If you’re cynical about modern pop culture then you will probably agree with the assertion that all movies are now B-movies. This statement is especially true when thinks about the current fad for remaking Roger Corman flicks . . .

The “directed by” or “produced by” Roger Corman moniker has always been one to instil fear in your average cinemagoer. Since the 1950s this legendary movie producer has been churning out cheaply-made genre movies like crazy. Along the way there had been one or two gems – a bit like that army of monkeys which will sooner or later by random produce a screenplay for Hamlet. (Although this isn’t entirely fair to the man: he has quite a knack for spotting talent and is known for having underpaid the likes of Robert Wise, Jack Nicholson, Joe Dante, Robert Wise and James Cameron before they all became big names!)

Corman himself directed several horror flicks such as Last Woman on Earth and The Wasp Woman in addition to several Edgar Allen Poe “adaptations” such as Pit and the Pendulum, Masque of the Red Death and Premature Burial. It is however as producer that Corman inflicted the most damage, producing the likes of Humanoids from the Deep, Alien Terminator, Bloodfist VIII: Trained to Kill and House of the Damned amongst many, many others. Even though Corman is supposedly retired nowadays a quick scan of his IMDb entry reveals that his name has been attached to the following movies over the past few years: Space 3001, Cyclops, Searchers 2.0, Supergator, Scorpius Gigantus, The Hunt for Eagle One: Crash Point and Saurian.

Roger Corman fans tend to focus on the few good - or at last quaint - movies he has made in his long and varied career and ignore the endless dreck he has churned out. (Little Shop of Horrors for example is infamous for being filmed in two days flat!) His philosophy towards the seventh art is summed up by his autobiography which is titled: “How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime!”

As of late it has become de rigueur to remake old Corman flicks, the most prominent example being last year’s Death Race starring Jason Statham, which was based on one of the “better” movies Corman has been associated with, namely the 1975 Paul Bartel flick Death Race 2000 starring Sylvester Stallone and David Carradine.

"Being a movie scientist Xavier ignores all FDA regulations on human subject research . . ."

Also in the pipeline is a 3-D remake of Piranha, the 1978 Jaws rip-off directed by Joe Dante and produced by Corman (it has already been remade in 1995 as a made-for-TV movie), and now Juan Carlos Fresnadillo wants to remake Corman’s X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes.

X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes definitely counts as one of Corman’s “better” movies. Directed by Corman in 1963 it actually starred respected actor Ray Milland who won an Oscar for his portrayal of an alcoholic writer in the 1945 movie The Lost Weekend. (Milland holds the record for shortest Oscar acceptance speech ever: he simply bowed and left the stage!) Granted Milland was down on his luck by then and this Welsh-born American actor would increasing appear in B-movie fare such as the likes of Panic in the Year Zero!, Premature Burial, Frogs and The Thing with Two Heads. (Many genre fans will also know him for his appearances in the 1975 Escape to Witch Mountain and as Sire Uri in the original Battlestar Galactica TV series.)

Back in 1962 Milland’s presence however lent some status to X: The Man with X-Ray Eyes. Milland plays a world-renowned scientist Dr. James Xavier (yes, like the professor in X-Men) who experiments with human eyesight. He devises some eye drops that give a person the power to see through objects. As the tagline declared: suddenly he could see through clothes, flesh . . . and walls! Those are some mighty eye drops indeed!

Naturally being a movie scientist Xavier ignores all FDA regulations on human subject research and tests the eye drops on himself much to the concern of his colleagues, Dr. Benson (John Hoyt) and Dr. Fairfax (Diana Van der Vlis). Xavier is clearly becoming dangerously obsessed and – even worse – he finds that he cannot control his “gift” which is causing him unending agony.

When Xavier accidentally kills Benson he becomes a fugitive from the law. Xavier takes refuge in a small carnival where he becomes the amazing “Mentallo”, a psychic act. His “act” is a bit on the unlikely side though. Sure, having x-ray vision helps Xavier “sees” things, but Mentallo knows more about the people attending his act than one could learn through simple x-ray vision. When his cover at the carnival is blown, a carney named Crane (Don Rickles) extorts Xavier into a racket whereby he becomes an unlikely street healer of sorts. (X-raying people goes a long way towards diagnosing medical problems, you know.)

[PLOT SPOILERS!] Dr. Fairfax manages to track Xavier down and desperate for money they try to score some money by cheating at cards at a gambling casino, but things go awry and Xavier is pursued by the police. He finally finds refuge at an evangelist revival tent where the preacher asks him if he is a sinner and wishes to repent.

“Saved? No,” Xavier replies. “I've come to tell you what I see. There are great darknesses. Farther than time itself. And beyond the darkness... a light that glows, changes... and in the center of the universe... the eye that sees us all.” Looking up at the sky he screams. “You see sin and the devil!” the preacher tells Xavier. “But the lord has told us what to do about it. Said Matthew in Chapter Five, ‘If thine eye offends thee... pluck it out!’”

Which is exactly what Xavier proceeds to do and the movie abruptly ends with a freeze frame of Xavier with two bloody empty sockets where his eyes used to be. The final shot sounds more gruesome here that it actually is. This is a 1963 movie after all! However it is no doubt the scene which burned its way into the memories of whoever saw the film as easily impressionable kids back then. [END SPOILERS!]


Next: "Fairfax doesn’t seem too concerned by the fact that Xavier can see through her clothes. Kinky."




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