Roger Corman originally made this movie about a scientist, but that was “too obvious” so he changed the lead to be “a jazz musician who had taken too much drugs, and I get into about four or five pages, and I thought, “You know, I don’t like this idea”, and so I threw the whole thing out, and started back and went back with the scientist, which was the original idea.”
Shot in three weeks on a budget of approximately $300,000 — that seems luxurious for Corman — and played a double feature with Dementia 13.
It stars Ray Milland as Dr. James Xavier, who is trying to increase the range of human vision, allowing hums to see the ultraviolet and x-ray wavelengths and even beyond. Being a somewhat mad scientist, he tests the eyedrops on himself and soon can do more than just see through clothes, he can see shapes, colors and forms even when his eyes are closed, as his eyelids can’t stop the visions.
After a friend is killed by accident, he heads for Vegas, where he wins money at casinos and becomes part of a sideshow. The problem is that by this point, his eyes are entirely black and he can’t shut off the visions that allow him to see into the heart of the universe.
Finally, a revival church tells him that if his eyes offend him, he should pluck them out. So he does! What an ending!
I’m spoiling that to tell you how awesome Roger Corman is.
In Danse Macabre, Stephen King claimed that there was an unshot ending with Milland screaming “I can still see” after gouging out his eyes. Corman replied by saying, “Now it’s interesting. Stephen King saw the picture and wrote a different ending, and I thought, “His ending is better than mine.””
With great small roles for Don Rickles and Dick Miller, this movie moves so fast and gets so much in that it’s nearly perfect. The effects may be dated, but who cares? They work. The whole movie just works.
You can watch this on Tubi.