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Altered States (1980)

6.9
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 19,935 users  
Reviews: 123 user | 74 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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Title: Altered States (1980)

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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:
...
...
...
...
...
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:

When he heard his cry for help it wasn't human 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:

Estados alterados  »

Box Office

Gross:

$25,000,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

| (MegaSound encoding)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of the film's main movie poster featured a long preamble that read: "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 »

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

Eddie Jessup: Memory is energy! It doesn't disappear - it's still in there. There's a physiological pathway to our earlier consciousnesses. There has to be; and I'm telling you it's in the goddamned limbic system.
Mason Parrish: You're a whacko!
Eddie Jessup: What's whacko about it, Mason? I'm a man in search of his true self. How archetypically American can you get? We're all trying to fulfill ourselves, understand ourselves, get in touch with ourselves, face the reality of ourselves, explore ourselves, expand ourselves. Ever since we ...
See more »

Connections

Spoofed in An American Werewolf in London (1981) See more »

Soundtracks

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

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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.


31 of 36 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Why did I just lose 107 minutes of my life?! Silvrhelm
So much potential... snook_ocreed
Would you try out the sensory deprivation tank? boognish-6
Blair Brown and Julianne Moore (same DNA) CrowBarSpine
my philsophical question! toms_lair
Forced Hollywood Ending? byzantym
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