'X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes' (1963

Disclaimer: Films listed here may be terrible, but they must have at least one scientifically interesting idea, however badly they may exploit that concept.

~The Day of the Triffids (1962)
Howard Keel, Kieron Moore, Janette Scott, Nicole Maurey, Mervyn Johns
C-93 mins.
Loosely based on the novel by John Wyndham

The whole planet, it seems, is struck with blindness; only a very few still retain their eyesight. One of them is Howard Keel (in a non-musical role); he must pass through a world made dangerous not only by treacherous humans but also the sudden emergence of triffids, which (according to Wikipedia) “are strange fictional plants, capable of rudimentary animal-like behavior … able to uproot themselves and walk, possess a deadly whip-like poisonous sting, and may even have the ability to communicate with each other. On screen they vaguely resemble gigantic asparagus shoots.” Remember that the next time you eat an asparagus. This film, derived from master-of-disaster John Wyndham’s 1951 book, should have been better. Rumor hath it that another version is scheduled for release this year; chances are it will be more explicitly anti-fascist and anti-Christian, as per the novel’s subtexts.

~X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)
Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone, John Hoyt, Don Rickles, Dick Miller, Morris Ankrum (uncredited last appearance)
C-79 mins.
Script by Ray Russell and Robert Dillon
Director/producer: Roger Corman

An amazingly effective low-budget ($300,000) horror/sci-fi flick, The Man with the X-Ray Eyes has a great premise:

Dr. Xavier [Ray Milland] develops eyedrops intended to increase the range of human vision, allowing one to see beyond the “visible” spectrum into the ultraviolet and x-ray wavelengths and beyond. Believing that testing on animals and volunteers will produce uselessly subjective observations, he begins testing the drops on himself.

Initially, Xavier discovers that he can see though 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. His behavior becomes increasingly erratic, and Xavier’s associates assume that he is going insane. — Wikipedia

Obviously this movie’s theme is a variation of Frankenstein/Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You won’t forget the final fadeout scene for a long time.

~Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964)
Paul Mantee, Victor Lundin, Adam West, Barney (as Mona the monkey)
C-110 mins.
Loosely based on Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel

The first half of this film is concerned with how astronaut Paul Mantee will survive after he has crashed on Mars; the methods he discovers or devises are quite ingenious (e.g., oxygen-generating rocks). The last part deals with his encounter with ruthless extraterrestrials who enslave any races they come across — and murder the ones they can’t conquer. The monkey is well trained; he steals every scene. A discursive article about the movie is on-line. Please excuse the hyperbole in the following:

Special-effects wunderkind and genre master Byron Haskin (The War of the Worlds) won a place in the hearts of fantasy-film lovers everywhere with this gorgeously designed journey into the unknown. When his spaceship crash-lands on the barren wastelands of Mars, U.S. astronaut Commander “Kit” Draper (Paul Mantee) must fight for survival, with a pet monkey seemingly his only companion. But is he alone? Shot in vast Techniscope and blazing Technicolor, Robinson Crusoe on Mars is an imaginative and beloved techni-marvel of classic science fiction. — Product description

~The Time Travelers (1964)
Preston Foster, Philip Carey, Merry Anders, Steve Franken, John Hoyt, Forrie Ackerman
C-82 mins.

This one is a lot of dumb fun — its kitchen sink approach is to mix time travel, space travel, and primitive warlike cultures together and see what happens. While the movie unsuccessfully tries to generate visceral excitement, it actually works better when it’s dealing with sci-fi tropes. If you don’t expect too much, you’ll probably enjoy it:

Scientists Dr. Erik von Steiner (Preston Foster), Dr. Steve Connors (Philip Carey) and Carol White (Merry Anders) are testing their time viewing device, drawing enormous amounts of power. Danny McKee (Steve Franken), a technician from the power plant, has been sent to tell them to shut down their experiment. During the test, odd shadows quickly cross the room before the screen shows a stark, barren landscape. Danny discovers the screen has become a portal and steps through.

As the setting is becoming unstable, the others enter the portal to retrieve him. Just as they return to the portal, an image of their lab in mid-air, it disappears, stranding them. Then they are pursued by hostile primitives, ending up in a cave. There they find an underground city of advanced peaceful people — all that is left of civilization in a future devastated by nuclear war.

The year is 2071 A.D. Dr. Varno (John Hoyt) the leader explains that earth is left unable to support life. To survive, they are frantically working on a spacecraft that will take them to a planet orbiting a distant star. — Wikipedia

It’s said this film served as the “inspiration” for The Time Tunnel TV series.

Mike Gray