X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes is a 1963 science fiction/horror film. Directed by Roger Corman from a script by Ray Russell and Robert Dillon, the film stars Ray Milland as Dr. James Xavier. A world renowned scientist, Dr. Xavier experiments with X-ray vision and things go horribly wrong. While most of the cast are relatively unknown, Don Rickles is notable in an uncharacteristically dramatic role. Veteran character actor Morris Ankrum makes an uncredited appearance, his last in the movie industry.

Shot in a mere three weeks on an ultra-slim budget of $300,000, Corman described the film's success as a miracle. The movie was notable for its use of visual effects to portray Dr. Xavier's point of view. While crude by later standards, the visuals are still effective in impressing upon the audience the bizarre viewpoint of the protagonist.

Plot synopsis

Dr. Xavier develops eyedrops intended to increase the range of human vision, allowing one to see beyond the "visible" spectrum into the ultraviolet and x-ray wavelengths and beyond. Believing that testing on animals and volunteers will produce uselessly subjective observations, he begins testing the drops on himself.

Initially, Xavier discovers that he can see though people's clothing, and he uses his vision to save a young girl whose medical problem was misdiagnosed. Over time and with continued use of the drops, Xavier's visual capacity increases and his ability to control it decreases. Eventually he can no longer see the world in human terms, but only in forms of lights and textures that his brain is unable to fully comprehend. Even closing his eyes brings no relieving darkness from his frightening world, as he can see through his eyelids.

After accidentally killing a friend, Xavier goes on the run, using his x-ray vision first to work in a carnival, and then to win at gambling in a casino. Xavier's eyes are altered along with his vision: first they become black and silver, and then entirely black. To hide his startling appearance, he wears dark wrap-around sunglasses at all times.

At the end of the movie, Xavier drives out to a desert and wanders into a religious tent revival. He tells the evangelist that he is beginning to see things at the edges of the universe, including an "eye that sees us all" in the center of the universe. The pastor replies that what he sees is "sin and the devil," and declares the biblical quote of "If thine eye offends thee... pluck it out!", and Xavier chooses to blind himself rather than see anything more.

Alternate ending

There have long been rumors about an alternate ending for the movie, in which Dr. Xavier removes his eyes, and afterwards screams "I can still see!"

Writer and horror film buff Stephen King related these rumors in his book Danse Macabre. This footage has never turned up, but in the DVD audio commentary for X in the 2001 "Midnite Movies" series from MGM, Corman claimed shooting the scene on a whim—the "I can still see!" line was not in the script. However, Corman says he was dissatisfied with the results and retained the original script's ending.

Awards, analysis and adaptations

The film won the 1963 Best Film Award, The Silver Spaceship, at the First International Festival of Science Fiction Films.

In his book Danse Macabre, Stephen King notes a strong Lovecraftian quality to X, based on Xavier's near-insanity when he cannot comprehend the god-like being he sees at the center of the universe.

In 1999, Comic artist Alex Ross drew the character Kyle Richmond aka Nighthawk to look like Ray Milland from his portrayal in the film, for the comic book mini series Earth X. The character also has eyes with powers.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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