STARRING: William Hurt, Blair Brown, Bob Balaban, Charles Haid

1980, 102 minutes, Directed by: Ken Russell

Description: This film's original source novel was intended as a serious exploration of altered consciousness, inspired by the immersion-tank experiments of Dr. John Lilly in the 1970s. William Hurt made his bold film debut as the psycho-physiologist who plays guinea pig to his own experiments; Blair Brown plays his equally brilliant wife, whose devotion is just strong enough to bring him back from the most altered state imaginable. -

Until halfway Altered States is right on track.

The researcher played by William Hurt (in his movie debut) is like the Last Hippie Searching For the Ultimate Trip. He has some stunning hallucinations in an immersion tank and while imbibing some weird drugs (presumably peyote.) All is done with typical Ken Russell flair and style and these scenes are truly well done - expensive and original special effects and some great music.

Then the movie starts going wrong about halfway: Hurt is genetically altered by all the strange substances he has been consuming throughout the movie and metamorphoses into a hulking ape-man that goes on rampage.

Sardonic comment on the ‘Sixties Baby Boomers? Satire? A serious investigation into themes explored by psychedelic and mystic luminaries such as Castaneda, Huxley and Timothy Leary? Or merely a movie that doesn't know where it's going and what it should do with its material? And therefore tags on a schlock horror bit to what was otherwise interesting - at least on a visual level?

Disappointing fare by Ken Russell who once gave the world the world such movie classics as Women In Love and Mahler. See it for the hallucinogenic scenes: real-time acid flashbacks!



Sci-Fi Movie Page Pick: Real-time acid flashbacks! William Hurt's acting debut! British enfant terrible Ken (Women In Love, Mahler) Russell's big budget Hollywood pic may not have set the box office alight back in the early-1980s, but its hallucogenic special effects no doubt caused many an ex-hippie an acid flashback. Whoa!


# 53
of the
Top 100 Sci-Fi Movies
of all time


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