behind it. If the film was made nowadays it would have skipped all that “craft” nonsense and had a bunch of animators do it all with computers in a process that would have been both ridiculously expensive and way less interesting. If you go into X: Man with the X-Ray Eyes expecting gore and cool monster costumes you’ll be let down, but if you’re a fan of well crafted, psychological horror this film is worth a look… See what I did there? Note: Also, for all you trivia buffs and comic nerds, I’d like to point out something that flew by me. Apparently when asked to do the character designs for the comic book series Earth X (by Jim Kreugar and J. P. Leon), Alex Ross based the eyes and face of Nighthawk on Ray Milland, drawing on the concept of a man who sees much more than he wants to know. See larger image X – The Man With The X-Ray Eyes New From: $6.25 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.