At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

“X”: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES (Kino Lorber)

By • May 12th, 2015 •

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I met Ray Milland a year after he did “X”. He was appearing in a mediocre mystery on Broadway. I caught a matinee. All the middle-aged ladies were there, basking in his performance. Afterward I explained at the stage door that I was a student at Tulane University and I wondered if I could speak with him for the school newspaper. After a few minutes I was ushered up to the dressing room. He was wearing a robe, and greeted me warmly. I led with “I really liked you in THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES.” He paused as if he’d been struck by a flying object, then said, “I have to sit down for this.”

Once he was seated he still couldn’t grasp my affection for the film. “Those contact lenses pulled the blue off of my eyes!” Clearly I should have started with a complement about his academy-award-winning performance in THE LOST WEEKEND. It was the only lesson I ever needed about being better prepared when I met celebrities.

Despite Milland’s protests, “X” is a good film, distinguished by his dry, cynical performance, and while it’s too threadbare for its own good, the film is powerfully of its time, and – praise due to Roger Corman – it’s actually about something, and it pulls no punches as it reaches its haunting conclusion. All three commentaries emphasize that it’s about something. And what is of particular interest is that Joe Dante, speaking about the film for a little over six minutes, manages to encapsulate everything that the other two feature-length commentators go on to say. I enjoyed listening to all three. Corman’s was more the practical approach, naturally. Tim Lucas, not having oodles to say about the film’s background, talks a lot about the cast and Corman, which is fine, and also relates the story of a real-life person with X-ray vision.

LSD was about to warm up the country. The love generation was ready to look for something spiritual in our not-particularly-spiritual culture. Middle-aged Milland’s quest to see beyond what human’s were capable of presented a sly metaphor about this American shift toward seeing more in life than just consumerism and greed, and at the same time giving the concept a nasty turn. Kind of like the Woodstock mentality getting clobbered by Altamont, six years before the fact.

Don Rickles, being given a big push by Corman (which the director doesn’t make quite clear), is memorably effective as a bullying carnival barker who manipulates Milland’s doctor on the run. Diana Van der Flis is interesting looking. John Dierkes is perfect as a tent-gospel preacher.

Now here’s the part that’s gonna get me some mail. It’s mentioned a few times in the supplementals that Milland was supposed to have a final line that would send goosebumps and a whole host of Eisensteinian-montage ideas through the audience’s minds, to take away with them as they left the theater. Well, I’m not just pretty sure — I’m absolutely positive that the print I saw back in ’63, in the deep south where they tried out and/or abandoned earlier cuts of Hollywood fare, had that line intact. And it worked really well. I saw the other ending of THE BIRDS, too. It was a lot of fun down there in New Orleans.

The quality of the disc is excellent. With so many juicy extras, it’s a no-brainer that this BluRay has to replace your DVD.

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