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Monday, February 6, 2017

X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes (1963)

Starring Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone, John Hoyt, Don Rickles
Directed by Roger Corman
(actor & director credits courtesy

A scientist, convinced he's made a breakthrough in a solution that will allow the eyes to see a greater portion of the visual spectrum, experiments on himself, leading him down a tragic path.

This film features a great subject for science fiction, with the dual edged promise and curse of the jump ahead that Milland as Dr. James Xavier takes, not unlike the story of Frankenstein, and there are hints that Xavier has changed from man to monster in Ray Russell & Robert Dillon's screenplay and the visuals provided by cinematographer Floyd Crosby.  Milland gives a good performance, among my favorites by the actor, believable as the scientist willing to foolishly risk all for his work, but anguished by the after effects he did not anticipate.  Although the movie's budget didn't likely allow for anything too innovative as far as special effects are concerned, the use of irises around what Xavier sees and detailed artist renderings of internal organs help maintain the narrative's illusion as well as the audience's interest, and there of course is also the sequence in which Xavier peers through the clothes of participants at a party, which was probably designed as a selling point before the film was scripted.  Still, the most interesting elements of the film are not its visuals but its ideas, reflected in a memorable sequence where Milland discusses with carnival performers what they think should be done with his gift, which by that time he regards as a curse.

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