Altered States (1980)

35mm film, Technicolor, 1.85:1
Dolby Stereo, English
Reviewed at The EOFFTV Review

An American science fiction film directed by Ken Russell. Production began on 23 March 1979 1Variety 11 April 1979 p.34

Plot Summary

Scientist Dr Eddie Jessop subjects himself to all manner of bizarre experiments in an effort to achieve another state of consciousness. While his bemused wife Emily and their kids struggle to deal with what he's doing, Jessop experiments with a tank and takes hallucinogenic in his obsessive quest for the meaning of it all. Eventually, he succeeds in regressing to an ape man and beyond, climaxing in a bizarre confrontation with the Absolute at the very birth of the universe.


Directed by: Ken Russell
©: 1980 Warner Bros. Inc.
Warner Bros. Pictures. Distributed by Warner Bros.
Executive Producer: Daniel Melnick
Produced by: Howard Gottfried
Written for the Screen by: Sidney Aaron [real name: Paddy Chayevsky]
From the Novel Altered States by: Paddy Chayevsky
Screenplay © 1980 Warner Bros. Inc.
Director of Photography: Jordan Cronenweth
Film Editor: Eric Jenkins
Music by: John Corigliano
Sound Mixer: Willie Burton
Costumes Designed by: Ruth Myers
Makeup Man: Michael Hancock
Hair Stylist: Dione Taylor-Demsky
Special Makeup: Dick Smith
Special Effects: Chuck Gaspar
Special Visual Effects: Brian Ferren
Production Designer: Richard McDonald

William Hurt (Eddie Jessup)
Blair Brown (Emily Jessup)
Bob Balaban (Arthur Rosenberg)
Charles Haid (Mason Parrish)
Thaao Penghilis (Eccheverria)
Dori Brenner (Sylvia Rosenberg)
Miguel Godreau (primal man)
Peter Brandon (Hobart)
Charles White Eagle (the brujo)
Frank McCarthy (Obispo)
Deborah Baltzell (schizophrenic patient)
George Gaynes (Dr Wissenschaft)
Jack Murdock (Hector Orteco)
Drew Barrymore (Margaret Jessup)
Megan Jeffers (Grace Jessup)
Evan Richards (young Rosenberg)
Hap Lawrence (endocrinology fellow)
John Walter Davis (medical technician)
Cynthia Burr (Parrish's girl)

Alternative Titles

Anexelengtes katastaseis – Greece
Au-delà du réel – France
Der Höllentrip – West Germany
Eksperimentet – Denmark, Norway
Estados alterados – Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela
Experimentet – Sweden
Förändrade tillstånd – Finland (Swedish)
Gerçegin Ötesinde – Turkey
Korenine prividov – Slovenia
Muutostiloja – Finland
Odmienne stany swiadomosci – Poland
Stati di allucinazione – Italy
Tocht door de geest – Belgium (Flemish)
Változó állapotok – Hungary
Viagens Alucinantes – Brazil, Portugal
Viaje alucinante al fondo de la mente – Spain


Variety 10 December 1980 p.30, 32
Russell has downplayed much of Chayefsky's heady philosophy by having the actors, especially Hurt, rattle off their jargon-laden speeches at breakneck speed. In fact, the thesps' tendency to declaim or shout is the film's weakest element. Countering this defect are the film's impressive visual , akin to the “ultimate trip” light-shows in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Shattering use of Dolby stereo effects conspires with the images to give the viewer a vicarious LSD type experience sans drugs. While not for all tastes, this aspect of the pic should win over the youth audience. Film's action scenes are also potent, with Eric Jenkins' top-notch editing bringing it all in at under 100 minutes. Dick Smith's makeup is outstanding, and combines with the physical agility of Miguel Godreau as the apeman to suspend disbelief during the most outrageous horror scenes. […] A newcomer to films, classical composer John Corigliano has penned an atonal score which more than holds its own amidst a barrage of sound effects. Effects men and the whole technical crew deserve kudos, including cameraman Jordan Cronenweth for his lighting and tracking. Their combined efforts should zap audiences with a theatrical film experience they can't get at home. – from a review by Lor.



