Altered States (1980) (NTSC)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 28-Jan-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Animation
Biographies-Cast & Crew
TV Spots-2
Theatrical Trailer
Notes-Behind The Scenes
Trailer-Blade Runner: Director's Cut; Contact; Outbreak; Outland
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 102:43
RSDL / Flipper Dual Sided Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,4 Directed By Ken Russell

Warner Home Video
Starring William Hurt
Blair Brown
Bob Balaban
Charles Haid
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music John Corigliano

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Altered States is a gripping and entertaining movie on a decent DVD.

    I can still vividly recall seeing this movie theatrically as a child of ten or eleven (believe it or not, my parents took me!). In terms of genre, it lies somewhere between a horror movie and a taut psychological thriller. Based on the novel by Paddy Chayefsky, Altered States tells the story of research scientist Dr. Jessup (William Hurt), a physiologist teaching at Cornell Medical College who is haunted by his past. Obsessed with the mysteries of the brain, Jessup believes that not only physical information is passed from one generation to another through genetics, but memories as well. With the help of fellow scientist and friend, Arthur (Bob Balaban), his devoted wife, Emily (Blair Brown), and sceptic Mason (Charles Haid), Jessup begins exploring altered states of consciousness through the combination of sensory deprivation (via an isolation tank) and powerful hallucinatory drugs. Jessup becomes convinced that through this combination, his hallucinations can be externalised, or in other words, his experiences can become real.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    Sadly, this movie is presented in NTSC, and apart from the limitations of NTSC, the source material is also quite dated and grainy.

    A nice feature of this DVD is that it has two presentations of the movie, on either side of a dual sided DVD. On one side, the widescreen transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 16x9 enhanced, while the flip-side of the disc has a 1.33:1 version of the movie.

    The sharpness of the image is generally good, but occasionally it is a little soft, such as at 96:47. The quality of the shadow detail is a little variable, but okay.

    The colour appears to be a little aged and rather drab.

    There were no major problems with MPEG or film-to-video artefacts. Film artefacts appear throughout, but they are mostly just small flecks.

    English and French subtitles are present on the DVD, and the English subtitles are accurate.

    This is a single layered disc, so there was no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Originally released theatrically in Dolby Stereo-Surround, this movie was nominated for Best Sound at the Academy Awards. Brilliantly remixed into Dolby Digital 5.1 for this DVD, the audio is a real treat.

    Apart from the English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, there is also a French Dolby Stereo-Surround track.

    The dialogue quality and audio sync are fine on the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track.

    The Oscar nominated musical score is credited to John Corigliano, and it really captures, and helps create, the various moods of the movie.

    The surround presence and activity is fairly aggressive. The rear speakers are used throughout to help carry the score, such as at 10:12, and to provide surround effects, such as the wind at 35:50. There are even some great split-rear directional effects, for example at 38:08.

    The subwoofer is also utilised very effectively to support both the score and the sound effects.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are a surprising number of extras, considering the age of the movie.


    An animated menu, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is silent.

Cast & Crew

    Text-based information.

Behind The Scenes

    Text-based information.

TV Spot 1 (0:34)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 1.0 audio.

TV Spot 2 (1:06)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 1.0 audio.

Theatrical Trailer (2:17)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 1.0 audio.

Reel Recommendations

    Some text-based information, and the trailers for Blade Runner Director's Cut, Contact, Outbreak, and Outland.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This is exactly the same disc as released in the US -- it even includes the FBI copyright warning.


    With striking visual imagery and direction by Ken Russell, wonderful make-up, visual, and sound effects, and some great acting performances (film debuts by William Hurt and Drew Barrymore), Altered States is well worth renting, or buying -- if you already like the movie (the RRP is under $20).

    The video quality is limited, as the source material is dated and NTSC, but it is still good.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The extras are good.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Tuesday, January 28, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Terry K
AllZone4DVD - Kevin S

Comments (Add)
Warning - Widescreen version is WRONG - MichaelCPE
Widescreen version is correct: you're DVD set up isn't - Jace
Set-up is correct - MichaelCPE
I have this DVD - Jace
Please compare the 4:3 and widescreen - MichaelCPE
re: Warning - Widescreen version is WRONG - Roger T. Ward (Some say he's afraid of the Dutch, and that he's stumped by clouds. All we know, this is his bio.)
re: Warning - Widescreen version is WRONG - CatonaPC© (read my bio)
Measurement of Widescreen error - about 10% !!!! - MichaelCPE
Poor video quality of widescreen - MichaelCPE
Movie hard to find for rental -
The Widescreen aspect ratio will never be correct on this DVD because ... -
re: The Widescreen aspect ratio will never be correct on this DVD because ... - Tim -