Altered States

Altered States

By John Saleeby
January 1, 2008


"Altered States" is the Ultimate Acid Logic Movie - Crazy Four Eyed Guys taking drugs, yelling at each other, turning into monkeys . . . Were people in the Seventies traveling into the Future to read the email between me and Wil Forbis? Nah, then the movie would have been called "You Owe Me Money!"

"Altered States" presents the story of Eddie Jessop (William Hurt), a scientist who, after experimenting with a Sensory Deprivation Tank, discovers a new psychedelic drug and goes back into the Sensory Deprivation Tank while tripping on the drug. It was either a new psychedelic drug or going to see The Grateful Dead, but Jerry Garcia didn't want to be in the movie. This experiment not only causes Eddie to psychologically revert to The Earliest Form of Man but physically as well. And, as we see when Eddie pops out of the tank and starts jumping around like John Leguizamo, The Earliest Form Of Man ain't nothing but a MONKEY! Go ahead and say it right to his face, he won't be insulted - He's a MONKEY! So it's the biggest thing to happen in Science since whatever they were talking about while I was asleep in the back of the classroom. And then some more stuff happens that I don't quite understand because of the aforementioned sleeping in the back of the classroom. But no way was I asleep in the back of the movie theater cause "Altered States" is more fun than a Sensory Deprivation Barrel full of Monkeys! Sorry, Gene Siskel left me that quote in his will.


This is the Very First William Hurt Movie! Wow! For years the big joke about William Hurt was that he looked like he'd just smoked his first joint. Maybe in "Altered States" he really had smoked his first joint? Cheech And Chong had just had their first hit movie with "Up In Smoke" and showed up on the set to Welcome  The New Kid to the Movie Business "Hey, man, Welcome to Hollywood! I was in that Sensory Deprivation Thing all night, man! Freaked me out!" "That wasn't no Century Defecation Thing, man! That was the trunk of my car!" "Oh, wow, man!" But, Lo! Have you seen Hurt in "A History Of Violence"? It's like his Girlfriend got him to finally quit getting high and he's almost pissed off enough to dump her ass and get back on the bong! It's like he's aware of his surroundings or something - A side of Bill we've never seen before! I think Viggo was a good influence on him.

It's kind of an "Altered States" Fan tradition to scream and yell about how "Hot" Blair Brown is as Missus Jessop but when I watched it the other day I thought she was only kinda "Cute". But now that they've killed that Bhutto chick and Lucy Liu belongs to me you guys can't afford to be too picky - Yeah, Blair Brown!! Hubba Hubba Hot Stuff! Aside from when she lets us look at her nice little bare butt, Blair's Big Scene is when Eddie admits that turning into a monkey was The Most Important Experience Of His Life. Uh oh! That's no way to talk to your Wife! Kevin Bacon gets into the exact kinda trouble in "Stir Of Echoes" when he tells his Wife that whatever the Hell you want to call happens to him in that movie was The Most Important Experience Of His Life! Women! So if one day you find yourself in a Hollywood movie where, oh . . . you find a way to make chickens sing "Bohemian Rhapsody" learn from these guy's mistake and tell The Little Lady that, aside from getting married to her and having some kids and spending a shitload of money on furniture, finding a way to make chickens sing "Bohemian Rhapsody" was The Most Important Experience Of Your Life. At least until you save up enough money to buy a new place in the Country. Although to give Blair a little credit, and with that ass we owe more than a little credit, Eddie isn't the best Husband we've seen in a movie (Best Husband In A Movie - Harry Cooper the baldheaded white guy in "Night Of The Living Dead". All Harry cares about is his Wife and Daughter. Nothing about how the Dead coming back to Life to eat the Living is The Most Important Experience Of This Man's Life! Let the black guy do all the work nailing up the doors and windows, he's got time for that, he doesn't have a Wife and Daughter to take care of! Go Harry! Go Harry! Why are you all looking at me like that?) Not only do the Jessops temporarily split up but she goes all the way to Africa and he goes all the way to The Earliest Form Of Man. And my parents thought they had trouble. Although living in New Orleans was a lot like Africa and having me was a lot like having a monkey. Too bad we didn't have a Sensory Deprivation Tank. Somebody's really got to come up with a better name for that thing. How are they going to get one of those babies into every American household with as clunky a name as "Sensory Deprivation Tank"? Get Bill Gates or somebody at Apple to work on that. Soon as they finish the Orgasmotron.

"Altered States" is a Ken Russell movie and if that doesn't have the blood racing out of your head so fast you crash onto the floor you're that crazy Japanese guy who made "Audition" and "Ichi The Killer". But it's pretty tame by usual Ken Russell standards. "Altered States" has apocalyptic visions, lizards turning into women, strangling snakes, and a crazy sequence at the end that wants to be the crazy sequence at the end of "2001" when it grows up, but it doesn't have Anne Margeret splashing around in a swamp of soap suds, chocolate, and baked beans like in "Tommy" so it's practically G Rated Family Fun. And best of all - NO ROGER DALTRY!!!

Further Fuzzy Four Eyed Fun comes from Eddie's Bearded Buddies Arthur (Bob Balaban) and Mason (Charles Haid). Balaban you will remember from "Seinfeld" when he caught George peeking down his teenage daughter's blouse "Getting a good look, Costanza?". If the show had been called "Saleeby" George's reply would have been "Yeah! And in ten minutes you'll be getting a good taste of her shit on my cock!" Haid was on "Hill Street Blues". All I remember from that lame show was Vic Hitler, The Narcoleptic Comic. Not THAT was a funny dude! But NBC couldn't give him a show because it would have been called "Hitler" "Getting a good look, Herr Goebbels?"

But like all Science Fiction movies "Altered States" has a "message". That's why I usually don't like Sci Fi movies, Messages are only for old Clash albums. Although something like "Hey, all you World Trade Center Employees! Crazy people who really believe in God are going to crash airplanes into your office tomorrow! Call in sick!" or "Hey, Mick! Strummer's gonna kick you out of the band if you don't cut out all that white boy Rap shit!" might be nice. Fortunately for "Altered States", it's message is a very good one and one we should all take time to consider, unlike the one from "The Day The Earth Stood Still" which is so queer it's a wonder we didn't hear it again on a Clash record. I dunno, maybe it's on Side Six of "Sandanista!" I lost the plot after "Charlie Don't Surf."

And what is the message of "Altered States"? I don't remember but it's delivered at the same time we get that look at Blair's ass so it must be really good. Any movie that ends with an ass as pretty as that is fine with me. That's why Kubrick opened "Eyes Wide Shut" with Nichole Kidman's beautiful ass - "Damn you, Russell! First you try to rip off my crazy sequence from '2001' and then Blair Brown's ass? Let's see you top THIS, you magnificent bastard!" Russell immediately went into plans to retaliate with a film opening with a black woman's ass but the United Nations warned that kind of escalation that could result in Global Nuclear War so he just gave Kubrick a subscription to Ebony Tail and the old queer dropped dead.

Oh, eat a ham and cheese sandwich before you watch this movie. Hurt has one at the beginning and it will drive you out of your mind even worse than a Sensory Deprivation Tank.


John Saleeby wrote for The National Lampoon while he was in high school, was a stand up comic in New York, and has contributed to the net humor zines, Campaign Central, and the legendary American Jerk. He's on medication now so he's probably a little nicer now than he was when you met him earlier. Email -

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