X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Dr. James Xavier (Ray Milland) is a surgeon working on a secret formula which will help him see through anything. With the help of his fellow doctors Sam Brant (Harold J. Stone) and Diane Fairfax (Diana Van der Vlis) he tests the formula which he calls "X" on a small lab monkey. The monkey shows that his vision can penetrate different colored cards, but soon after the animal dies from side effects. To further his experiments, Xavier decides to test the serum on himself. By dropping the liquid into his eyes, Xavier finds he can see through paper and even clothing, but he also can't stand the intense light burning his eyes.
In probably the only light hearted sequence in the entire film, Dr. Xavier and Diane attend a groovy 60s party and after a cute girl asks Dr Xavier to dance we get a funny sequence where we see that he can see through everyone's clothes as they dance.
When Dr. Xavier tests using his new X-ray vision on a sick patient, he can see through her skin into her body. The other doctors think she's ill because of a certain condition, but Xavier now knows that they are wrong. He then finds a way to stop the girl's operation by slicing the head surgeon's hand with a scalpel, leaving him unable to continue. Xavier takes over and essentially saves the young girl's life, although he is now in trouble for his impulsive actions anyways.
Xavier keeps going further and further with his controversial experiment but Dr. Brant gets on his case and in a shocking twist, Xavier accidentally pushes him right out a window, in which he falls to his death. Diane witnesses this and can see that Xavier is not acting rationally. She tells him everyone will think he has gone insane.
Xavier decides to go on the lam after being accused of murder. He hides out at the local circus where he takes on the moniker of a performer called "Mentallo" and wears a blindfold with a large eye on it. He can do things like read messages people write down using only his mind. Although we know that it's because he can see through anything. Xavier also must wear large customized blacked out sunglasses because of his increased x-ray vision which causes too much light to enter his eyes. Xavier's new manager/flunky is Crane (the legendary Don Rickles) who decides to get in on the financial gains of Xavier's amazing powers. Crane realizes the circus is not the right place for Xavier to do his magic. He promotes him as a "healer of the sick", and sets up a small apartment in a seedy part of town. It's here that old ailing people pay to hear about what is wrong with them. Xavier "heals" them by telling them if they're sick or not before it's too late.
One day Diane shows up at the apartment and Xavier gets in a fight with Crane and explodes in anger. Crane threatens Xavier by telling him if he leaves, he'll call the cops. Xavier doesn't care and he and Diane leave anyways. While driving in the car, Xavier gets an idea. He needs money to finish his experiments and where better to go than Las Vegas? He can use his new X-ray vision to make a ton of cash.
After arriving in Vegas, Xavier and Diane begin playing the slots and the poker games. Xavier wins big, but when the casino manager and a guard stop to question him, Xavier freaks out. His black sunglasses get knocked off his face in the commotion and we can see his eyeballs have become discolored and mutated. Xavier throws all his winnings into the air, causing more chaos amongst the players and steals a car, driving maniacally through the Nevada desert. The final sequence of the film is truly shocking and is one of my favorite endings of any cult film I've ever seen.
Ray Milland brings so much intensity to his role as James Xavier and it's really one of his best performances. The direction by Roger Corman is so sharply executed. He is continuously finding new imaginative ways to move the camera and add FX shots to keep the viewer engrossed in the story going on. This film was made in 1963 on a very low budget without any of today's modern CGI and it still stands up extremely well.
X remains one of my favorite cult classics and definitely one of my favorite Roger Corman/AIP films.
Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. A Massachusetts native, he is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life. He is currently majoring in Communications and Interactive Media Design.