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) (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

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

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Release Date:

25 December 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Estados alterados  »

Box Office

Gross:

$25,000,000 (USA)
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Sound Mix:

| (MegaSound encoding)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Movie poster artwork featured an upside-down, tanked and medically wired-up William Hurt it being similar in design concept to that previously used by the medical thriller movie Coma (1978) released a couple of years earlier. See more »

Goofs

The recording which Emily listens to of Eddie's first drug induced tank trip isn't the same as the original dialog. Some of the wording is changed and the loud primal "grunt" which alarmed both Mason and Arthur has been replaced with a sound much more resembling that of a monkey. See more »

Quotes

Mason Parrish: You're supposed to be reputable scientists! Not two dorm kids freaking on Mexican mushrooms!
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Soundtracks

Voile d'Orphee
by Pierre Henry
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User Reviews

 
Right up there with "2001" and "Performance" as the best of head-trip cinema
20 February 2007 | by (Worcester, MA) – See all my reviews

Who'd guess that one of the finest psychedelic films wouldn't be released in the late 60s or early 70s but 1980! "Altered States" ranks up there with "El Topo", "2001", and "Performance" as the finest film about hallucinogenics. Don't expect this to be any mere pretentious trip film geared to appeal primarily to stoners. "Altered States" is an intelligent film that shows more and more depth upon repeated viewings. It may be a head-trip movie, but you don't need to be on drugs to enjoy and appreciate this film.

This is probably Ken Russel's best film. Russel is mostly known for gaudy and over-the-top camp such as "Tommy" and "The Devils". This is one of his most surprising films because for once he keeps his visual excess under control. Its only during the hallucinations that you're reminded this is a Ken Russel film. The effects during these sequences are fantastic and probably the highlight of the entire film. The acting is also first-rate if largely overwhelmed by Russel's direction and the screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky.

The only minor complaint I have is the transformation sequence. When Hurt turns into a gorilla, it goes from being surreal to outright silly. Still, this is a Ken Russel film so I guess he had to include a bit of camp. Its still entertaining and not distracting enough to detract from the film's overall brilliance. (8/10)


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Why did I just lose 107 minutes of my life?! Silvrhelm
Would you try out the sensory deprivation tank? boognish-6
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