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Altered States (1980)

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

Director:

Ken Russell

Writers:

Paddy Chayefsky (written for the screen by) (as Sidney Aaron), Paddy Chayefsky (novel)
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Popularity
4,639 ( 38)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
William Hurt ... Eddie Jessup
Blair Brown ... Emily Jessup
Bob Balaban ... Arthur Rosenberg
Charles Haid ... Mason Parrish
Thaao Penghlis ... Eccheverria
Miguel Godreau Miguel Godreau ... Primal Man
Dori Brenner Dori Brenner ... Sylvia Rosenberg
Peter Brandon Peter Brandon ... Hobart
Charles White-Eagle Charles White-Eagle ... The Brujo
Drew Barrymore ... Margaret Jessup
Megan Jeffers Megan Jeffers ... Grace Jessup
Jack Murdock Jack Murdock ... Hector Orteco
Francis X. McCarthy ... Obispo (as Frank McCarthy)
Deborah Baltzell Deborah Baltzell ... Schizophrenic Patient
Evan Richards ... 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

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Taglines:

When he heard his cry for help it wasn't human See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

25 December 1980 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Estados alterados See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$174,650, 28 December 1980, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$19,853,892
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Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo | 70 mm 6-Track (MegaSound encoding)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film's themes and meaning has oft been debated with many interpretations being put forward such that it's the Orpheus and Eurydice myth; that it's the Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde yarn; that it's really the story Mary and Jesus. The film's writer Paddy Chayefsky once revealed in an interview that "Altered States" was actually really a love story. See more »

Goofs

When the Brujo tells Eccheverria that he'll allow Eddie to participate in the ceremony he walks off. Although in only a matter of seconds he's far enough away that they have to run quite a distance to catch up to him to ask him some further questions, this is consistent with other literary and screen depictions of shamans having "spooky" abilities, sure-footedness and being surprisingly limber for their age. Rather than an error in continuity, this seems to be a dramatic device. See more »

Quotes

[Last line]
Eddie Jessup: I love you, Emily.
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Connections

Spoofed in South Park: Tsst (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Voile d'Orphee
by Pierre Henry
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User Reviews

Altered States
9 January 2006 | by I_John_Barrymore_ISee 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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