Talk:Jacob's Ladder (1990 film)

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Good articleJacob's Ladder (1990 film) has been listed as one of the Media and drama good articles under the good article criteria. If you can improve it further, please do so. If it no longer meets these criteria, you can reassess it.
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January 9, 2013Good article nomineeListed

Hell or Hallucination?[edit]

As someone who's seen this movie many times in my life I (and many others) don't buy into the theory that the entire film is just a "hallucination" while he's dying. That's a total cop-out and not very interesting. The way I interpret the film is that he's literally IN purgatory and has been ever since he died in Vietnam because he wasn't ready to let go. Now, he's been in purgatory for 6 years but that doesn't mean time moves at the same rate there as it does on the physical plane. So, when he soldiers remark that he looks peaceful at the end of the film he truly has made his peace at that point but while only a few hours have passed for them 6 years have passed for him. The article needs to reflect this point of view as many fans of the movie have come to the same conclusion as I gave, yet the article only seems to support the view that the movie was his hallucination and since neither are explicitly stated in the film I only think it's fair both views are shown. Just go to IMDB and read the boards, you'll see the camps are totally divided on this issue but there's an equal number of people who subscribe to each interpretation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:37, 16 November 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It's a halucination, or at the very least halucination is part of what is going on. It may well have significantly more spiritual significance than "just" a halucination. These experiences do not happen after he is dead, but as he is dying. What appear to his as flashbacks to Vietnam are really when he regains consciousness. I don't think we can really say that six years have passed for him, we can't assume that he has actually experienced six years. It's like in dreams where time often "skips ahead" in big jumps.--RLent (talk) 19:04, 22 April 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It IS an allucination. Please check the antecedents recently added to the article. It really does not matter what consensus of people who are not familiar with the antecedents say... This theme is at least one millenium old. It was first documented in 1337, from oral traditions dating back from probably the seventh century (please, read chapter XI from Count Lucanor). The title of the movie is an excessively obvious reference to the biblical story of Jacob's ladder, or the dream of a meeting place between Heaven and Earth (Genesis 28:12), which dates back from the 3rd century BC.
the "theme???" Wiktionary definition[[1]] A hallucination is not a dream, the connections to Christian stories about the afterlife are just as valid. The appearance of his dead son (M. Calkin) surely leads the viewer to conclude that he has been dead and "moved on" to heaven. Cuvtixo (talk) 00:43, 7 April 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Now I might be wrong but isn't the professor refereed to as jacob only outside of vietnam and the end of the movie when he finally heads of to the apartment where sara and mcally calkin live. As if alluding to another story line in the movie all together. Seems to me their might be more than one or two story lines being told in this movie.-- (talk) 07:16, 3 September 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree with the first poster above. This movie's plot is multi-layered and I would even say that one's own interpretation of the work is in correspondence with the breadth of one's knowledge of esoteric religious ideas and multiple universes of physics, and postmodern screenplay. You must let the meaning breathe like a bottle of wine , be fascinated by the possible meanings embedded in the three timelines, and their meta meaning. Writing the whole work off as a vast hallucination, while that's what the cover story of the outro suggests, is completely limited in scope and doesn't account for the density of features between timelines nor the precision of how each future timeline represented that era (i.e. the latter 70s, early 80s). How could the protaganist have knowledge of future events such as the existence of disco and 70s clothing? -- Quebex (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 21:53, 2 August 2010 (UTC).Reply[reply]

Very, very well said. For ny any one single interpretation that is put forward as the right one, I can find a half dozen examples for why it doesn't make sense. To be honest, the whole story doesn't really make much sense, but that's OK, I love it.Capuchinpilates (talk) 01:18, 21 October 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Spoilers, Related Films.[edit]

If you can make a connection between this film, The Sixth Sense, and the Others, then I think Donnie Darko is another one worth mentioning.

