Bonus Reviews: X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963) and La Casa Del Terror (1960)
Horror Bulletin Bonus for Week 172
For this week’s bonus films, we’ll look at two very different levels of quality from two films only three years apart. First, the excellent “X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes” and then one of the contestants in the “Worst film ever” category, “La Casa Del Terror,” starring none other than Lon Chaney Jr.
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X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)
Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Rober Dillon, Ray Russell
Stars Ray Milland, Diana Can der Vlis, Harold J. Stone
Run Time: 1 Hour, 19 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a decent science fiction story, well acted, with interesting special effects. Watchable and entertaining overall. What would you do if you could see with x-ray vision? It’s interesting to think about.
Dr. Xavier gets an eye exam from Dr. Brant. It’s only been three months since his last exam, but he plans to experiment upon his own eyes. Xavier says the human eye can only see ten percent of the wavelengths available, and he wants more.
Dr. Diane Fairfax examines some X-ray images and diagnoses medical conditions. Xavier lectures her on light and vision. He’s developing a way to enhance human eyes to see higher levels of radiation. She scolds him for mansplaining to her, so he demonstrates on a monkey. The monkey sees through their test panels— but then dies. “What did he see?” Diane wonders. Xavier says it was a shock over not being able to understand what it saw.
Diane asks why Xavier would want that kind of vision, and he has lots of good reasons. Brant gets angry at Xavier for wanting to try it on himself and refuses to be a party to it. Xavier begs, and he wants to try it right now. Brant gives him one drop in each eye.
It’s very colorful from his point of view, and he can see through a piece of paper and read the next page. It works! It’s weak, and it’s gonna take practice, but it’s a start. He immediately puts in more drops and screams.
He’s still out of it the next morning, and Diane and Brant go to see the board about his financing. The foundation decides to cut off the funding. Xavier isn’t happy to hear about it. The scene was very interesting when the two of them give him the news, we only see it from his point of view working hard to focus on their faces. Then we see that his eyes are closed and bandaged.
Some time passes and Dr. Benson wants Xavier to help him with surgery tomorrow since Xavier can’t do research any longer. His lab has been packed up and dismantled, but Xavier does discreetly carry out a special little case holding the formula that was already made.
Xavier “looks into” a patient and knows immediately that Dr. Benson’s diagnosis is wrong. He tells Benson that the girl has a tumor that Benson doesn’t know about, but the other doctor ignores the warning.
Diane takes Xavier to a party for the doctors. A woman wants to dance with Xavier, and he’s clueless about dancing. Suddenly, he sees everyone naked, which he finds very amusing. “You could say I’m seeing you for the first time,” he hints to Diane. He keeps taking the eyedrops.
Next morning he scrubs in for heart surgery with Benson. Diane brings Brant to watch the procedure. Xavier cuts Benson so that he can’t continue and takes over the surgery himself. Despite Xavier being right and saving the patient, Benson vows he will be tried for malpractice.
Xavier says that the eyedrops are having a cumulative effect, and it’s getting stronger and stronger. When Brant threatens to put a stop to the experiments, Xavier gets angry and accidentally pushes him out the window— ten stories up. Diane says that after that business with the surgery, the police are going to say he’s insane and a murderer.
Now on the lam, Xavier stops by the amusement park and gets a job working for Mr. Crane doing a sideshow act, “Mentallo.” He does the act, and he’s very good. After a month, Crane still hasn’t figured out what the trick is. Xavier notices that his eye-fluid is almost gone, but Crane listens in and learns the secret. People wonder why Xavier’s such a small-time player when he could be really taking advantage of the power.
Xavier listens and decides he could use more money as he needs to make more formula in a lab. A woman at the carnival gets hurt, and Xavier gets exposed as a doctor. Crane wants to set up a place and do “mystical healing.” They rent some rooms, and Xavier starts setting up a new lab. Crane brings in sick people, and Xavier looks them over and gives them a diagnosis. They start getting big crowds, and Crane starts getting greedy.
