X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes is a Roger Corman film from the early ’60s. This, in general, is something of a warning sign. Numerous ’60s Corman films ended up on MST3K, or its successors Cinematic Titanic and Rifftrax. The fundimental story is actually pretty good, but the execution stumbles.
This is something of a conventional mad scientist movie – scientist dreams up concoction that allows a person to see beyond the conventional human spectrum. Rather than using proper scientific methodology, he experiments on himself, constantly upping the dosage until it drives him mad and forces him to pluck out his own eyes.
On paper, it’s a pretty good concept, and when I read Stephen King’s description of the film in Dance Macabre, it motivated me to put the film on my to-watch list. Sadly, it’s just okay. The film is a classic Corman Quickie, with lots of opportunities grabbed for padding, and with some clunky humor shoved in there.
There are some interesting effects done for how protagonist Doctor James Xavier (Ray Milland) ends up seeing beyond the visible spectrum. However, as the film can’t really do the makeup effects to show how this is is changing him, due to the time the film was made and the lack of budget – the effects this change has on Xavier lies with Milland and the script by Robert Dillon and Ray Russell. Milland is a good actor, and he’s able to work well with the material – it’s just that the material isn’t particularly great.
The concept is good enough that I wouldn’t mind seeing this film remade by another director, especially someone with a background in body horror like David Cronenberg. However, the fundamental concept behind this film’s plot is just too far ahead of its time to work on the screen, instead of on the page.
The film has received a Blu-Ray release from Kino Lorber, which is available from Amazon.com, and is probably the only way I’d consider picking it up. Otherwise, if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, as of of this writing it is available for streaming, which I’d consider to be the reasonable alternative.