Wednesday, June 24, 2009

There's A Mushroom Eating Cave-Man At The Heart Of The Universe

Altered States(1980)
directed by Ken Russell

Ken Russel unleashed his eye for visual flair in this story of human evolution, collective memory, psychedelic drugs, and madness. There are lots of pros and many cons to this movie.
On the one hand, it's actually a fairly intelligent treatment of theories about hallucinogens, collective memory, evolution, schizophrenia, anthropology, and religion, in it's opening half.
Also the film has some of Ken Russell's most lavish and visually dazzling images that he ever committed to film (though the first scene in the tank is amongst his weakest ever).
The music is also amazing, even won them an academy award I think.
Now on the other hand, the second half of the story is terrible sc-fi, bad ape suits, and a love will conquer all ending that should pull unanimous rancor from just about any viewer.

Sadder still is this book was written by Paddy Chayefsky (screenwriter supreme of "Network" and "Marty"), who was apparently so appalled at the treatment of his work he had his name removed from the credits.
This is a pretty bad and ridiculous movie, which bites off allot more substance than it can chew, but for the most part it tackles interesting subjects in a fairly interesting way, and has very some creative use of special effects and music.

It's a mad scientist story(perhaps executed by an equally mad director) but it's one which makes you want the scientist to win, to finish his awful experiments and find the answers to everything, kind of a 20th century Faust.
B-movie sci-fi treatment of a a possible first rate speculative fiction masterpiece.
Also fine performances by William Hurt, and company, even a young Drew Barrymore makes a cameo.
Ken Russell is the master of one mood, visual bombast, and coaxing actors into playing their most frantic and emotionally cold.

Not gold, or even silver, but for those who like psychedelic sci-fi, it's a must see...almost a guilty pleasure, but who needs guilt...I lost my copy of this...I miss it..

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