|Diana Van der Vlis & Ray Milland|
The movie is well cast; Milland (who had worked with Corman previously on the Poe film, The Premature Burial) is excellent in the title role. He perfectly conveys the elation, and later dread, that Xavier feels as he sees shapes, colors and things that he eventually can’t (or won't) comprehend. Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone and John Hoyt are all effective in supporting roles, and Don Rickles (yes, that Don Rickles) is quite good as a carnival barker who wants to cash in on Xavier’s visionary powers. Corman regulars Dick Miller and Jonathan Haze have cameos as customers at the carnival sideshow. The effects are well done for the period, and eerily convey the odd & mind-bending things that Dr. Xavier sees, which are beyond the veil of normal human perception.
X is a solid bet for fans of the sci-fi & horror genre; it definitely transcends its B-movie origins to tell a unique story. There are some nice touches from director Corman (who was several films into his excellent work on the Poe cycle at this point) and it strives to deliver a bit more than the typical genre films of the period. Many reviewers & writers (including Stephen King in Danse Macabre, his landmark study of the horror genre) have noted the almost Lovecraftian themes that pop up late in the movie. It’s a well-crafted chiller, however you interpret it. The film often airs on Turner Classic Movies and other cable channels, and is also available in a nifty Blu-ray edition from Kino Lorber, which includes commentaries from Corman and writer-director Joe Dante, among other extras. Here’s a link to the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4clwgHEOYMo. By the way, it's interesting to note that Dr. Xavier coincidentally shares his last name with the telekinetic Dr. Charles Xavier, the leader of Marvel Comics mutant heroes, the X-Men, who also debuted in 1963.