The primordial soul of ancient mankind is the “truth” which scientist Eddie Jessup (William Hurt) seeks in Ken Russell’s Altered States, a film whose tedium is intermittently broken up by eruptions of psychosexual Russell-ian montage madness. Eddie believes that, by ingesting psychotropic drugs and spending hours in watery isolation chambers, he can tap into his genetic code’s ancient elements, a quest that marks him as mad to everyone, including irrationally smitten girlfriend Emily (Blair Brown). Russell shoots Eddie’s spells in the tubular tank in ominous low-angles but generally seems bored by his characters’ debates about whether Eddie’s research is inspired or insane, and his direction thus only picks up in Eddie’s two key hallucinations, which involve (among other things) explosions of fiery fluids, Jesus, Eddie in a multi-eyed goat mask having sex, and Emily posing as, and then transforming into, a lizard. Despite the considerable effort put into these sequences, 2001-style awe and grandeur escape Altered States, which exudes such apathy during its human-interest moments that it never adequately sells, as something worth taking seriously, Eddie’s religious-scientific desire to commune with the universe’s fundamental essence. As the proceedings briskly fly – at one point, a single cut leapfrogs Eddie and Emily’s marriage (including having two kids) and divorce – the silliness of the entire endeavor (based on the book, and disowned, by Paddy Chayefsky) becomes more readily apparent, culminating in Eddie physically and psychologically regressing back to a primitive monkey-man state and roaming the nearby zoo in search of fresh deer to eat.