The Man with the X-ray Eyes is a 1963 science-fiction horror film written by Ray Russell and Robert Dillon and directed by Roger Corman. The film stars Ray Milland as Dr. James Xavier, a world-renowned scientist, whose experiments with X-ray vision go awry. While most of the cast are relatively unknown, Don Rickles is notable in an uncharacteristically dramatic role.
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-raywavelengths and beyond. Believing that testing on animals and volunteers will produce uselessly subjective observations, he tests the drops on himself.
Initially, Xavier discovers that he can see through 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 relief from the darkness in 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 Las Vegas casino. Xavier’s eyes are altered along with his vision: first they become black and gold, and then entirely black. To hide his startling appearance, he wears dark wrap-around sunglasses at all times.
Leaving Las Vegas, Xavier drives out into the 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 quotes the Biblical verse, “If thine eye offends thee… pluck it out!” Xavier chooses to blind himself rather than see anything more.