Review of “X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)”

trailer from YouTube

Our latest Saturday night pizza and bad movie offering has a mad scientist on the road to perdition. Back in the day, I watched this flick on broadcast TV. We watched it last night with Svengoolie.


Dr. James Xavier (Ray Milland) wants humans to see further than the “visible” light spectrum. To this end, he’s working on eye drops, an experiment he’s dubbed X. The foundation paying for his work sends a liaison, Dr. Diane Fairfax (Diana Van der Vlis). He demonstrates to her how his drops work on a caged monkey. Unfortunately, the monkey dies, probably of shock.

The foundation withdraws its funding, but Dr. Xavier remains undeterred and proceeds to experiment on himself. He argues with his friend, Dr. Sam Brant (Harold J. Stone), to help him. Brant, with the dose of good sense Xavier lacks, refuses. Only after Xavier insists on going ahead alone does he agree to help him, and then… cue special effects. The viewer understands what freaked the poor monkey out but not why Xavier wants a second dose.

Comic relief arrives when the lovely Dr. Fairfax invites Xavier to a party. Why, he can see through clothing! The dancing partygoers are all young, quite becoming, and quite in the buff. (No explicit nudity is shown, however.)

In surgery the next morning, however, he’s still seeing through clothing. His colleague, Dr. Willard Benson (John Hoyt), has seriously misdiagnosed the young patient’s condition. To keep the other doctor from cutting her open, Xavier slices his hand open, rendering him incapable of surgery, and then finishes the operation in a miraculously short time.

During another argument with his friend, Xavier accidentally (and carelessly) kills him. Yeah, the road to perdition. Does he ‘fess up and turn himself in? Nah. With help from friendly Dr. Fairfax, he heads out on the lam. The next the reader sees him, he’s performing as a mind reader in a carnival with an acerbic barker, Crane (Don Rickles—really).

He rubs people the wrong way there and soon must disappear—again. Imagine that. Nevertheless, Crane sees through (sorry) Xavier and blackmails him into setting up a business. He’s a “healer,” actually, a “seer.” People come to him to receive a diagnosis—for a donation. Think he’s found his forte? His shot at redemption?


Aside from the cute repetition of X all over the place, this was a serious movie. Dr. Xavier had it good in the beginning. His friend Dr. Brant gives him an eye exam and tells him his eyesight is perfect. Neither realizes his ambition is blinding him. When Dr. Fairfax asks why he wants to see further into the light spectrum, he gives this rambling, incomprehensible speech that amounts to, “Because it’s there, and I might find cool things there.”

Like bee purple? Yeah, that’d be useful for pollinating flowers.

Xavier is like a drug addict with the eye drops. He needs more—and needs money. The ability to see is a disability. He wears wrap-around sunglasses because everyday light is too much to bear.

At every step, he makes a bad choice. Not even realizing he’s killed his friend, lost his position in society, and his career wakes him up.

Not a happy movie.

Are our dreams coming true a disability? Are ambitions a bind? No—it is not the dream or the ambition per se. Xavier has sold his soul long before the drops have become a reality.

The ending is meant to shock, and it is depressing.

X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes was a nominee for the Astronave d’argento (Silver Spacecraft) for best film at the 1963 Trieste Science+Fiction Festival.

I could not find this available for a free download.

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

Directed by
Roger Corman

Writing Credits
Robert Dillon…(screenplay) and
Ray Russell…(screenplay)
Ray Russell…(story)

Cast (in credits order)
Ray Milland…Dr. James Xavier
Diana Van der Vlis…Dr. Diane Fairfax (as Diana van der Vlis)
Harold J. Stone…Dr. Sam Brant
John Hoyt…Dr. Willard Benson
Don Rickles…Crane

Released: September 18, 1963
Length: 1 hour, 19 minutes

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

7 thoughts on “Review of “X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)”

  1. That flick was creepy when I was a kid, especially the ending. Speaking of bad movies I just watched Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. Started off ok then veered off into fantasy bullshit that I actually stopped caring, good thing it was free.

    1. That was kinda my feeling about how it would go down. Too bad. I don’t know anything about his life, but why make up stuff? I think I’ll give it a pass.

      Yeah, X-Ray Eyes was creepy. Now that I’m old and jaded. I just want to kick him and say, “Dude, look what you’re throwing away!”

  2. I love that you review these movies! I’m never tempted to watch them, but I love reading how you write about them. Thanks for the fun!

      1. Perhaps! Some day. But I love how you seriously review each one. And it’s fun to see that I recognize some of the actors. The genre you review was never one of my favorites. I love old movies but I was into the dramas, rom coms, and musicals.

  3. I saw this as a kid and thought it was incredibly intense (Ray Milland had some serious acting chops), but haven’t heard about it since. So this was a real flashback for me!

    1. I saw this on broadcast many moons ago, too, though I don’t think I saw it all the way through. Yeah, the ending is freaky. Hope it was a happy flashback.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a note.

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