Sunday, November 24, 2013

Altered States (2012)

Altered StatesA sci-fi favorite of mine, this Academy Award winning film had fallen into obscurity on the video shelves, but is now back with all its original impact in a sharp, well-colored remaster with a brilliant digital 5.1 rendering of the Oscar-winning soundtrack. Ken Russell directs one of his more accessible films (compared to, say, THE DEVILS) based on the novel by Paddy Chayefsky, who, in a move remeniscent of Stephen King on THE SHINING, had his name taken off this movie because he didn't like the director's interpretation of his subject matter.

The film boasts a high-quality cast of young actors from William Hurt in his major film debut to John LaRocquette in the small role of an X-ray technician. Whoever cast this knew whom to select from the period's roster of young talent. Charles Haid, frankly, has never been more impressive as the fast-talking and brilliant skeptic and Bob Balaban is outstanding and self-assured in the role of the supportive friend who forgives Hurt his eccentricities but worries that he may be going crazy. Blair Brown is sexy and appealing and frequently nude as Hurt's just-as-brainy wife anthropologist, and one of the most interesting aspects of this movie is the dialog between these two intellects from the moment they first begin their sizzling sexual liason through their matter-of-fact decision to marry, then divorce, then finally redeem their relationship -while nearly losing Hurt's character to his high-risk experiments.

Among other interesting subplots is Hurt's spiritual ambiguity since his father's fearful death, Hurt's notion that schizophrenia and related conditions may be "altered states" rather than diseases, Blair Brown's pragmatic decision to love Hurt's character, and marry him, despite the fact that he appears not to be wired to love her in return.

For the sci-fi fan there is the once-removed-from-reality premise that man may be able to physically alter his reality through changes in consciousness, whether via the isolation tanks Hurt utlizes in his experiments, or through complex hallucinogenic drugs he researches after an experience with an obscure indian tribe in Mexico. The special effects and the special make-up for Hurt's "throwback" missing link are first rate for their time and still look fairly stunning today. One of the things that impresses me about this movie is that the hallucinatory sequences, while wowing us in a post-psychedelic kind of way, also make sense in terms of the protagonist's life and experience; far more than just kaleidoscopes, the content of the montages are grounded in the story, rather than detouring us from it with eye candy. Ken Russell's religious viewpoint plays a part in the choice of imagery here, but the symbols of crucifixion, the beast and the Bible do not seem intrusive or sensational because they fit seamlessly with the Hurt character's internal struggle.

For the student of sociology, this movie offers a peek into the "turned on" 60s idea that drug experiences actually led somewhere -a notion we now know to be tragically false. But at one time there was speculation that some drugs "expanded the mind" and deepened the life experience, either in terms of increasing one's understanding of the meaning of life or in some fashion maturing one's personality. The only reason this movie still works today is because the movie makes clear that in some tribes, there are substances that are traditionally and successfully used in spiritual rituals, and it is one of these that Hurt uses, in combination with sensory deprivation techniques, to try to get in touch with his own "genetic memory", for lack of a better term.

Again, this movie has much to recommend it, and the DVD release makes possible an experience in the home viewing much like we enjoyed in the theater on first run. Popularly priced, I snapped it up without hesitation for my collection and was rewarded with a very nice presentation of an old favorite. Not much in the way of extras here, just trailers and some text screens for cast, crew and background, but it's still a value, and you get to see the whole 1:1.85 image.

If there is such a thing as genetic memory, than all the phases of human evolution must lie somewhere in our genetic code. What if there was a way we could tap into that stream of information through consciousness? What would we see? What would we learn? Professor Eddie Jessup (William Hurt in his debut role) is intrigued by the data being produced by the use of isolation tanks to induce altered states of consciousness, and decides to undergo the experience himself. What he discovers at first is the ability to relive with total clarity experiences of his childhood. As he continues these experiments, his visions become more acute and filled with religious illusions. Years go by and Jessup has become sedated with the trappings of academia, leaving him unfulfilled and longing for the good old days of experimentation and wonder. He visits a tribe of Mexican Indians that use a hallucinatory drug to evokes a common experience in all users and has the trip of his life! What might he learn inside an isolation tank while being under the influence of this drug? Would he be able to peel away the layers of evolutionary time back to early man and beyond? Perhaps even back to the first thought? His scientific curiosity will not let him resist this challenge. With Ken Russell's visuals and the incredible musical effects of John Corigliano, this film can be absolutely exhilarating.

Buy Altered States (2012) Now

this review is for the "new" 2010 release. well, actually that's a lie. there is absolutely nothing "new" about this release, except the cover art. this is the exact same print as the release from 2004, which in fact was made in 1998. the VOB files on both disks are "exactly" the same. they even have the same creation dates 11/9/1998. the only difference is that this "new" release doesn't have the pan and scan version on the other side of the disk. nice of warner brothers to completely mislead it's customers by using "new" artwork to re-sell the same 12 year old print of a movie that has yet to go OOP. the only explanation i can come up with is that this is a deliberate and "intentional scam" by WB to rip off it's customers. classy move WB, enjoy the money i wasted on this print. movie: four out of five stars, as it is really quite good. disk: less than zero. same for WB execs.

Read Best Reviews of Altered States (2012) Here

"Altered States" written by the gifted Paddy Chayevsky and utilizing the unique directorial talents of Ken Russell is a staggering piece of film making. Russell's use of incredible psychedelic graphic imagery is unparalleled in cinematic history.

William Hurt is his inaugural starring role portrays Eddie Jessup a brilliant Harvard research physiologist who is conducting unprecedented experiments using himself as a guinea pig. Hurt had been introduced to mushroom based hallucinogenic drugs by a tribe of primitive Indians in Mexico courtesy of an expedition with a university colleague. Using these drugs in combination with sensory deprivation in an isolation tank he records astonishing findings much to the disbelief of his colleagues including his wife Emily, a physical anthropologist played by Blair Brown.

Hurt apparently undergoes a genetic reconfiguration and morphs into an altered state of primitive consciousness to become a simian ape man. In one segment of the film, he startlingly emerges from his isolation tank as this ape-man and goes running wild through the bowels of a Boston hospital, out onto the street and winds up in the zoo. He climbs into an enclosure kills a sheep and then devours it. He is subsequently discovered by the police, having transformed back to his human form, in the cage lying next to a bloody carcass.

Wife Brown, endocrinologist friend Dr. Mason Parrish played by Charles Haid and partner in the experiment Arthur Rosenberg played by Bob Balaban are stunned but allow him to redo his experiment under their supervision. The ensuing segment of the film depicting the creation of life, while preposterous, rivals only the graphic effects of Kubrick's phenomenal "2001".

Not having seen this one of a kind film for 25 years, it still had the same stupefying effect as it did when I experienced it the first time.

Want Altered States (2012) Discount?

Sometimes in any moment of your life maybe have decided to cross the line and explore the dark side of your brain . A group of scientists are involved in this potentially dangerous journey of the deepest places of the mind .

The film is visually stunning and terrifying . A good point to Ken Russell who was living his most creative decade .

This movie marks the debut on screen of this gifted actor : William Hurt .

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