The traditional mad scientist dressed up in new clothes, or rather, divested of his clothes and floating naked in an isolation tank. That's just for starters. It's quite nice the way the metaphysical odyssey of this so-called "Faust freak" keeps expanding into new territory, moving through a Dr. Leary psychedelic phase to a Dr. Jekyll metamorphic phase (clever use of a video screen, at one point, to effect the transformation), and well beyond that, to terra incognita and very much infirma. And it is uncharacteristically courteous of Ken Russell to confine his most convulsive stylistics to hallucinatory moments, rather like occasional epileptic fits, and to leave the rest of the movie and the rest of the world in relative peace. The original script by Paddy Chayefsky almost certainly intended more humor than comes through here, and the heaviness of Russell's touch, as well as his disregard for the spoken word, must have had a lot to do with Chayefsky's decision to remove his name from the project. The humanistic, sentimental, and unexpectedly affecting finale may indicate a final triumph for Chayefsky, or at least a touching of a previously dead Russell nerve. With William Hurt and Blair Brown. (1980) — Duncan Shepherd
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