- Soundtrack remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1
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Hurt plays a scientist obsessed with discovering the realities of other states of consciousness.
Genre: Feature Film-Drama
Release Date: 1-JUN-2004
Media Type: DVD
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
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My only major objection is to something caused, no doubt, by other than story considerations. It is in the last two minutes of the film. Watch the movie, you should like it, and then ponder those last two minutes in relationship to the rest.
I wrote the foregoing on first seeing the film four years ago. I have no memory of seeing the film or what I said in the review. To my surprise when coming to the website to do a write-up of it, something I rarely do these days, I found I had seen and reviewed it on that previous occasion. More surprising was the fact that I was prepared to say exactly the same this time as I did then. My only real quarrel with the production was in its violation of the logic inherent in the story....still have not read the original by the very talented Paddy Chayefsky who, it says, replaced his name with a pseudonym on seeing the results of the translation of his book into film.
Naturally, there's the whole Prometheus/Frankenstein notion in the scientific exploration, so we all know where this is going. Some more religious folks might not agree with the "there is nothing" findings, but for others this could be liberating. Altered States takes its themes seriously. The experience of watching the psychedelic scenes even harks back to 2001: A Space Odyssey "outer body"/alien experience.
While the effects are not as mind boggling as when it was first released, they are still impressive. Overall, the story, visuals, music score and acting (and directing) all make for a unique experience -- especially for today's jaded audiences.
I prefer the book b/c its thematic elements resonate with me and I never did quite understand the story while watching this film. This film is a visual feast, and aurally recognizes and reminds us of the bridge between late '60's/early 70's psychedelia and late '70's/early 80's new wave.