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Altered States
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on December 24, 2014
I'm actually at a little bit of a loss what to say right now because I'm almost overwhelmed by what I just saw. I'd liken it to a drug experience if only I'd ever taken drugs before, but the degree to which watching this film simulates what its characters go through is astounding. The story is rather simple: a scientist, Eddie Jessup (William Hurt, in his feature film debut) has been doing sensory deprivation experiments, but after a trip to Mexico, he starts doing those experiments under the influence of a powerful psychedelic drug which might possibly be affecting his genetic makeup. Plot-wise, it's not too complicated as it just follows Eddie's personal journey and evolution over the course of these life-altering experiments. Every actor was very capable and William Hurt was especially good considering this was his first role. However, the real magic of the film is in its many hallucinatory images which range from the sacrilegious to the primal. Even if you haven't seen the film, you might already be familiar with the image of a six-eyed, goat-headed man on a cross. Early on, Eddie mentions that he had visions as a young man that were out of Revelation and this imagery is kind of a perversion of that. However, the imagery that occurs later on in the film is extremely hard to describe and honestly it's best if you just see it for yourself. There are some interesting observations/connections made between religious and psychedelic experiences, and also mental disorders, however the true power of this film is in its images, which were realized with some incredible visual effects. I don't think this film will be to everyone's taste, certainly not those who are religious and might be offended by some of the imagery, but for those brave enough to give it a try it's an experience you won't soon forget.
7 people found this helpful
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on January 3, 2016
It's been a long long time since I've seen this movie. I bought the 2010 re-issue after it went down in price from the ten or eleven it was priced at when it first came out...I don't remember if this movie had been re-issued in a keep case prior to the revamping of the cover-art. In any event, a definite plus is this IS in a keepcase, albeit a flimsy one, like many budget priced DVDs are these days. I just got this in the mail this past Wednesday.
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.
2 people found this helpful
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on July 8, 2011
Harvard professor Eddie Jessup wants to time trip back to his origins as primal man. First he takes an hallucinogen with a group of South American Indians. Then, when colleagues Arthur Rosenberg and Mason Parrish help him with the isolation tank experiments, the synapses start firing, turning man into primate. Parrish cannot believe what he witnesses on Jessup's simian x-rays: "I'm gonna show these to someone who can read them right, 'cause you're reading them wrong, that's all there is to it. Because no one is gonna tell me you de-differentiated your godda*n genetic structure for four godda*n hours and then reconstituted!", or my personal favorite: (Mason Parrish): "It looks to me like the architecture is slightly abnormal." (Dr. Wissenschaft): "Somewhat? This guy's a f***ing gorilla!"
3 people found this helpful
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on November 4, 2014
Another great Ken Russell film, with spectacular visual effects. The premise is fascinating -- that we can tap into our ancient primal memories to such a degree as to effect actual physical changes -- but the dialog finally becomes too repetitive and has the sound of some half-crazed hippy high on dope. I know....been there, done that, many many years ago, ha ha! Typical over-the-top Ken Russell film, and I am definitely a fan!
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on July 6, 2008
I found this film to be an extremely entertaining, interesting and sometimes genuinely surprising. It was going down avenues I wasn't expecting, ala "This man is a F**king gorilla". And there were moments where I found myself slightly creeped out, which is the film's aim.

It's hard to compare this movie to others because there are very few movies like this. "The Fly" comes to mind. As does "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Jacob's Ladder", but only in the sense the creators were so serious in their handling of absurd-far-out material. For these reasons, I give the film big props considering it was released in 1980.

The ending felt a bit rushed and out of tone with the rest of the movie, but this is just a minor complaint. The film was based on a book, so I figured they probably tweaked something for the sake of Hollywood Suits. Overall, I was pleased. Check this one out!
3 people found this helpful
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on January 21, 2014
There's a lot of university faculty mumbo jumbo in Altered States which, for those not familiar, is pretty accurate.The politics, the egos, the jealousies and the funding are all part of this story. Read other reviews regarding the "collective consciousness" theme of Altered States, I prefer to just view the movie as a straightforward reflection of the relation between genetic and physiological regression and consciousness/thought (including memory).

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.
5 people found this helpful
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on August 14, 2017
Heady, classic Ken Russell film. Brings imagination to the forefront is great entertainment to those interested in epistemological wonders.
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on April 11, 2016
Pretty Strange! Good Acting, But Not For Your Kids To Watch!
2 people found this helpful
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on April 6, 2013
Controversial director Ken Russell presents his existential philosophy to audiences in this movie that surely deserves the title of a modern classic.

The story revolves around a preeminent Harvard psychologists who decides to perform studies on sensory deprivation using an isolation tank and, in so doing, unlocks the keys to regression to an earlier stage of evolution, experiencing for himself what he considers to be the exhilarating feel of being a primordial man; the experiment being documented on tape, which transcribes the sound of a gorilla during the stage of regression (a fact which is later validated by his ex-wife who is doing research on baboons), as well as x-rays of his neck clearly exhibiting the skeletal structure of an ape.

The movie ends with the psychologist, played by John Hurt, reaching a state where the transformations are beyond his control and takes place at random, spurring him to struggle for control over his metamorphosis, and leading him to the conclusion that beyond this life there is absolute nothingness, and all that we have to hold on to and cherish is our very existence - an existential message aptly embodied in the theme of the movie.

Without a doubt, one of the best sci-fi movies ever made.
4 people found this helpful
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on February 28, 2018
not my type of movie. a little laggy. Different but laggy
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