Altered States

Tagged: Film

Film (1980). Warner Bros. Directed by Ken Russell. Written by Sidney Aaron (Paddy Chayefsky), based on Altered States (1978) by Chayefsky. Cast includes Bob Balaban, Blair Brown, Charles Haid and William Hurt. 102 minutes. Colour.

Research scientist Jessup (Hurt) experiments with altered states of consciousness, with Drugs, and with a sensory-deprivation tank. The alterations allow the primitive DNA in his genes to express itself (see Devolution and Metaphysics for why this is lunatic); he devolves into an apeman (see Apes as Human), and later spends some time as primordial ooze. This is bad for his marriage. In this hearty blend of New Age mysticism and old-fashioned Jekyll-and-Hyde horror, director Russell has great fun with hallucinatory psychedelic trips and serious-sounding (but strictly bogus) scientific talk. The seriousness is skin-deep, and so is the film. However, even Russell's bad films – some claim there is no other category – are watchable. [PN]

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