Altered States [Blu-Ray] Ken Russell

Altered States [Blu-Ray] Ken Russell
Maverick scientist Eddie Jessup's disillusionment with conventional morality and the accepted restraints of perception has aged a hell of a lot better than the visual effects of Ken Russell's uneven 1980 mind-bender, Altered States. In his feature debut, William Hurt invests the iconoclastic scientific researcher with a zealous thirst to breach the unknown barriers of consciousness. After funding dries up for his studies in using sensory deprivation to produce measurable feelings of the divine, the psychologically-bent researcher starts experimenting on himself, upping the ante by incorporating a potent psychotropic drug (presumably peyote or an extremely potent strain of psilocybin) obtained after undergoing a shamanic ritual in Mexico. Based on the novel by Paddy Chayefsky, Altered States explores ideas presented in the writings of self-styled brujo and highly disputed academic spiritualist Carlos Castenada and more directly, John C. Lilly's work on sensory deprivation research. For the first half, the use of impressionistic montages to represent the unravelling smorgasbord of Jessup's psychological hang-ups and his fiery railings against heteronormative values, while courting and eventually marrying (before unceremoniously separating from) fellow researcher Emily, make for a potent and jarring journey into the subconscious of a man uninterested in upholding meaningless mechanisms of the status-quo. Once the picture takes a turn towards more radical science fiction and horror, with Jessup's attempts to access his primal original self through the memory banks of spiritus mundi manifesting physically, the film devolves into a series of campy action sequences separated by an increasingly ridiculous and disjointed crawl towards the realisation that the only insulation from the raw nerves of solitary awareness is the fundamental human connection of love. For good or ill, this Blu-Ray transfer is crystal clear ― every dated pixel is highlighted alongside the many scenes of timeless, artfully composed cinematography. With so much intellectual ambition to chew over, it's disappointing that nobody took the time to cook up anything to revisit alongside the main course of this high definition reissue. (Warner)