Altered States (ADAPTATION! film series)

A psycho-physiologist experiments with drugs and a sensory-deprivation tank and has visions he believes are genetic memories.

Part of our ADAPTATION! series of the best film adaptations of sci-fi literature. 

"ALTERED STATES is a 1980 American science fiction body horror film directed by Ken Russell (TOMMY) and based on the novel of the same name by playwright and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky. The novel and the film are based in part on John C. Lilly's sensory deprivation research conducted in isolation tanks, under the influence of psychoactive drugs like mescaline, ketamine and LSD.

"It marked the film debuts of William Hurt and Drew Barrymore. Chayefsky withdrew from the project after disputes with Russell and took his name off the credits, substituting 'Sidney Aaron,' his actual first and middle names.

"The film score was composed by John Corigliano (with Christopher Keene conducting). The film was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Sound." (wikipedia)

Respected scientist and psychology professor Edward Jessup (William Hurt) decides to combine his experiments in sensory deprivation tanks with powerful hallucinogenic drugs, convinced that it may help him unlock different states of consciousness. The experiments are a success at first, but as Jessup continues his work, he begins to experience altered mental and also physical states. As he spends more time in sensory deprivation, his grip on reality begins to slip away.

"It opens at fever pitch and then starts soaring -- into genetic fantasy, into a precognitive dream of delirium and delight." - Time Magazine

"Dependably -- even exhilaratingly -- bizarre. Its strangeness, which borders cheerfully on the ridiculous, is its most enjoyable feature." - The New York Times

"Direction by Ken Russell has energy to spare, with appropriate match-up of his baroque visual style to special effects intensive material." - Variety


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