One of my all time film guilty pleasures, Ken Russell's bizarre, over-the-top blend of hallucinogenic science fiction, thriller and love story ALTERED STATES is quite a trip.
William Hurt makes his 1980 film debut as a scientist more concerned with finding the root of man in his DNA than in having any social graces.
Dr Jessup (Hurt) is rude, obnoxious, pious and about to discover man's origins within himself.
Alienating his girlfriend (the great Blair Brown) his fellow scientist (Bob Balaban) and anyone else within twenty feet, Jessup decides to spend extended time floating in an isolation tank to dig deep into his past.
The word "subtle and Director Ken Russell (Tommy, The Music Lovers) have rarely been mentioned in the same sentence and Russell proves why with 102 minutes of dreams, hallucinations, flashbacks, gory religious images mixed with nudity and horror. When the images are blended with Paddy Chayefsky's very intelligent screenplay based on his own novel, it somehow grounds Russell, bringing the visual excess together to portray a flawed hero you root for and a quest for knowledge you can find a stake in.
By the time Hurt regresses into a proto human apelike creature and attacks a deer in the zoo, you realize it's going to be a hell of a ride.
ALTERED STATES is one of those films you are either going to love or hate. I remember seeing it at 19 years old and loving it and I still enjoy the hell out of it today.
It's weirdness barrels at you full force. Even the scientific yammering of Hurt and company hammers you non-stop, somehow providing a context that validates the madness. We'll call it good writing by Chayefsky, who fought so much with Russell that he took his name off the film, crediting his pen name "Sydney Aaron" for the screenplay.
This was composer John Corigliano's first movie score and its as crazy and smart as the film itself.
Go ahead, immerse yourself in the tank with Dr. Jessup, but like him, you may or may not like what you find!
I loved the trip and give it an insane A.