ALTERED STATES, d. Ken Russell (1980)
Altered States is the wild story of an intense, quasi-mystical academic (William Hurt, in his film debut) who experiments with psychotropic drugs and isolation tanks to the extent that he becomes another person, two other persons, in fact: a savage hominid and, later, an amorphous, undulating blob of star stuff, a cosmic slice of future humanity. It’s actually one of my favourite films, a bizarre jumble of psychedelia, pseudoscience, new age philosophy and hippy excess played absolutely dead straight.
It’s directed by Ken Russell, which could have been cause for concern, but he does an excellent job and still manages to fit in his obligatory crucifixion scene. Even so, it never gets silly, although it’s amusing to note that its climax, where a rapidly mutating William Hurt hurls himself against the wall repeatedly to try and jar his body back into reality, was later paid homage to in A-ha’s famous video for ‘Take On Me’.