Instant Classic

Paramount Theatre's Summer 2000 Series

ALTERED STATES (1980)

D: Ken Russell; with William Hurt, Blair Brown, Charles Haid, Bob Balaban, Drew Barrymore. (R, 102 min.) Although it's hard to believe now, there once was a time when no one under 17 was admitted into films rated R. In 1975, for example, the campaign I waged to get my father to take me to Jaws was like the 100 Years War -- long and protracted, but decisive. We loved it. Five years later, still a few tree rings short of the cut-off, I was too preteen to ask my dad to take me to Altered States and fulfill his obligations as "(unless accompanied by a) parent or guardian," so I made do reading Paddy Chaefsky's religion vs. science debunker about a mad professor who mixes hallucinogens and isolation tanks and de-evolutionizes himself back into, and then past, the Stone Age. Bonzo Goes Subatomic. When Ken Russell's sci-fidelic freakout appeared on fledgling cable channel HBO a few years later, it seemed appropriate that my one-time movie theatre manager father and I watched it together. Chaefsky disowned his screenplay, but we loved it -- the outrageous premise and over-the-top execution. The cast, featuring Hurt in his film debut, was great. Almost 20 years later, an expensive bronze-flake poster of Altered States hangs in my living room. When a houseguest found it aglow early one morning, I grinned like a proud parent, recalling our tiny TV room and two faces glowing with shared love. (7/17-18)

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