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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
4,774 ( 373)
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 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

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:

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 »

Filming Locations:

Sierra Madre Occidental, Mexico See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$174,650, 28 December 1980, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$19,853,892
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The title of music band House of Low Culture's album "Edward's Lament" was named after this film's central character Edward Jessup. Music in the film was also inspired by the movie's themes. 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

[Last line]
Eddie Jessup: I love you, Emily.
See more »

Alternate Versions

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

Connections

Referenced in We Bought a Zoo (2011) 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

 
Surreal and intelligent sci-fi.
26 May 2008 | by TermlnatriXSee all my reviews

This is William Hurt's debut, and there's much to praise about it. Firstly, outstanding performance. The kind that lasts an impression and is thought of every time "William Hurt" is pronounced out loud. The film, in a nutshell could be summed up as a man's obsessive quest for the "truth". Truth about life, and the universe, why we're here, who created us? These are the core questions Ken Russel - more fairly, the original author Paddy Chayefsky - asks. All of that, is assisted by insane hallucinatory and downright horrifying visual sequences and music, which when combined, literally gave me goosebumps when I saw it all on screen. They take you on a surreal 'trip' and are a way for the viewer to experience what Hurt's character undergoes when he is in the isolation chamber. On another note, the pacing is a little slow in the first act, but sudden outbursts of surreal visual sequences get you back up in form.

If you're a thinker, this one's for you.


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