Altered States is an exciting combo science fiction-horror film [from the novel by Paddy Chayefsky]. Direction by Ken Russell has energy to spare, with appropriate match-up of his baroque visual style to special effects intensive material.
Producers weathered stormy pre-production problems, including the ankling of director Arthur Penn late in 1978, departure soon after of special effects wiz John Dykstra, and transfer of project from Columbia to Warners as proposed budget grew to $15 million.
Tall tale concerns a young psychophysiologist, Edward Jessup (William Hurt), working in New York and later at Harvard on dangerous experiments involving human consciousness.
Using himself as the subject, Jessup makes use of a sensory deprivation tank to hallucinate back to the event of his birth and beyond, regressing into primitive stages of human evolution.
Shattering use of Dolby stereo effects conspires with the images to give the viewer a vicarious LSD-type experience sans drugs. Hurt’s feature film debut is arresting, especially during the grueling climactic sequence.
1980: Nominations: Best Original Score, Sound