Altered States
Director: Ken Russell
Year: 1980
TRT: 1:43

Reviewed: 2/9/2003

Where 2001: A Space Odyssey travelled outward in search of the truth to humankind, this is more of an inward journey. We follow the acclaimed professor Jessup (William Hurt) on his single-minded journey in the discovery of the true origins of man, and what enlightenment that could bring. It helps, of course, to have a shitload of hallucinogenic drugs and a sensory deprivation tank to speed the process along. His wife is always secondary to this quest, and despite her continued love and concern for his safety, Jessup is driven to the brink of reality in search of this truth.

Okay, kiddies. There are times when you can take too many hallucinogenic drugs. When you find yourself reverting back into a primordial being, that's a pretty good indication that yes, it's time to lay off the crazy tribal hallucinogens from Mexico and pull your head out of your ass. Hurt puts in a great performance (his feature-film debut) as the driven academic, with a good supporting cast that never turns this into a campy drug flick. There are some great montages and imagery used throughout the film, and some pretty innovative effects that almost (ohh, so close, not quite) hold up in the final sequence.

There is an interesting story here that may be enjoyed slightly better under alternate herbal alterations. Coming at the tale end of the 70's, this kind of film was a little more relevant, or at least a popular point of debate. It's still a pretty intelligent look at the matter of the origins of the human experience, memories, and our limited knowledge of the brain, but it is definitely influenced by a "free-your-mind" attitude. Luckily for me, mine's already way out there.

Media Notes: Decent enough inexpensive DVD put out by Warner Bros. that has a good cast & crew segment, multiple trailers of both A.S. as well as some additional older movies, and a few behind-the-scenes facts. It's a double-sided DVD with Widescreen on one side and Standard on the other, though who nowadays even watches those crappy pan-and-scan versions?


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