X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes REVIEW

Ray Milland in X: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes

What happens if you watch too many episodes of Hollyoaks.

1963 | PG | 76 minutes | £14.99
Distributor: Final Cut
Director: Roger Corman
Cast: Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J Stone, John Hoyt, Don Rickles

B-movie king Roger Corman at his best, The Man With The X-Ray Eyes is partially HG Wells for the LSD crowd, partially a nudist movie without the boobs, and wholly crazy.

Ray Milland plays Dr Xavier, a monomaniac medic convinced that eye drops which allow him to see inside patients’ bodies will revolutionise medicine. When Xavier’s funding is revoked, he continues his researches anyway, setting himself on the path towards brain-frying visions of the infinite…

It’s a triple-whammy of a film, a Venn diagram intersection of three different brands of exploitation. Xavier’s zeal for “seeing the unseeable” (and some primitive psychedelic effects) make it a close cousin of acidsploitation films like Corman’s own The Trip. Meanwhile, gorehounds get glimpses of guts, and randy teens get the vistas of flesh they were hoping for when they sent away for some X-Ray Spex (albeit a PG-rated version, thanks to some discreet editing): cue a roomful of partygoers twisting away in their birthday suits.

From the purple hypno-wheel titles to the haunting shock ending, it’s an unabashedly lurid film, with a general air of hysteria and some utterly lunatic plot twists. Ending up wanted for murder after the most comical defenestration in cinema history, Xavier goes on the lam, turning into a modern-day version of The Invisible Man’s Griffin. His idea of “lying low” involves working as a funfair attraction and (ticking off another everyman fantasy) larging it at a Vegas casino. For an educated man, he sure is pretty dumb…

Milland excels in the title role, sardonic and intense, as if a young iconoclast has been poured into the body of a middle-aged square. And the script is blessed with more than a little black-polo-necked beat lyricism; at one point, our hero describes the urban landscape he’s passing through as “a city unborn, its flesh dissolved in an acid of light!” Crazy, daddio. Refreshingly zesty pulp, with a sprinkling of poetry.

None – which is a little bit disappointing, since the region one release boasts a Corman commentary.

Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman

Read our review of the Roger Corman documentary Corman’s World.
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