Reviews & Columns
International DVDs
In Theaters
Reviews by Studio
Video Games

Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Anime Talk
DVD Savant
Horror DVDs
The M.O.D. Squad
Art House
HD Talk
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum

DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info


X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes

Kino // Unrated // May 12, 2015
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted April 18, 2015 | E-mail the Author
"Sam, we are virtually blind: all of us. You tell me that my eyes are perfect. Well, they're not. I'm blind to all but a tenth of the universe."
"My dear friend, only the gods see everything."
"My dear doctor, I'm closing in on the gods."

The long debunked cliché goes that 90% of our brains' potential remains untapped, and more movies than anyone would care to count have mulled over the possibilities of someone suddenly seizing hold of the entirety of that power. Dr. James Xavier (Ray Milland) isn't interested in studies of the mind -- you're thinking of a different Professor X -- and is consumed instead by our inability to fully perceive the world around us. The range of human sight is, in his view, shamefully limited, and Xavier has been developing a serum to expand our horizons: to see beyond the surface, to witness wonders in the distant heavens that mankind could never have dreamt possible. His research is costly and too closely held a secret. When Xavier is tasked to present his findings to the foundation funding his work, he uses his experimental eyedrops on himself. It's a success! With a single drop in each eye, Xavier can see through file folders...pierce through outer layers of clothing. If he'd have stopped there, this review would likely be of an unrecognizably different film. Xavier can't restrain himself, though, pushing his eyes further than his mind could handle, and is comatose as the foundation decides to cut off its funding. Perhaps as a traditional doctor, Xavier can prove how necessary his research is. His hubris, however -- even when he's right -- costs him everything: his friends, his career, and even his very freedom. Fleeing from accusations of murder, Xavier goes underground to fund his research: as a freak show attraction, as a 'healer' of the poor and downtrodden, and, well, as a gambler under the neon lights of Las Vegas. Even when he does stay one step ahead of the authorities, Xavier can't outrun his own arrogance.

[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]

X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes boasts the title of a drive-in creature feature, but that's really not the type of movie this is. Perhaps that's why its on-screen title is simply "X". Dr. Xavier is not a monster run amok. His research does not leave a trail of corpses in its wake. His experimentations on his own body don't result in anything so visibly monstrous that can't be hidden behind a pair of dark glasses. There is death and suffering. X does indulge in its share of fantasy fulfillment, as Xavier breaks the bank in Vegas and gazes upon the exposed forms of nubile young twentysomethings (although, this being 1963, he sees more than we ever do). One of the tragedies of this story is that Xavier proves that his research is well-founded. A brilliant surgeon with the ability to see things that even the most bleeding-edge X-ray technology cannot, Dr. Xavier saves a young girl's life from a misdiagnosis on his very first attempt at putting his serum to use. This isn't a mad professor irradiating insects to colossal size because science; Xavier's research, if developed fully and applied properly, could have a wonderfully transformative effect on the world. There is no monster and not even a nemesis in the traditional sense. Xavier doubles as both protagonist and antagonist, with his self-sabotaging hubris easily serving as the villain of the film.

X repeatedly defies convention. Its structure is surprisingly episodic, as Xavier settles into one life after another to maintain his freedom and continue his research. Because there's always something strange and wonderful around the next bend, X moves swiftly and refuses to settle into a comfortable rut. The writing is impressively sharp and often poetic, most memorably Xavier's impassioned monologue about "the city of the dead". The film couldn't be more perfectly cast. Best known for his Academy Award winning turn as an alcoholic in Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend, Ray Milland portrays a very different type of self-destructive addict here. Milland strikes the perfect balance between cold and charming, remaining sympathetic even as he ravages all the great works his research could accomplish. As lovely as Diana Van der Vlis is, her Dr. Fairfax isn't a standard issue love interest: clearly taken by Xavier but never swooning over the man, and exhibiting a strength, determination, loyalty, and practicality that he's entirely unable to match. Don Rickles is phenomenal as the skin-crawlingly exploitative carnival barker preying upon the poor in search of a quick buck. X has a philosophical and, at times, religious bent that runs considerably deeper than the traditional "he tampered in God's domain" routine pervasive throughout '50s and '60s genre cinema. This is an intelligent, well-crafted, and decidedly adult film. Even though some elements are decidedly dated -- a hokey dance party, its bashful portrayal of nudity, a few visual effects of Xavier's enhanced sight that would've been wildly unconvincing even a half-century ago -- the remainder of X has aged remarkably well, and its not-quite-up-to-par moments contribute to its overall charm rather than detract from it.

[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]

I only look and tell what I see. X has consistently impressed me from the first time I laid eyes on it many years ago, and there is no greater way to discover or rediscover Roger Corman's greatest film than on this spectacular special edition Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber.

