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

While watching this film I can’t help but to wonder, if I had the powers of Superman, would I be a superhero?

If I could fly, were impervious to things like bullets and had x-ray vision, would I spend my time rescuing people from burning buildings? Maybe. Or maybe I’d be the world’s greatest criminal this planet has ever seen, punching holes into banks at night, flying away with bags of money in one hand and flipping off the cops with the other.

It amazes me that people who gain “extrodinairy powers” in movies never know quite what to do with them. Dr. James Xavier is one of those people. You see, Dr. James Xavier is quite the scientist. While working in a laboratory, Xavier develops eye drops that give him x-ray vision. The first drops allow him to see through paper and clothing. The next few drops knock him unconscious.

When Xavier wakes up, he finds that funding for his research has been cut off. Even though he is not taking the drug any longer, the “X Effect” remains. Like most good doctors, he (briefly), uses his power for good. He corrects a wrong diagnoses on a young patient in the hospital. But, unlike most good doctors, when the attending physician insists on performing the wrong surgery, Xavier stabs the doctor in the hand and performs the surgery himself.

Xavier’s powers and madness both begin to increase. At a dance party, Xavier finds he cannot control his power, and a funny scene of everyone dancing naked is shown. Xavier’s two research buddies soon call him back into the lab for some more experiments, but Xavier decides he would rather push one of them out the window, which he does.

Xavier, now on the run and wanted for murder, decides that the best way for him to hide out would be to get a job in a sideshow as a guy who can see through things. That’s not really what we call “laying low”, folks. The head of the sideshow, Crane (Don Rickles), is greatly curious as to what this newcomer’s “trick” is, but Xavier insists there is none. When a woman at the carnival falls and is injured, Xavier immediately tells bystanders that she has a broken leg, and two broken ribs. Crane, after seeing this, comes up with the idea of calling Xavier a “healer”. If you’re taking notes, the two uses he’s found so far for X-Ray vision is “job at side show carnival” and “fake faith healer”.

Dr. Diane Fairfax, Xavier’s female assistant, eventually finds him and whisks him away from the world of fake faith healing. Xavier needs money for research, and there’s one place he can get it. Vegas, baby! So, the two doctors, ever faithful to their oaths and promises, head out to Vegas to rob the town blindly.

X – The Man With the X-Ray Eyes was directed by Roger Corman. This movie is considered to be one of Corman’s “best” works — which is a lot like saying you ordered the “most expensive item” at Taco Bell. I searched the web for reviews of this film and kept coming up with “A” and “B” ratings. I believe that these people too may have been experimented upon. Of course the special effects seem dated, but my complaints are more directed towards the plot. If the best career move you can come up with is “fake faith healer” once you develop X-ray vision, maybe you should look deep into your own head and jostle them brains around a little bit. As mentioned, the special effects are hokey, particularly when Xavier begins to see through people. We’re treated to plastic skeleton marionette shows during those parts, and when the mad Doctor begins to see through the cosmos, it looks more like an excerpt from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The ending of this film has been described as “shocking” and “disturbing.” I might throw in the words “dumb” and “unbelievable” as well. It’s a dumb ending to a dumb movie full of dumb special effects. Maybe people under the age of seven who have never heard of the Twilight Zone or Amazing Stories might be “shocked”, but I didn’t need X-Ray vision or even particularly good vision to see the ending coming a mile away.

X – The Man With the X-Ray Eyes is rated both D for Dumb and H for Hokey. Corman fans or people like me who get their abuse one DVD at a time are the only ones might enjoy sitting through this snorefest. And, if you think the movie moves slow (there’s more sermons here than in any church I’ve ever seen), flip on Roger Corman’s commentary track. No one loves commentary tracks more than me, but after falling asleep three times during it, I gave up.

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