Eventually Diane hears about the “healer” and tracks Xavier down. He doesn’t even recognize her at first. It turns out, he’s been sending patients to see her with very specific descriptions of their problems. Crane also knows exactly who Xavier is, and he doesn’t want to let Xavier leave.
Xavier and Diane drive away. He needs money and her help. He decides to go to the casinos in Las Vegas for his money. He takes more eye drops and gets to work on the slot machines and card games. Before long, they have a pile of money. Eventually, the casino throws him out for being too cocky. His black glasses fall off, and his eyes are golden and funky now.
Xavier drives away, out to the desert, and he can hardly see normally anymore, so he drives badly. A police helicopter starts to follow him; they know who he is now. He ends up crashing the car out in the desert. He staggers on, injured, until he comes to a tent-church revival place. The preacher starts his sermon and eventually leads up to the part about “if thine eyes offend thee pluck them out!”
Xavier does exactly that.
We get a lot of point-of-view shots, which is really appropriate here. There’s lots of this, of varying effectiveness. The one where he’s seeing everyone as technicolor skeletons was especially cool.
Who knew Don Rickles could play a serious character? He’s a mean little troll here, which may not be such a huge stretch for him after all. Ray Milland supposedly wasn’t too happy with the film, but he does well here.
The story moves quickly, it all makes sense, and all the main characters act more or less reasonably considering the situation. All in all, very entertaining.
La Casa Del Terror (1960)
Directed by Gilberto Martinez Solares
Written by Juan Garcia, Gilberto Martinez Solar’s, Fernando de Fuentes
Stars German Valdes, Yolanda Versla, Lon Chaney Jr.
Run Time: 1 Hour
Men dig up a grave as the credits roll. They carry the body out and lift it over the fence and into a waiting car.
Laquita arrives at the cafeteria and opens the place for the morning. Professor Sebastian is always the first customer of the day, and the two talk about Casimiro, her boyfriend. Casimiro works all day at Dr. Salazar’s office and all night as a watchman at the museum. Actually, he sleeps through his watch most nights, as it’s all too much work.
We cut to Casimiro, waking up in the wax museum as the men carry the stolen body in. They won’t let him see what’s wrapped in the blanket. The professor comes in and wants a sample of Casimiro’s blood, and Casimiro gets all whiny about it, so the men hold him while the doctor draws about a gallon out.
The men open a secret door that hides an advanced lab. They place the body on a table and get to work. We get sounds that may have been stolen directly from “Forbidden Planet.” The doctor injects Casimiro’s blood into the corpse. The experiment doesn’t work; the man is still dead. The doctor orders that the man be used in the wax museum instead. He needs a living Brain to transplant next time. The henchman suggests Casimiro.
Of course, once he manages to revive an entire army, he plans to dominate the world.
Meanwhile, Casimiro is a bumbling idiot with money troubles, but he does ask Laquita to marry him. He goes to Salazar’s office and passes out on the couch because he’s so tired. He wonders if he has a rare disease. We get a silly scene where the doctor comes in and examines Casimiro as a patient, not realizing he’s the handyman. Dr. Salazar is a bit of a lunatic himself.
Casimiro reads in the papers about a bunch of tomb robbers desecrating cemeteries all over town. Elsewhere, the henchmen read the same story to the professor. They also read that a famous mummy is making the rounds at various museums.
At the showing of the mummy, professor Estrada comes out and talks about the find in Egypt. The mummy inside was a murderer of hundreds or men. It is said that due to a curse from one of his many victims, he would turn into a werewolf during the full moon. Estrada has even verified that the mummy has revived from time to time over the centuries. Suddenly, someone turns out the lights, and when the lights are restored, the mummy has been stolen.
The police pursue the mummy thieves, but they lose them. Later, at the lab, Professor Sebastien puts the mummy into the rejuvenation chamber, and they crank up the dials. When the process is done, the mummy has de-aged and now looks like Lon Cheney Jr. They need to give him blood, so they go upstairs and take more from Casimiro. It still doesn’t work.
