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Altered States (1980)

6.9
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 19,109 users  
Reviews: 123 user | 72 critic

A Harvard scientist conducts experiments on himself with a hallucinatory drug and an isolation chamber that may be causing him to regress genetically.

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(written for the screen by), (novel)
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Title: Altered States (1980)

Altered States (1980) on IMDb 6.9/10

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Miguel Godreau ...
Dori Brenner ...
Peter Brandon ...
Charles White-Eagle ...
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Megan Jeffers ...
Jack Murdock ...
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Obispo (as Frank McCarthy)
Deborah Baltzell ...
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Storyline

It's the late 1960's. Just for a lark, graduate student Eddie Jessup, known for being unconventional, brilliant and slightly mad, conducts experiments with an isolation chamber, using himself as the subject. His experiences in the chamber cause him to hallucinate, much of the imagery being religious-based despite he not being a religious man. Seven years later, he is a respected full professor in the Harvard Medical School. Believing he has lost his edge and has fallen into an unwanted state of respectability, Eddie decides to resume his work with sensory deprivation, this time using hallucinogens, specifically untested ones used in mystical Mexican rituals, to enhance the experience of being in the isolation tank. After initial tests, he claims he entered an alternate physical and mental state. Although unbelieving of Eddie's claims, his colleagues Arthur Rosenberg and Mason Parrish, as well as Eddie's wife, Emily, who is in her own right a respected academic, are concerned for ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

In the basement of a university medical school Dr . Jessup floats naked in total darkness. The most terrifying experiment in the history of science is out of control... and the subject is himself See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

25 December 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Altered States  »

Box Office

Gross:

$25,000,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

| (MegaSound encoding)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Paddy Chayefsky's novel was partially based on the work of neuroscientist and dolphin researcher John Cunningham Lilly, who invented the isolation tank, and first started taking drugs while "tanking". Lilly's work had inspired Mike Nichols' earlier dolphin movie The Day of the Dolphin (1973). Lilly was an uncredited scientific researcher on both pictures. See more »

Goofs

The introductory story is set in 1967, but exterior shots of the streets shows a VW Rabbit and a Plymouth Volare, both 1970s cars. See more »

Quotes

Eddie Jessup: Emily's quite content to go on with this life. She insists she's in love with me - whatever that is. What she means is she prefers the senseless pain we inflict on each other to the pain we would otherwise inflict on ourselves. But I'm not afraid of that solitary pain. In fact, if I don't strip myself of all this clatter and clutter and ridiculous ritual, I shall go out of my fucking mind. Does that answer your question, Arthur?
Arthur Rosenberg: What question was that?
Eddie Jessup: You asked me why I was getting divorced.
Arthur Rosenberg: ...
See more »

Connections

Spoofed in Evil Dead II (1987) See more »

Soundtracks

Light My Fire
(uncredited)
Written by Robby Krieger, Jim Morrison, John Densmore and Ray Manzarek
Performed by The Doors
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User Reviews

Above all, a love story
18 January 2006 | by (The Man-Cave) – See all my reviews

It's been a quarter century since I first experienced Altered States, Ken Russell's take on Paddy Chayevsky's novel of the search for a common bond between all of us, the ability to love. I personally don't care if Chayevsky disowned the movie or if Russell resented him for it or how many angels you can set on the head of a pin, for that matter. Altered States is a harshly beautiful and intellectual movie based on a book with the same adjectives.

I'm not going to praise the fine performances, the dazzling special effects, or the painful, emotional epiphany that the lead character, Eddie Jessup (William Hurt) experiences as he fights his way past the roadblock of pure intellect. I want to praise Altered States for its emotional and intellectual message of the power of love to embrace us all and heal our wounds.

Altered States is not for the weak of stomach or the easily offended. The imagery is disturbing and, at times, repulsive. There are scenes of blasphemy that I know have put off Christian friends of mine. But the central idea of a commonality, a kinship that humans have with one another and the danger of setting oneself apart to avoid the pain of interacting and loving is, I believe, supremely satisfying at both an intellectual and emotional level.

Altered States isn't one of the very best films I've seen, but it surely has been a source of joy for me. And if it doesn't turn your crank--or turns it the wrong way--then find your joy in another film or other media . . . and remember to love.


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