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Altered States

CastWilliam Hurt, Blair Brown, Bob Balaban, Charles Haid, Thaao Penghlis, Miguel Godreau, Dori Brenner, Peter Brandon, Drew Barrymore
Year released1980
Spoiler alert
Blog entry

Possibly loosely based on Greenwich Village psychiatrist Richard Ariola this film adapted from the book by Paddy Chayefsky attempts to imitate psychedelic hallucinations induced by drugs and sensory deprivation.

Researcher Arthur monitors psychology professor Eddie floating in a sensory deprivation tank.
Arthur: “A number of students hallucinated. Dr. Jessup found the encephalographic evidence especially interesting...”
Eddie: “I want to get a look at those EEG tracings.”
”I hallucinated like a son of a bitch.” (0:00)

Eddie reviews EEG tracings. Arthur: “When I asked you what was going on, you said you were reexperiencing your father’s death.” (0:05)

Eddie tells Arthur, “... most of it is radical hip stuff, drug culture, apologias.” (0:06)

While physical anthropologist Emily tokes a joint glasses tells Arthur, “Must be some guy in the psychology department doing sensory deprivation studies.”
Arthur takes the joint, tokes. (0:06)

Emily tells Eddie that Arthur called him “A little nuts...”
Eddie: “We’re... trying to find maverick substances specific to schizophrenia.”
Emily: “So you don’t think schizophrenia can be reduced to a single etiologic agent?”
“You think madness is simply another state of consciousness?” (0:07)

Eddie tells “The only reason I’m working with schizophrenics now is the religious experience is so significant in schizophrenia.” (0:09)

Emily asks Eddie, “As a rule do you usually think about Christ and crucifixions under sexual stress?”
Eddie: “When I was nine years old I used to see visions, visions of saints and angels, even Christ himself.”
”My father was an aeronautical engineer, my mother, a clinical psychologist.”
Eddie, referring to his dying father: “He was very heavily sedated... I never saw another vision... I want you to know what sort of a nut you might be getting mixed up with.” (0:10)

Eddie hallucinates in the tank. (0:13)

Eddie tells Emily, “You know of course I’m supposed to be at least a little bit nuts.”
Emily: “You’re an unmitigated madman.”
Eddie: “He’s giving her dimethyltryptamine. It takes effect in about a minute, and she’ll trip out for about half an hour.” (0:15)

Arthur asks a subject whether she feels, “Less anxious?” (0:17)

Eddie tells Emily, “There’s a lot of religious delusion among acute schizophrenics. Some guys say schizophrenics are physically different from the rest of us. It’s almost as if they were trying to change their physical selves to adapt to their schizophrenic image of themselves.” (0:17)

Eddie tells Arthur, referring to the Hinchi tribe, “They’re an isolated tribe... still practice the... sacred mushroom ceremonies... Apparently they use some kind of hallucinatory drug...” (0:20)

Arthur’s wife Sylvia tells Arthur, referring to Eddie, “He’s still crazy.” (0:21)

Eddie tells Arthur, “In fact if I don’t strip myself of all this... I shall go out of my... mind.” (0:23)

Eddie tells Emily, “We’ve got six billion years of memory in our minds.”
”Memory is energy.”
Eddie’s friend Mason tells Eddie, “Jessup, you’re a wacko.”
Eddie: “What’s wacko about it?”
Mason: “You’re wacko.” (0:24)

Eduardo tells Eddie, “The mushrooms are almost certainly amanita muscaria, a very powerful psychedelic and a little dangerous. It contains belladonna-like alkaloids, atropine, scopolamine.” (0:25)

After drinking the potion Eddie hallucinates. (0:31)

Arthur tells Mason, referring to Eddie, “He’s blacked out. These blackouts can get pretty freaky. Sometimes they last as long as four hours... but he doesn’t remember a thing.”
Mason: “You guys are shooting up with an untested drug that stacks up in the brain...”
Arthur: “For the record, we don’t actually shoot up.
”Mason: “You guys are... not two kids in the dorm freaking out on Mexican mushrooms.” (0:39)