The men go to Paquita’s cafeteria to take a break. One of the henchmen, Nacho, really likes Laquita, but she turns down his advances. Sebastien gets annoyed, “Paquita is for me!”
Lightning strikes the lab and revives the dead man on the table as Casimiro sleeps in the next room. The former mummy sits up and notices the full moon outside. He then turns into a werewolf. The professor and his men return, and the werewolf kills Nacho. He’s about to kill the professor when he collapses. The professor says it’s heart failure from not having enough blood inside him. They hide Nacho and the werewolf’s bodies as the police arrive and search the place. Still, the professor and henchman have to go answer questions at the police station.
Casimiro finally wakes up when Laquita comes for a visit. They sing, dance, and eat tacos. The music and singing wake up the werewolf. Casimiro sees the monster, but Paquita thinks he’s just looking at the wax figures. There is some comedy as the werewolf attacks but collapses from a weak heart again.
When Casimiro and Paquita return with the police, the professor has collected the bodies and there’s nothing left to see. The policeman does them a favor by not calling the asylum.
Back in the lab, the werewolf kills the final henchman, but Professor Sebastien shoots the werewolf with some kind of ray-gun and forces him into a cell.
Morning comes. Casimiro wakes up and tells the wax statues all his troubles. The werewolf wakes up in human form, stuck in a cell. All of a sudden, it’s night again, and the moon is up. He turns into a werewolf once again and breaks the lock on the cell door.
The werewolf runs down the street, terrified of the cars. He terrorizes some people in the park and is shot by the police, which doesn’t even slow him down. To escape his pursuers, the werewolf climbs up the side of a skyscraper and gets away.
Casimiro reads about the carnage in the newspaper the next day. He pretends to be the doctor for a nervous woman, but when he spots the werewolf outside the window, he’s the one who looks “cuckoo.” Still, the patient leaves satisfied because she’s dumber than he is.
Paquita leaves the office, and the werewolf follows her. She finally sees it, and it chases her around the apartment. She calls Casimiro for help. The werewolf grabs her and carries her outside. Meanwhile, Professor Sebastien listens to the reports of attacks on the radio.
The werewolf once again climbs up the side of the building, this time with Casimiro in pursuit. There’s a little bit of “afraid of heights” humor from Casimiro, but eventually, everyone is back on the street. The werewolf brings Laquita to the Professor’s lab; the werewolf kills him just as Casimiro arrives and carries Paquita out. The lab catches fire, and the werewolf has another heart attack. The lovers run outside and leave the monster to burn.
Casimiro says it’s now time for some enchiladas con queso and kisses Paquita.
This is one of the two films that was cannibalized for “Face of the Screaming Werewolf.” It’s not great, but it makes a lot more sense than that hodgepodge did. Not only do we get a mummy and a mad scientist, but we get a werewolf too. The mummy looks like Lon Chaney covered in oatmeal. The werewolf looks a bit furrier than “The Wolf Man,” but otherwise, it’s the same performance.
Even so, it doesn’t seem to know what it wasn’t to be. All the mad-scientist and mummy parts are played seriously, but the main character, Casimiro, is a comic-relief character at best, and a horrible lazy and stupid Mexican stereotype at worst. The werewolf is a vicious, maniacal monster at some point and just wants to hide and make Casimiro look stupid in others.
Some of the lab equipment is quite unusual. I liked the big “human centrifuge” thing they put Lon Chaney into. They spent a lot of time designing the lab, and they didn’t speak much while they used it, almost as if they planned on re-using the footage when they filmed it. The wax dummies in the museum are really quite good, but they barely impact the plot at all.
Casimiro is played by Tin Tan, a longtime comedian and song-and-dance man. He was a bit past his prime at this point in his career, and Lon Chaney Jr, while still in his younger 50s, was showing real signs of poor health here. Neither could save this film, and neither really looked like they put much effort in.
It’s a mummy movie. It’s a werewolf movie. It takes place in a wax museum. It takes place in a psychiatrist’s office. It’s a horror film. It’s a comedy. It’s serious. It’s stupid. It’s a mess!
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