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Altered States (1980)

aka Altered States

Directed By: 
Written By: 
Details: 102 mins · English, Spanish · R (USA)


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Small Professor Edward Jessup
Small Emily Jessup
Small Arthur Rosenberg
Small Mason Parrish, Professor of Endocrinology at Harvard Medical Sch
No_movie_poster Echeverria
No_movie_poster Primal Man
No_movie_poster Sylvia Rosenberg
No_movie_poster Hobart
No_movie_poster The Brujo
Small Margaret Jessup
No_movie_poster Grace Jessup
No_movie_poster Hector Orteco
No_movie_poster Obispo (as Frank McCarthy)
No_movie_poster Schizophrenic Patient
Small Young Rosenberg


No_movie_poster Jordan Cronenweth Director of Photography
No_movie_poster Daniel Melnick Executive Producer
No_movie_poster Paddy Chayefsky Screenplay
Small Ken Russell Director
No_movie_poster Howard Gottfried Producer
No_movie_poster John Corigliano Original Music Composer
No_movie_poster Eric Jenkins Editor
No_movie_poster Stuart Baird Production
No_movie_poster Paddy Chayefsky Story Contributor


Edward Jessup (William Hurt) is a university professor of abnormal psychology who, while studying schizophrenia, begins to think that "our other states of consciousness are as real as our waking states." Jessup begins experimenting with sensory-deprivation using a flotation tank, aided by two like-minded researchers (Balaban, Haid). At a faculty party he meets fellow "wonder kid" Emily (Brown) and the two eventually marry.

When Edward hears of a Mexican tribe that experiences shared illusion states, he travels to Mexico to participate in what is apparently an Ayahuasca Ceremony. During the walk into to bush his guide states that the indigenous tribe they are meeting works with Amanita muscaria which they are collecting for next year's ceremonies. An indigenous elder was seen with Banisteriopsis caapi root in his hand prior to cutting Jessup's hand, adding blood to the mixture he is preparing. Immediately after consumption Edward experiences bizarre, intense imagery. He returns to the U.S. with a tincture and begins taking it orally before each session in the flotation tank where he experiences a series of increasingly drastic psychological and physical transformations.

Edward's mind experiments cause him to experience actual, physical biological devolution. At one stage he emerges from the isolation tank as a feral and curiously small-statured, light-skinned Primitive Man. The rest of the team becomes highly concerned about the experiments, but Edward is adamant about continuing. In a subsequent experiment he is regressed into a mostly amorphous mass of conscious, primordial matter. It is only the physical intervention of his wife Emily which brings him back from this latter, shocking transformation in which he seems poised on the brink of becoming a non-physical form of proto-consciousness and possibly disappearing from our version of reality altogether.

Edward begins to experience episodes of involuntary spontaneous temporary partial devolution, outside of the isolation tank and without the intake of additional doses of the hallucinogenic tincture. His early reaction is more one of fascination than concern, but as his priorities gradually change due to Emily's determination to keep from losing him, he finally begins to act like someone who values his humanity.

Release Dates:

DVD : 1998-12-29

DVD : 2004-06-01