Roger Corman, renowned producer and director has made 346 films in his 55 year career including Death Race 2000, Rock N Roll High School and this year’s SyFy original Sharktopus, ever the busy bee, eh? Unlike many prolific film makers, very few of Corman’s films lost any money, due in part to a brilliant eye for talent. His films have included work by Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Jack Nicholson, albeit, while they were cheap and inexperienced. but also due to his knack of coming up with a marketable title, poster, or tag line and working backwards to make the film from there. For example, X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes (also known as simply “X”) lives up to it’s lurid title.
This is the story of Doctor Xavier who, with a name like that, was never going to live a normal life (X: The Contented Ear-Nose-and-Throat Specialist may not have been such a successful film), having grown bored of the visible spectrum, he develops an eye serum that will allow the user to access the entire wavelength spectrum, see the ultra violet wavelength, x-rays and beyond. When his serum kills a laboratory monkey, Doctor X, perhaps a little foolishly, blames the ape and decides that the only suitable test subject is himself. It all seems to work and X has a high old time perving through ladies’ dresses. Unfortunately, he starts seeing through the fabric of reality itself, and seeing things that mortal man was not meant to see.
X, Man with the X-Ray Eyes, stars Ray Milland, proud bearer of a snake-and-skull tattoo and quickest-ever acceptor of an Academy Award (Just a quick bow before buggering off with his best actor Oscar for Lost Weekend). Perhaps a little older than any leading man you’d get today (Milland was in his late-fifties when he made this picture) he carries the picture solidly, showing the strain put on Xavier as he goes earnest professional to shrieking in the face of cosmic horror via a smirking peeping Tom. X also features legendary insult comic Don Rickles, a favourite of Frank Sinatra’s, in one of his first acting roles and a cameo from a startlingly young Dick Miller (Mr. Futterman in Gremlins and that bloke what sells The Terminator his Uzi 9mm).
As is often the case with low-budget sci-fi, some of the effects are a little creaky, such as fading to a drawing from an anatomy textbook when Dr. X is peering into someone’s organs, but others are so ingenious that they stand up to this day, the use of time lapse footage of a building site in reverse as X looks through it’s walls being a particular favourite.
Despite being made for only $300,000 over 3 weeks, X still manages to be a very effective sci-fi chiller with some lovely 60s psychedelic imagery and a genuinely shocking finale. They don’t make them like this any more.