  • American Anthropologist vol.117 no.2 (February 2015) pp.316-328 – article (Anthropologists in Films: ‘The Horror! The Horror!' by Gavin Weston, Jamie F. Lawson, Mwenza Blell, and John Hayton)
  • American Cinematographer vol.62 no.3 (March 1981) pp.236-239, 260-262, 265-267, 296-298; 230-235, 290-292; 240-241, 270-279 – illustrated article (by Bran Ferren); illustrated interview with Jordan Cronenweth; illustrated article
  • Cinefantastique vol.10 no.4 (Spring 1981) p.48 – review
  • Cinefantastique vol.11 no.1 (Summer 1981) pp.14-25; 16-37; 46 – illustrated article; illustrated article; review
  • Cinefantastique vol.36 no.4 (August/September 2004) p.6 – illustrated note (CFQ Update: remake review by Sean Jordan)
  • Cinefex no.4 (April 1981) p.32-71 – production notes
  • Continental Film and Video Review vol.28 no.9 (July 1981) p.10-13 – review; article (on the psychological effects of hallucinatory drugs)
  • Daily Variety 3 October 1978 pp.1, 8 – note (Pix, People. Pickups)
  • Daily Variety 31 October 1978 – illustrated article (The Sci-Fi Force… by Rick Setlowe)
  • Daily Variety 12 March 1979 pp.1, 4 – note (Altered States passes from Col to Warner Bros.)
  • Daily Variety 18 May 1979 p.3 – note (Just for Variety by Army Archerd)
  • Daily Variety 18 July 1980 pp.1, 8 – note (Altered States Gets After Yuletide Date)
  • L'Écran Fantastique no.17 (1981) p.52 – review
  • L'Écran Fantastique no.21 (1981) p.13-23 – illustrated article
  • L'Écran Fantastique no.22 (1982) p.57-64 – illustrated article
  • Empire no.198 (December 2005) p.212 – illustrated DVD review (At home/movies: Altered States by Justin Bowyer)
  • Film Comment vol.17 no.1 (January/February 1981) p.52-55 – article
  • Film Criticism vol.6 no.1 (Autumn 1981) pp.14-25 – review
  • Film Directions vol.4 no.16 (1982) p.20 – review
  • Film Review no.664 (December 2005) p.112 – illustrated DVD Review (Russell & Flow by Robert Sellers)
  • Films vol.1 no.8 (July 1981) p.26-29; 30-33 – illustrated review; article
  • Films and Filming vol.25 no.8 (May 1979) p.8 – note
  • Films Illustrated vol.10 no.120 (September 1981) p.464-467 – review
  • Halls of Horror no.27 p.16 – note
  • Halls of Horror no.30 p.12 – note
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films II by Donald C. Willis pp.6-7 – credits
  • Journal of Popular Film & Television vol.9 no.4 (Winter 1982) pp.171-179 – review
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.48 no.570 (July 1981) p.131 – credits, review
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.48 no.572 (September 1981) p.190 – note
  • Motion Picture Product Digest vol.8 no.15 (31 December 1980) p.58, 60 – review
  • Pro Musica Sana vol.9 no.4 (Summer 1982) p.Summer 2-6 – article (about the score)
  • Screen International no.301 (18 Jul 1981) p.15 – review
  • Starburst no.35 (1981) p.22-25 – review
  • Starburst no.214 (June 1996) p.54 – video review (Videofile)
  • Strange Adventures vol.2 no.7 (no.19 August 1990) pp.16-18 – illustrated article (Film folk by Kevin Lyons)
  • Variety 4 October 1978 p.5 – note (Altered States Effects)
  • Variety 11 October 1978 p.6 – note (New York Sound Track)
  • Variety 15 November 1978 p.30 – note (New York Sound Track)
  • Variety 6 March 1979 p.4 – note (Altered States castings)
  • Variety 21 March 1979 p.36 – note (Altered States moves)
  • Variety 11 April 1979 p.34 – credits (Film production)
  • Variety 4 July 1979 p.28 – note (about Oxford Scientific Films being hired to provide “special time lapse photography”)
  • Variety for 25 July 1979 p.35 – note (Inside Stuff-Pictures)
  • Variety 23 July 1980 pp.4, 31 – note (WB Skips Yule, To Go Mid-Jan. On Altered States)
  • Variety 10 December 1980 p.30, 32 – credits, review (by Lor)
  • Video Viewer December 1982 – illustrated review


  • Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction by Phil Hardy (ed.) p.358 – credits, review
  • BFI Screen Guides: 100 Science Fiction Films by Barry Keith Grant pp.11-12 – illustrated credits, review
  • Elliot's Guide to Films on Video by John Elliot p.20 – credits, review
  • Film Review 1982-1983 by F. Maurice Speed (ed.) pp.140-141 – credits, review
  • Hoffman's Guide to Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Movies 1991-1992 p.21 – credits, review
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films II by Donald C. Willis pp.6-7 – credits
  • The Illustrated Dinosaur Movie Guide by Stephen Jones – credits, review
  • Looking for a New England: Action, Time, Vision: Music, Film and TV 1975-1986 by Simon Matthews p.34
  • The Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Handbook by Alan Frank p.12 – illustrated credits, review
  • Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Film Sequels, Series, and Remakes by Kim R. Holston and Tom Winchester pp.122-124 – credits, review
  • Science Fiction Film Source Book, The by David Wingrove pp.25-26 – credits
  • Virgin Film Yearbook 1983 pp.9, 11 – credits, review