Altered States (1980)

Genres - Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Sci-Fi, Creature Film  |   Run Time - 102 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Robert Firsching

British director Ken Russell has long been known for his bizarre, hallucinatory imagery, which he puts to good use in a visually stunning adaptation of Paddy Chayefsky's science-fiction novel. William Hurt plays a college professor whose experiments with hallucinogenic drugs and "race memory" turn him into an apelike caveman and other strange beasts. Blair Brown, Drew Barrymore, and John Larroquette are among the cast, but everything takes a back seat to Russell's trippy visuals and Dick Smith's outstanding makeup effects. Chayefsky hated the results so much that he had his screenplay credit changed to "Sidney Aaron," and the film admittedly veers into silliness several times, so if you're looking for thoughtful speculative fiction, look elsewhere. If you are satisfied by imaginative, good-looking eye candy, however, you'll find Altered States a lot of fun.