This film, another by the legendary Roger Corman, stars Ray Milland as Dr. James Xavier, a physician who is obsessed with expanding the capabilities of human sight. To that end, he develops a formula called “X”, that when dropped into the eyes allows him to see things that no human has ever seen before. Initially he has a difficult time handling all the new wavelengths of light he can see, but as he adapts and experiences sight beyond anything he’s ever imagined, he continues to push on with using the formula to see how far he can go with it. However, his best friend, an eye doctor named Dr. Sam Brant (Harold J. Stone) and his new friend and potential love interest, Dr. Diane Fairfax (Diana Van der Vlis) try to get him to stop. Unfortunately, after he accidentally kills Sam by knocking him through a window to avoid Sam’s attempt to sedate him, he has to go on the run.
As his life spirals out of control, he goes on a quest to find the money to continue his research, now desperate to find a way to either control his new vision, or to restore his sight back to normal. Unfortunately, this leads him down a path that he may never be able to return from.
This film was a bit better than The Premature Burial (also reviewed in this issue). Milland’s performance was no less stiff and unrealistic, but the story made a lot more sense in some ways. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that the whole seeing into people’s bodies or through objects thing was any more realistic. In fact, that was the major sticking point of the film for me. Sometimes he could see through clothes as though they weren’t there at all, while other times he could see internal organs, skeletons or whatever. I understand that there wasn’t any real stability in the sight the formula was giving him, but the randomness and lack of realism in the way it was presented left me wondering why they didn’t take the time to think it out a little better before they finalized the script.
Another restored release from Kino Lorber, this one not only looks and sounds great, but it includes subtitles! I’ve been complaining about the lack of subtitles on these releases for quite some time now, and while it would be presumptuous of me to believe that my complaints had anything to do with the inclusion of subtitles on this particular release, I’m nonetheless delighted to see it. I hope they’ll continue to add subtitles to all of their future releases as well.
For special features, this release includes a featurette called Terror Vision! with legendary director Joe Dante talking about “X”, audio commmentary by Roger Corman, audio commentary by film historian Tim Lucas, “Trailers from Hell” with Mick Garris and the original theatrical trailer.
Even though I can only give this film and The Premature Burial a mild recommendation, they’re still two releases that you’re going to want to have in your collection. I only wish they’d have cast Vincent Price or some other actor in the lead roles, because both films would have been much the better for it if they had.
If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Kino Lorber website here: http://www.kinolorber.com/video.php?id=1995