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Altered States (1980)

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



(written for the screen by) (as Sidney Aaron), (novel)
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Miguel Godreau ...
Dori Brenner ...
Peter Brandon ...
Charles White-Eagle ...
The Brujo
Margaret Jessup
Megan Jeffers ...
Grace Jessup
Jack Murdock ...
Hector Orteco
Obispo (as Frank McCarthy)
Deborah Baltzell ...
Schizophrenic Patient
Young Rosenberg


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


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 »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

25 December 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Estados alterados  »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$174,650, 28 December 1980, Limited Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| (MegaSound encoding)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The producer was upset that Warner Bros. decided to shove the film into the Christmas season rush rather than wait until the spring when he there would be less competition for that kind of film. See more »


During the party scene right before Eddie arrives, Arthur is getting ice from the bathtub and the toilet seat is up. But a moment later in the next scene, the toilet seat is down. See more »


Arthur Rosenberg: What we saw tonight was a physical phenomenon, an inexplicable physical phenomenon!
See more »


Referenced in Adjust Your Tracking (2013) See more »


Voile d'Orphee
by Pierre Henry
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User Reviews

Altered States
9 January 2006 | by See all my reviews

Altered States is frightening, disturbing, bizarre stuff. It also has a strong heart, and the dialogue is witty and sharp.

This film creates its very real sense of horror from foreboding, often disarming musical cues, and a sense that we're on the journey with Jessup, and we don't know what's real or imagined. It rarely relies on gore, or overt "horror" sequences to affect the viewer, but still manages to be truly frightening and horrifying. Russell tones down his usual excesses, but his stamp is nevertheless all over the disturbing hallucination sequences.

It's easy to spot the strong influence this film must have had on Videodrome. It creates a similar mood.

Thoroughly recommended to anyone with a taste for intelligent horror.

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