6.9/10
26,142
133 user 84 critic

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.

Director:

Writers:

(written for the screen by) (as Sidney Aaron), (novel)
Reviews
Popularity
2,687 ( 1,333)

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

ON DISC
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
...
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
Edit

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:

 »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

25 December 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Estados alterados  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$174,650 (USA) (28 December 1980)

Gross:

$19,853,892 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

| (MegaSound encoding)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

William Hurt says that he knew just a little about Ken Russell prior working with him, and just because he had seen his movies. About his first meeting with Russell, Hurt said in an interview: "We were in this little room and there was this radiator and a little desk and a chair and we didn't sit for a half an hour, neither one of us. Finally he (Russell) sat on a radiator and I sat on the floor. When he sat on the radiator his pants pulled up and I saw he had Betty Boop socks on. It was then I thought, I'll do it." 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: I want someone to look at those X-Rays who can read them.
Eddie Jessup: I'd rather not have everyone in the Brigham in on this. It's bad enough we've got this nosy x-ray technician.
Mason Parrish: Are you all right?
Eddie Jessup: I'm fine, Mason. I tried to indicate this was just a transient thing.
Mason Parrish: Transient ischemic attack, that's what it was.
[Addressing Arthur]
Mason Parrish: He's got his voice back.
Eddie Jessup: It wasn't an ischemic attack! It wasn't a seizure. You saw the x-rays, Mason. There was clearly something anterior to the larynx that looked like a ...
[...]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Basket Case (1982) See more »

Soundtracks

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

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
Not just for the FX...
3 December 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Okay, the character of Dr. Eddie Jessup is kind of a pompous ass, and there are a few groaner moments of, call it, self-importance.

But this movie breaks real ground.

One of my all time favorites.

And I'd like to point out that everyone is crazy about the much-touted and notoriously-expensive hallucination sequences, ...

Of course if you've seen Russel's "Tommy," some of the over-the-top sequences will look familiar and tinged with peculiar British-isms. And then there's the ending - well, it's controversial, that's for sure - anticlimax or not ?

But for me the most electrifying parts are the ensemble cast acting.

In the scene where Blair Brown is trying to cope with the trauma of the events in the isolation tank room, there's a very beautifully conceived long single shot through house windows. Russel needs credit especially for the argument between Balaban and Haid - some of the best acting I've ever seen - character actors hardly EVER get to put this kind of stage-acting energy on film. It stays with me still. They truly seem absolutely furious with each other, their lines overlap, it's absolutely convincing.

Some of the greatest effects of this movie are simply good movie craft

  • when Jessup first sees the love of his life walk through the door,
fantastically back-lit, and the music comes up and cross-fades into the next scene - it's breathtaking.

It's the moments like that, and the very intro of the movie, with the slow title crawl, the deadpan lines read by Balaban, the first shots of Hurt in the tank, the eerie music ... This movie still stands out, still looks good,... and stands superior to other, more recent imaginings of internal hallucination become external.


38 of 48 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?