EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|ALTERED STATES (director: Ken Russell; screenwriter: from the book by Padddy Chayefsky/Padddy Chayefsky; cinematographer: Jordan Cronenweth; editor: Eric Jenkins; music: John Corigliano; cast: William Hurt (Eddie Jessup), Blair Brown (Emily Jessup), Bob Balaban (Arthur Rosenberg), Charles Haid (Mason Parrish), Dori Brenner (Sylvia Rosenberg), Charles White Eagle (Brujo); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Howard Gottfried; Warners Home Video; 1980)|
dazzling loopy drug film."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Flamboyant Brit filmmaker Ken Russell ("Women in
Devils"/"Mahler") directs his
first American film. It's
a visually dazzling loopy drug film done in Russell's
self-indulgent excessive style. He
creates an unintelligible combo sci-fi and horror
film, one that's so
kilter and absurd it remains watchable only as an
the senses. It's a mad scientist flick based on the
novel by the late
Paddy Chayefsky, who wanted his name removed from
Sydney Aaron). The
author objected that Russell didn't take his
drug experiment story
seriously and took even less seriously his
dedicated scientist's story
of his struggles to find the truth in his risky
investigations no matter the sacrifices
required, as he uses himself as
the subject of his experiments. Instead Russell
saw it as a campy riff
on an 1960's acid trip that goes bonkers and
makes no sense because
it's not supposed to make sense.
Eddie Jessup (William Hurt, his film debut) is a smug Harvard psycho-physiologist professor who is studying the human consciousness, who wants to delve into the true inner-self and establish man's links to the universe. He treks to rural Mexico and takes a strange brew of an hallucinatory mushroom that's prepared by primitive Indians, resulting in a weird trip that explores his unconscious. Eddie returns to campus with the untested complex drug and begins unauthorized experiments in the lab of his uptight colleague Dr. Mason Parrish (Charles Haid), and is monitored by his assistant, Arthur Rosenberg (Bob Balaban), when he begins experimenting by placing himself in an isolation sensory-deprivation tank while on the drug. After hooking the boss man up with EEG and EKG wires, Arthur tape records his accounts of what he is experiencing.
at one point,
transforms himself genetically into an ape-like
figure (primitive man)
with urges to kill, as he does just that at the
Boston zoo by killing a
sheep. When his serious anthropologist
Emily (Blair Brown), returns from studying baboon
sounds in Nairobi,
she takes note her obsessive hubby is regressing
into a primate and
with love as the cure-all for everything and reaches
him before the
unsympathetic self-absorbed turd of a professor
devolves into a state
all kitsch, not to be taken seriously for a moment.
But it's fun when
it sticks to its mad psychedelic visions
(crucifixions and all, with
great special effects by Bran
Ferren and eye-catching special
makeup by Dick Smith), only to crash when it
tries to land on
its feet with a weary humanistic ending that makes
less sense than when
the film made no sense.
REVIEWED ON 7/7/2010 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