It's easy to understand why the late, great screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky removed his name from the credits of Altered States
and substituted the pseudonym Sidney Aaron. After all, Chayefsky was a revered dramatist whose 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. In the hands of maverick director Ken Russell, however, Altered States
became a full-on sensory assault, using symbolic imagery and mind- blowing special effects to depict one man's physical and hallucinatory journey through the entire history of human evolution. It's a brazenly silly film redeemed by its intellectual ambition--a dazzling extravaganza that's in love with science and scientists, and eagerly willing to dive off the precipice of rationality to explore uncharted regions of mind, body, and spirit. 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. From the eternal channels of sense memory to the restorative power of a loving embrace, this movie rocks you to the birth of the universe and back again. And while it's clearly not the story that Chayefsky wanted on the screen, the directorial audacity of Ken Russell makes it one heck of a memorable trip. --Jeff Shannon
A scientist experiments unlock the horrors of his mind. Visual wizard Ken Russell directs William Hurt, Blair Brown and a mind-blowing array of special effects.