thanks for the help everyone, i will be playing with ltrace and strace tonight, as armandrix mentioned.
but, for the record, i did figure out what my problem was.
ive been running the scripts via the bash command, like so:
the reason i was doing this was that just typing the filename was not working as it would with other scripts. this is because the file permissions did not allow for execution. a little chmod 755 did the trick and now -x works like a dream.
i'm very obviously new at this, so thanks for the input everyone. every little bit helps.