Sunday, April 1, 2012

X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)

This first movie is special to me. It's the movie that got me started on watching B movies, if you can believe it.

It's X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, a 1963 movie starring Ray Milland and directed by Roger Corman.

The plot is simple enough: Ray Milland plays Dr. Xavier (no relation to the X-Men's Professor Xavier), a scientist who invents eye drops that allow him to have x-ray vision. The science is, of course, as soft as pudding, but as soon as he puts on the eye drops, he can see perfectly through people's clothing.

But, as usual with these films, things soon go wrong. The eye drops don't stop working and in fact they increase in strength. Soon, he's seeing through bones and brick walls. His eyes turn black and silver and then just black.

Towards the end of the film, he tells someone that he's gone beyond seeing through objects and begun seeing things on the "edge of the universe" and that there is an "eye that sees all" at the center of the universe. To spoil the ending, he plucks out his eyes, like Oedipus in Thebes.

Here's why I watched this and why it began my obsession: Stephen King wrote about it in his book Danse Macabre. He claimed that there was an alternate ending, where Xavier, after ripping out his eyes, screamed towards the heavens, "I can still see!" Nobody's seen this ending, even though Corman does admit to filming it "on a whim."

This is a classic B movie with a standard plot of scientific hubris. The acting is superb, as to be expected by Ray Milland. The individual scenes themselves are boring at the beginning, but as soon as Dr. Xavier starts losing his marbles, it picks up and gets really interesting. His scenes at the carnival are good and the ending scene itself is great.

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