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Traumafessions :: Reader Roger on Altered States

October 11th, 2008 by aunt john · 8 Comments

If there was one thing that would throw me for a loop when I was a kid watching either the silver or small screen, it was something about crossing paths with someone that was a “some-THING.” The thought of seeing a humanoid left me scared to walk down our dark hallway at night after seeing IN SEARCH OF.  In a related way, I had an equal fear of the sub-human.  This is where the KEN RUSSELL-directed ALTERED STATES comes in.  The mixed-genera flick received a humble blip at the 1980 box office, but ads showed that you were in for a wallop on the senses.  I was 10 when it came out, and would not be allowed to see it. Good thing, since the T.V. advertising was thoughtful enough to save viewers from the shots I’m talking about here: The lead character in his famously-horrifying deformed condition.  (If you know the movie, WILLIAM HURT becomes a deformed screaming blob-o-human due to a regression to a de-volved state of humanoid existence.  Are things brought into clarity upon seeing the film? No… It’s a KEN RUSSELL film, folks.)

The fact is, I DID run smack into the trauma-rific scenes of this movie in surprise-attack fashion. California people here may remember an ‘80s Bay Area television show called EVENING MAGAZINE. This was one of those trite local fares covering stories about neat local places to eat, hike, and explore, and was good for getting you between dinner and CHiPs on a school night.  Sounds great right? Well, there was one EVENING MAGAZINE reporter that needed his head examined.

Clearly having seen the movie, this particular reporter’s dainty segment on a little-known isolation tank location in San Francisco described that, for a fee, you can be deprived of senses and improve meditation.  So what does he decide to splice into this human-interest piece?  A SUB-human life-form writhing like a banshee and slamming his deformed appendages into walls – yes, the climax of R-rated ALTERED STATES!

A cold sweat hit all the grannies in the Bay Area, and me, simultaneously.

Yeah sure, the movie, like his segment, features isolation chambers – so obviously the thing to do is show the movie’s KEN RUSSELL-horror-hallucination-freak-out and shock everybody during prime time!  I guess it was meant as a timely pop culture in-joke, but WTF?

I’ll never understand why I had to get that dose of heart trauma at that age by a things-to-do segment.

If I could find that reporter today, I’d get medieval on his a$$!

Tags: Traumafessions

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 RATSAWGODNo Gravatar // Oct 11, 2008 at 8:24 am

    This got a lot of cable time a year or two after it came out. As elusive as the film was to me at the time (I was at least 12), I recall being really fascinated and sort of emotionally stirred by that final scene- the way he pounds his own flesh that imprisons him, the way she shimmers hopelessly lost until his touch frees her, their soft naked flesh as they embrace. Actually, this movie has a lot of cool moments, despite the fact it’s ideals and sense of theoretical science are hopelessly out-of-date by today’s standards.

  • 2 Jeff AllardNo Gravatar // Oct 11, 2008 at 8:42 am

    Altered States was great – another ambitious early ’80s genre film that was a dud at the time but has aged pretty well. I remember thinking this looked like much more of a horror movie than it did science fiction.

  • 3 DavidFullamNo Gravatar // Oct 11, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Really underrated film. Dick Smith’s make up effects are totally top notch, while the transformation/tripping scenes are wonderfully bizzare.

  • 4 RATSAWGODNo Gravatar // Oct 13, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Just found this today, and wanted to share. It’s an amusing mash up of that 80’s Classic, Aha’s Take On Me, but resung to literally describe the action in the video.

    I had totally forgotten that the end of the video is an homage (or rip off) of the final moments of Altered States. The 80’s was a magical time. Magic I say!

  • 5 theresnomrpibbNo Gravatar // Oct 13, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Wow, that was somehow simultaneously touching, funny, and horrifying all at the same time. I kind of get this feeling that the movie makers may have been on acid, however.

  • 6 PalmerholicNo Gravatar // Oct 15, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    It didn’t scare me so much as make me laugh. When he turns to the lava creature I felt compelled to shout MST3K style “*gasp!* The Human Torch!”.

    Also, I totally saw the Take On Me connection.

  • 7 Hail AntsNo Gravatar // Oct 16, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    I never found this too scary. And for me I can sum this movie up in three words:

    Blair Brown nekid!!


  • 8 ScrewedUpTeenNo Gravatar // Mar 11, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    Honestly, if I had been there in the Bay Area and saw that episode of Evening Magazine, I would’ve thought that was the Human Torch. Or the Thing. Whatever. I don’t even know half the Fantastic Four except for Doctor Doom and Black Panther (schwing… OK, maybe not.)

    What the movie DOES remind me of is the Mind Wyrm arc of John Semper Jr.’s Cyborg series, in more ways than one. I’m ashamed to admit that scene you showed kinda freaked me out, until I discovered that a. the movie’s about being on drugs and b. Edward sounds like a Wookiee when he’s the blob monster.

    And of course, “Take on Me.”

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