Altered States

Year: 1980

Production: Warner Bros.

Director: Ken Russell

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

Screenwriter: Paddy Chayefsky

Based on Altered States (1978) by Paddy Chayefsky

102 minutes; Color


Research scientist Jessup (Hurt) experiments with altered states of consciousness, with drugs, and with a sensory-deprivation tank. The alternations allow the primitive DNA in his genes to express itself; he devolves into an apeman, 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.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

Back to the List