Excuse the pun, but the newly-remastered X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes is a sight to behold. The screenshots scattered throughout this review truly can't come close to doing this presentation justice. Despite Roger Corman noting in his audio commentary that the film was shot on less-than-spectacular stock, I found myself repeatedly marveling at the clarity and detail on display. Its colors and contrast alike are remarkably robust, helping to lend the image a surprisingly strong sense of depth. Flecks of dust and small scratches are far too mild to ever intrude, and the presentation isn't marred by any excessive noise reduction or artificial sharpening. Some unavoidable degradation is visible throughout the many optical effects, though never to any greater an extent than expected. X is grainier and grittier a film than average, which in and of itself should not be considered a flaw, although that texture does prove challenging for the disc's AVC encode. This artifacting did not detract from the overall experience for me, thankfully. Strictly for the sake of completion, below is one shot in which it's particularly noticeable:

[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]

It's immediately apparent that this Blu-ray disc takes advantage of a brand new transfer of the film, and the resulting presentation wholly eclipses the DVD from MGM's Midnite Movies line nearly fifteen years ago. The improvement is unmistakeable even in low resolution thumbnails:

Kino Lorber BD (2015)MGM DVD (2001)
[click on any of these thumbnails to enlarge]

X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes has long been a favorite of mine, and I'm thrilled that it's been lavished with such a spectacular high definition release. X arrives on a single layer disc, and its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 has been faithfully preserved on Blu-ray.

X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes boasts a 16-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack in two-channel mono, and it's a very respectable effort. Dialogue is certainly reproduced more cleanly and clearly than I'd expect out of a low-budget genre film from the class of 1963. Some strain is audible in the score by Les Baxter, although it's at times more full-bodied than what I would have typically expected to hear. A few effects sound similarly dated, particularly Dr. Fairfax' sedan as it tears a path to Vegas. This lossless soundtrack still exceeds my hopes at every turn, especially considering that no excessive hiss, pops, clicks, or dropouts ever threaten to intrude.

Rounding out the audio options are a pair of commentaries and a set of English (SDH) subtitles.

  • Audio Commentaries: X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes features two commentary tracks. The first, with director/producer Roger Corman, has been carried over from MGM's 2001 DVD release. It's a rewarding listen, although it perhaps would've benefitted from a moderator to help maintain a steadier flow of discussion. Corman is, as ever, a warm and engaging presence, and he covers most every conceivable topic of conversation: the tight shooting schedule, the visual effects work, editing and post-production, marketing, and even the critical reception to the film. He addresses the creative and technical aspects of X with equal skill, such as ensuring that dialogue-heavy interiors remain visually interesting, how his reputation as a one-and-done take director isn't quite grounded in reality, how inventive use of extras can make a modestly budget production like this look larger in scale, and, perhaps most interestingly, how the original premise revolved around a drug-abusing saxophonist.

    [click on the thumbnail to enlarge]

    Also included is a newly-recorded commentary with Video Watchdog's Tim Lucas. Insightful, extremely well-researched, and still consistently entertaining, Lucas' commentary is an essential listen. He does a marvelous job establishing a timeline throughout production, delving into the backgrounds and even contractual obligations of all the key players. I had no idea, for instance, that Dennis Hopper served as a second unit director. Lucas compares and contrasts the finished film with a draft of the screenplay and even the novelization, including some lines of dialogue left in X that have a different impact outside of their originally intended context. A great deal of insight is also provided into the cast and their personalities, brimming with such color as how Don Rickles bristled at improvised heckling. You are doing yourself a disservice if you buy or rent this Blu-ray disc and overlook Lucas' commentary.

  • Terror Vision!: Joe Dante on X (6 min.; HD): Mistitled "Buried Alive!" on the menu, this interview with one of my favorite Corman protégés offers up a terrific overview of X: how it's another example of Corman's ocular fixation, what the effects in this underfunded production might look with today's digital sorcery, and generally how progressive, trippy, ambitious, well-acted, and profound a film it really is.

  • Rare Prologue (5 min.; HD): This prologue -- remastered in 1080p with the rest of the film -- was carved out of X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes after -- or, in some cases, during, depending on who you ask -- its original theatrical run. The movie is better off without it, droning on about the five senses in something that'd feel more at home unspooling in a third grade classroom than a drive-in theater. Its inclusion is still greatly appreciated, especially in such a high quality presentation as this.

  • Trailer (4 min.): The trailer for X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes is offered here twice: once in high definition, and a second time in standard-def with Mick Garris' introduction and commentary from Trailers from Hell! Is this a Blu-ray exclusive, I wonder? I don't see X listed on the Trailers from Hell site anyway.

The Final Word
X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes has long been my favorite of Roger Corman's films. Its premise easily lends itself to straightahead drive-in thrills, and while X delivers well enough on that front, it's not content to stop there. X ranks among the smartest and most thoughtful genre films of its era. Xavier's superhuman vision doesn't just empower him to see through clothing and flesh; through his eyes, we're able to catch insight into the human condition, reaching heights towards which few B-movies would even think to aim. This is a film that would've earned an enthusiastic recommendation regardless, but its gorgeous presentation and substantial extras ensure that this Blu-ray release of X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes is that much more impossible to overlook. Highly Recommended.
Buy from






Highly Recommended

E - M A I L
this review to a friend
Popular Reviews
1. Battle Hymn
2. Man Push Cart: Criterion Collection
3. Nosferatu In Venice

Sponsored Links
Sponsored Links