X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes Blu-ray Review
The delicious irony is that for all his new found vision he could not see the outcome
"I Can Still See!"Oh, those mad scientist; will they never learn. Forever experimenting on themselves to prove a point. Forever ending up in a terrible mess because of it. Tonight’s unfortunate is Dr James Xavier, renowned medical practitioner, obsessed with the human eye and it’s limited ability. He wants to use more of the electromagnetic spectrum and be able to see more and gain that ability hitherto only ever utilised by Surperman: X-ray vision. His experimental protein, drops administered directly to the eyes, provides this ability if only he could secure the funding necessary to continue the work, but as always the bean counters close revenue streams and hubris dictates his actions; self-experimentation.It’s an old, old, story but one that whilst familiar, even now, seems fresh and exciting. Afterall comic books used to sell X–ray specs in their classified ads, and who wouldn’t want to be able to see through things! It’s this fascination that drives Xavier and compels the storyline. Played by bankable character actor Ray Milland, Xavier is imbued with enough pathos to make him sympathetic, so when his madness descends we still root for him. Ably supported by the likes of Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone and Don Rickles, Xavier's fall from grace and chilling finale make for entertaining and satisfying viewing. That famous final line is missing from this print because, as has since been confirmed by Roger Corman, it never existed.
Blu-ray Picture QualityThe disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 1.85:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and is Region locked to A.
For a print of this age and shot on a limited budget what is presented is extremely good. Detail holds up very well, skin has a discernible texture, Xavier’s eyes upon their transformation contain all sorts of veining and nasties, clothing has a definite weave from the white of the lab coats to the skimpy outfits of the carnival girls. The detail level does show up the cheap nature of the sets though, quick plaster and paint are no way ever going to replace actual buildings, but it’s never a real distraction. The few scenes of location shooting are also well detailed with the roads and scrubland (doubling up for Nevada) showing strong edges. Softness is never really an issue considering the age and film stock.
The X-ray vision is particularly vivid
Colouring is typical for the time with primaries coming off with a certain degree of solidity. It’s never particularly bold though and depth of colour is somewhat limited, but there are no instances of wash or bleed. Reds are good, see the vials of liquid in the lab, or location shots of red cars. Flesh tones are well rendered, somewhat on the pale side, but this is normal for the time. The X-ray vision is particularly vivid and blurred, but it’s meant to be.
Brightness and contrast are set to give a decent enough black level, but due to the filming style there is never any real punch to the picture and depth of frame is limited by the studio bound nature of the piece. Blacks show a reasonable amount of shadow detail when called for, but the film seldom calls for it. There is no clipping of the whites though, even during the car case with the clouds in the skies.
There are no compression artefacts or edge enhancement, nor are there any banding or aliasing issues. The original print is in pretty good shape, with only the occasional instance of damage visible, no holes or pops though and the grain structure is nicely intact giving a good organic film-like feel.
Blu-ray Sound QualityJust the one track to choose from English DTS-HD MA 2.0 which is, given the source, understandably limited in scope. Lex Baxter’s wild and imaginative score gets perhaps the most out of the speakers, being well layered into the mix and is suitably loud. Dialogue too is well integrated, sounds very natural and is never in any danger of being missed. There are very few effects, save the musical stingers, which work well and it can be played at reference without any background hiss or distortion; neither are there any pops of cracks to contend with. Bass, unfortunately is extremely limited there being pretty much no bottom end at all, but fortunately it does not make the track top heavy, or tinny, indeed it remained perfectly serviceable throughout.
Blu-ray ExtrasAudio Commentary – With director and producer Roger Corman, first recorded for 2001 DVD, who regales us with plenty of memories of making the film from its inception through production to completion in an entertaining and informative manner. Listen out for the final line anecdote and try to decipher it.
Audio Commentary – With film historian Tim Lucas, newly recorded for this release and packed to the gills with information, facts and anecdotes for this feature and many of its ilk; no stone is left unturned and detailed information comes thick and fast, for everything you need to know about the film, its actors, themes and ideas look no further.
Buried Alive! Jo Dante on “X” – Corman aficionado and follower discusses the film and its themes in his own imitable style.
Rare Prologue – Apparently shot for the film this five minute piece discussing the human senses was removed prior to its initial release.
Trailers from Hell with Mick Garris – Director and film/TV producer Garris comments on the films’ trailer.
Original Theatrical Trailer
X Blu-ray VerdictX (now with the subheading The Man With the X-ray Eyes) is an early sixties horror in the ‘mad scientist’ genre produced and directed by Roger Corman. The story is very simple; a doctor of medicine is enthralled with the idea of using more of the electromagnetic spectrum to see and when his research funding is cut off, experiments on himself to test his theory. The result is an incredible ability to see far more than is normally possible, in effect giving him X-ray eyes; he can see through clothing, bodies, buildings – but the down side is he is in constant light, unable to switch off and it eventually drives him insane. Cast out by the medical community, finding sanctuary as a carnival freak and trying to give back by becoming a ‘healer’, Dr James Xavier’s fate is sealed as soon as he take the drops; the delicious irony is that for all his new found vision he could not see the outcome!
Xavier is played by bankable character actor Ray Milland who imbues the scientist with a sense of longing and a hunger to do good, but is blinded by this need and suffers terribly for it. Ignoring all common sense and the advice of his peers he plunges headfirst into a situation that there is no way out of; it changes his character into an addict of sorts; see the gambling scene for an allegory for his temperament.
It is perhaps the last scene that is so traumatic though, whereupon seeing horror at the centre of creation he takes heed of the preacher’s proclamation "If thine eye offends thee... pluck it out!" and what else would a madman do? I have vividly remember seeing this scene on TV many years ago and have a (false) memory of hearing that final twist line that has passed so far into the realms of myth that it never existed at all...
It is the last scene that is so traumatic
As a Blu-ray set, the package from Kino Lorber is really quite good; the picture is clean and bright, if a little damaged and struggling to go fully black, while the sound is somewhat limited being mono but is still nevertheless clear without hiss or crackle and very serviceable. There is a selection of new and old extras with the second commentary from Tim Lucas being a particular delight. On the whole a very decent package.
You can buy X The Man with the X-Ray Eyes on Blu-ray here
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.