I own a lot of movies. Like, a lot. This is never more apparent than in situations like what happened with this movie. I was looking through my movies to see if there was a horror movie I happened to own, but hadn’t yet watched. There were a couple of candidates but nothing that stood out as demanding immediate attention. Then I found X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes. And I could not for the life of me remember where it came from. Obviously at some point I exchanged cash for this product, and I think it was pretty recently, but I didn’t have a clear memory of this transaction taking place. But it’s here and I watched it and it ain’t bad so I’m not too upset with my decision making.
At first I thought this mystery disc was defective because the movie starts with a static image of an eye that goes on for about 90 seconds. There’s no music or sounds or narration, just an eye, lookin’ at ya. Eventually a movie did happen but for an already short movie, that’s certainly a unique way to fill some of that time.
So the movie doesn’t waste any time getting going as we meet a doctor whose name is not X, but….I wanna say James? Let’s see…yep! James! James is testing these eye drops that open up what the eyes are capable of seeing and there’s some talk about only seeing 10% of its potential or something I don’t know. Science. He tests it on a monkey and the monkey dies but that doesn’t bother him in the slightest and in almost the very next scene he is testing the serum on himself. Sure enough the serum works and his eyes allow him to see through stuff. He has x-ray eyes. He is the man with the x-ray eyes.
At first he has fun with his new found abilities. He naturally does what all of us would do in this situation – look at naked people – and is generally enjoying his weird new super power. Of course it doesn’t take long for things to start to go real bad and perhaps his new gift isn’t a gift at all………….but a curse!
What I liked about James is that he’s ambitious, but he’s not an asshole. Making your scienece fiction doctor with lofty goals and a penchant for reckless behavior a complete prick seems to be the go to, so it’s nice to have a central character who is a likable person whose plight you can sympathize with. It’s also not a tale of how his power goes to his head and he comes an egomaniacal crazy murderer person. The core focus is how he simply gets by with these powers that he is no longer capable of fully controlling/getting rid of. It makes for a smaller and more intimate story that I felt lent itself well to the premise.
Ray Millad is very good as James, and this is largely his show. However my favourite chunk of the movie is when he gets a gig as a sideshow performer, with Don Rickles as his boss. I’m not at all familiar with the early works of Rickles, but it was interesting to see him play a mostly dramatic role, only getting to do his trademark insults in his first scene. He plays a real good sleaze and is really the only thing this movie offers in the form of an antagonist.
Of course one area that dates the move, and since it was released in 1968 this can’t really be helped, is the special effects. In the early stages of the movie when James is merely looking through items they do the trick, but once the movie starts to get more ambitious and target loftier goals, the effects are pretty primitive and silly. It’s one of the few times where a feel a remake could actually make a lot of sense. Although the small scale take on the story was one of the things I liked best about the movie and I doubt a modern day remake would be able to restrain itself in that department. So perhaps I take that idea back.
The Man with the X-Ray Eyes is a quick watch that tells an interesting story that does end on a predictable, and far too foreshadowed, note but provides a good deal of entertainment along the way. If you happen to also have this one lurking in your collection without any memory of how it got there, give it a shot!