6.9/10
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Altered States (1980)

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2:04 | Trailer
A psycho-physiologist experiments with drugs and a sensory-deprivation tank and has visions he believes are genetic memories.

Director:

Ken Russell

Writers:

Paddy Chayefsky (written for the screen by) (as Sidney Aaron), Paddy Chayefsky (novel)
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Popularity
4,592 ( 1,039)
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 ... The Brujo
Drew Barrymore ... Margaret Jessup
Megan Jeffers Megan Jeffers ... Grace Jessup
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 his 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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Did You Know?

Trivia

Author Paddy Chayefsky disowned this movie. Even though the dialogue in the screenplay was almost verbatim from his novel he reportedly objected to the general tone of the film and the shouting of his precious words by the actors, this conflicting with Ken Russell's typical style of wanting heightened performances. Paddy Chayefsky had not seen the film before he took his name off the credits, the script being credited to "Sidney Aaron", a pseudonym for Chayefsky, the two names being Chayefsky's real first and middle names. Director Ken Russell and Chayefsky fought constantly during production, Russell maintaining that almost nothing was changed from Chayefsky's script and stating that he was "impossible to please." See more »

Goofs

While Arthur takes Eddie's blood and Mason is yelling at him, the position of the bloody rag used to wipe Eddie's face clean as well as the EEG wiring changes positions between shots. 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 laryngal ...
[...]
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Alternate Versions

ABC edited 7 minutes from this film for its 1983 network television premiere. See more »


Soundtracks

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

 
Intelligent and original...not for everyone though,
10 August 2005 | by willywantsSee all my reviews

During a series of sensory-deprivation experiments, a professor devolves into a prehistoric form of life. This bizarre yet intriguing sci-fi offering comes from Ken Russell, a genre filmmaker who's made a handful of weak films, including The Lair of the White Worm (1988) and Gothic (1986). The script comes from Paddy Chayefsky, who also wrote the book upon which the film is based. Though Chayefsky disowned the film and Russell's direction, it remains among the best films in both they're careers. The best thing about the film is easily the script, which is intelligent and thought-provoking. Russell's direction is quite good as well; the editing on this film is truly top-notch. The actors gave great performances, especially a very young-looking William Hurt as the lead. In my opinion, Blair Brown's performance was at times a little uneven, but that never hurt the movie. The make-up effects, from Dick Smith, were terrific. The imagery—including visions of hell, a seven-eyed goat-man (how cool is that?), hideously mutated human bodies and a truly trippy vision of the creation of life—are startling. There's some decent gore too, included a nasty gutted lizard (which looks suspiciously realistic if you ask me…) and other goodies I won't spoil for you. Also worth mentioning is a great score from John Corigliano, which is unsettling and very suspenseful.

This film is NOT for everyone—some viewers might be lost by the scientific aspects of the film and the hallucinogenic scenes. If you like everything explained to you and you're afraid of a little ambiguity, this isn't for you. If you want a different, intelligent sci-fi film…see this.

7/10.

Just one complaint though—I'm no scientist, but wouldn't it be impossible for a human being to survive the physical and metabolic changes of a transformation like the one seen in the film? (I know, I know, it's just a movie…).


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Details

Official Sites:

Official site

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

25 December 1980 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Altered States See more »

Filming Locations:

Sierra Madre Occidental, Mexico See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$174,650, 28 December 1980

Gross USA:

$19,853,892

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$19,853,892
See more on IMDbPro »

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

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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