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MGM Studios DVD presents
"Soon I'll be able to see what no man has ever seen....We'll explore all the mysteries of creation!"
DVD ReviewOnce again, science meddles in Things That Man Is Not Meant to Know, and pays the price for it. This quickly and cheaply made sci-fi/horror classic has intriguing religious and metaphysical undertones, supported by a fine performance by Ray Milland as the title character.
Dr. James Xavier (Milland) is attempting to heighten the receptivity of the eyes to permit sight of the 90% of the spectrum that cannot be seen by humans. Dr. Diane Fairfax (Diane van der Vlis) represents the foundation that is funding Xavier's research. When he decides to test his formula on himself, and the results knock him unconscious, the foundation cuts off all funding. But Xavier does indeed gain X-ray vision with his formula, and uses it to unsuccessfully refute an associate's diagnosis of a heart patient. Becoming enraged in surgery, he slices the hand of the other surgeon (John Hoyt) and continues the operation himself. When the other surgeon threatens malpractice, the enraged Xavier, who apparently is also becoming mentally unstable, pushes another doctor (Harold J. Stone) out of a window to his death. Fleeing for his life, Xavier ends up as a sideshow performer, Dr. Mentallo, fronted by loudmouthed Crane (Don Rickles, already typecast in his first film role). Crane soon hits on the idea of making Mentallo into a faith healer to make a few bucks; when things go badly wrong, Xavier makes a trip to Las Vegas that culminates in disaster. The film concludes with an excellent car chase and a climax that is difficult to bear even for hardened horror fans like your reviewer.
Milland does a superb job as Dr. X (surely the stimulus for the Marvel Comics' X-Men led by Professor Xavier that appeared later in 1963). At first driven, he is soon tormented and finally in despair, having seen the center of the universe. Rickles is surprisingly excellent as well, giving Crane a fair amount of depth that one wouldn't expect from his standup shtick.
AIP advertised the film as being shot in 'Spectarama', a wholly fictitious process that does highlight the many special optical effects used in the movie. Much of it is fairly psychedelic in anticipation of the Stargate sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The opening titles are equally wild. When Xavier first takes his formula, there is a classic shot sequence zooming into the back of his head, through his brain and eyes and out into the new world he sees in front of him. This bit is a complete tour de force that won't soon be forgotten.
In a nifty bit of wish fulfillment, although his initial motives are highly noble, Xavier soon falls victim to looking at women under their clothes and cheating at the slots and blackjack in Las Vegas. The power that he has-if not the formula itself-seems to derange him completely and drives Xavier to complete megalomania, a la The Invisible Man. He brags to the women he's looking at about what he sees, and to the blackjack dealers, setting him up for an inevitable downfall.
Although a bit short on running time, "X" (as the onscreen titles and trailer more simply name the film) is packed with interesting material. It's quite worthwhile and has a depth seldom seen in such movies.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic picture boasts superb color; while the live everyday sequences are normal and slightly dated, the enhanced-vision shots have extremely bright and crisp color that is truly eye-popping. The orange silk robe that Milland wears as Mentallo is absolutely gorgeous here. There is persistent grain throughout the film, but that was no doubt a matter of the film stock used by Corman. Detail is crisp and there is no visible edge enhancement. The source print is in excellent condition, with only an occasional speckle to indicate the film is nearly 40 years old. The video bit rate is consistently at about 5 Mbps.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: The original mono is crisp and clear. Bass is lacking and range is somewhat cramped. Hiss and noise are minimal and not distracting in the least. This is a very good mono track. The commentary suffers from booming, which is odd, because Corman has a fairly soft voice.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director/Producer Roger Corman
Extras Review: Roger Corman gives a solid commentary on this disc, covering the creation of the story (the subject was originally a jazz saxophonist, whose vision is enhanced by drugs, which would have made for a very different movie). He also touches on the critical reception of the movie, as well as the making of the film and Milland's enthusiasm for the role, which he held second only to his Oscar®-winning part in The Lost Weekend.
An "original theatrical prologue" is included, in anamorphic widescreen. This may have been used to make it longer for European usage, but it is horribly bad. Essentially a five-minute essay on the five senses chock-full of stock footage, it can't be by Corman because it's insufferably tedious. It feels like an elementary-school film, and really has no part being attached to the film. It's certainly a nice extra for the curious, however. Wrapping up the package is a decent condition theatrical trailer, in anamorphic 1.85.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsA surprisingly deep scifi/horror movie with tragic elements and some fine performances. The colors are dazzling, and the commentary makes it an excellent value.
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