Mason: “This ain’t LSD, goddamnit! This is no serotonin antagonist you’re drinking.”
”I thought all that isolation tank stuff went out in the ‘60s with Timothy Leary and all them other gurus.”
Eddie: “What happens during these blackout periods is... You sense the hallucination is going on, but you get no images... We can’t raise the dosage of the drug because we’re close to toxic levels now...”
Mason: “There’s a lot more things I’d like to do to that drug... half life determination.”
Eddie: “All I know is... every instinct I have tells me I’m onto something hot here...”
Arthur: “If they’re doing sleep studies here...”
Mason: “... using an untested drug on a human subject.” (0:40)

Looking at the EEG Arthur tells Mason, referring to Eddie’s brain waves, “He went into theta like a shot.”
Mason: “It sounded like he was having a bad trip to me.”
Mason asks Eddie, “Are you trying to say your dumb hallucination has externalized?”
Mason reads what Eddie wrote: “Not common aphasia. Time-space fallout from the hallucination... I’d like an unbiased eye to look at those EEG tracings.” (0:43)

Arthur tells Mason, referring to Eddie, “He’ll claim it was that goat’s blood from that goat he was eating in his hallucination.”
Mason: “He’s not the type for hysterical conversion... He came out of that tank in a fugue state and had blood all over his face... is postictally aphasic.” (0:50)

Mason tells radiologist Dr. Wissenschaft, “... acute onset of aphasia, no history of trauma.” (0:52)

Eddie hallucinates physical changes in his body suggestive of a primate. (0:53)

Emily tells Eddie, referring to Mason, “He said that you’ve been working with a very complex drug... He’s worried stiff that you’re cracking up.”
Eddie: “He’s a stupid, starched, doctrinaire idiot!”
”Did Mason write you that... I had an aphasic experience for about four hours?”
Eddie tells his daughter Margaret, “Everybody thinks your father’s going nuts.”
“... the drug, in some way, triggered...”
”It’s just possible I’m not mad...” (0:57)

Electroencephalography device. (1:01)

By telephone Emily tells Mason, referring to Eddie, “I think he’s on the verge of a breakdown... He carried on like a madman... ordinarily I wouldn’t be this panicky...” (1:02)

Electroencephalography device. Eddie has become an ape-like creature. (1:02)

Eddie tells Emily, “And Mason writing you this whole time that I’m having a nervous breakdown, and you figured I finally flipped out altogether... I suppose you’ve been... trying to figure out how to get me to a psychiatrist.” (1:14)

Emily listens to the recording of Mason: “It sounded like he was having a bad trip to me.” (1:17)

Emily, by telephone: “Eddie, I’m in a kind of wild panic.” (1:18)

Emily tells Eddie, “... but I’m beginning to think that what happened to you last Friday night was not just a hallucinatory experience... something phenomenological did actually happen...” (1:19)

Eddie tells Mason, “If I come out of that tank... in a very primitive state... so sedate me while I’m still in the tank...”
Mason: “You come out of that tank looking like an ape, and I’m going over to Mass. Mental and commit myself.”
Arthur tells Emily, “If it happens we’ll bring him down with a big bolus of Amytal.”
Emily: “I’m just nervous as hell. (1:21)

Emily tells Mason and Arthur, referring to Eddie, “We... know he’s not crazy.”
Arthur faints. (1:23)

Mason tells Emily, referring to Eddie, “He’s got a whopping load of drugs in him. It’s not uncommon for a psychedelic experience like this to whack you out.”
Emily: ”You can hardly call this just a psychedelic experience.”
”Oh, it’s crazy.” (1:31)

Arthur tells Mason, “If it’s phenomenological, then it’s explicable...”
”... step up the doses of the drug...”
Mason: “And here you are, willing to use an untested drug on innocent human beings.” (1:33)

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