I haven't seen the film (yet), but the connection to The Sixth Sense and The Others is a potential spoiler in itself. Perhaps it should be moved to the spoiler section. Cnwb 00:45, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)
It absolutley is a spoiler, and so is mentioning that it has a surprise ending. That should be said at the very end. "Watch out for the surprise" ending!" within the first paragraph, really. — Slike | Talk | 03:52, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I've also removed referances to the other films, as giving away their surprise endings to someone who is only expecting spoilers for this movie isn't very nice. — Slike | Talk | 04:13, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
One of the biggest spoilers of all is in the opening paragraph, where it says that the plot is a variation of "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." Moving the offending line. -Mance 11:59, 16 April 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
In reply to the original poster, not all movie's that are related need to be mentioned, I believe we can all make some sort of connection between every horror film. --Neur0X 05:08, 3 July 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Is 'The Ladder' BZ?[edit]


I've moved this from my talk page, since it seems wrong not to have the discussion here where other people can contribute. To summarise: I don't think the film claims that 'The Ladder' is literally and specifically the same drug as BZ. If 'The Ladder' even exists in the film outside Singer's imagination, it's a fictional drug whose testing on Vietnam soldiers mirrors the claimed testing of BZ in real life. Therefore, I don't think the depiction of its effects can unambiguously be described as inaccurate - no one ever said the two drugs were the same. garik 14:59, 31 July 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The following was in response to my edits of 30 July 2006: I'm sorry, but they do say, in the end of the movie, that 'The Ladder' was in fact BZ, and BZ is in fact 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate, so, im reverting some of your edits. Quoted from the movie:

 It was reported that the hallucinogenic
 BZ was used in experiments on
 soldiers during the Vietnam war.
 The Pentagon denied the story.

Oh. and if the drug was entirely fictional they wouldn't have mentioned that in the end of the movie. --Neur0X .talk 23:57, 30 July 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

But the quote you give does not state explicitly that 'The Ladder' (fictional) was in fact BZ (real). The 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate article also notes that "the film does not discuss BZ specifically". It's arguable, I suppose, that the makers are implying that 'The Ladder' = BZ. In which case, they're either ignorant of the effects of BZ or are deliberately misrepresenting them. However, I see no strong reason to assume such a literal interpretation. It seems much more reasonable to assume that the mention of BZ at the end of the film is to show that the idea of experimental drugs being tested on Vietnam soldiers was not entirely fictional, even if the specific drug in the film was. Besides, the fact they don't mention BZ by name anywhere else suggests to me that the ladder is not specifically BZ. It's the actual testing of experimental drugs on soldiers that crosses the fact-fiction boundary, not the specific drug. Unless you can find better evidence for 'The Ladder'=BZ, then I think 'inaccurate' is the wrong word for the Jacob's Ladder article. garik 00:54, 31 July 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I've made changes. Having watched the film yet again, I think we should make clear that the bulk of the film is not necessarily a result of any drug. Also, I've tried to make clear the ambiguity of the drug in the film. We don't even know if there was such a thing (though there probably was): he only finds out about it in what turns out to be a hallucination! This is especially important considering the significance of the name "The Ladder" to his predicament: he's effectively on a ladder between this world and the next. And I'm sorry, but as I've stated above, we do not know for sure that "The Ladder" is literally the same drug as BZ. garik 11:29, 1 August 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I'd have to agree that the mention of BZ was solely for dramatic effect — to bring it all together. There is no reasonable indication that the movie was supposed to be about BZ. However, I'd say that in the fictional world that this movie presents, we are probably supposed to assume that the character who relates the details of The Ladder to Jacob is the spirit of an actual dead scientist, or a helpful angel, or both, or some other entity that is otherwise relating actual information to him in an attempt to help him into heaven. The movie is less interesting if we are to believe that it's all just random hallucination. The tagline sort of tells us that this is a real battle for his soul and not drug-induced hallucination. --The Yar 03:45, 30 August 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Yes, that's much what I thought - I was just being a bit cautious above! garik 09:11, 30 August 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This was added today:

* A scene in which was written but never included in the final cut where ash form the popular evil 
dead series visits jacob and tells him he defeated demons too and went back to when events happened 
like in jacobs ladder. Jacob then stares at him and yells 'you demons get out of my way' then walks 
off. Also when jacobs wife jezebel turns into the monster when she stares at him and he throws her 
there was a big fight scene then she was supposed to carry jacob in the pits of hell and yell jacobs 
took the ladder then the movie ended.

If it's to be included it needs to be rewritten rather more coherently. The first bit sounds very dubious in any case. garik 23:04, 9 December 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The drug BZ is the reason jacob and his unit attacked each other. The movie is actually jacob trying to work out in his mind why he died, so he can be at peace and let go of his life. Once he figures out that the drug was the cause he starts making his peace and lets go of the struggle to hold on to life. So the point of the statement at the end was to point out that the government really did use experimental drugs on soldiers, and that the premise of the movie was at least plausible because of this fact. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:51, 3 November 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

No real hallucinatory drug experience can be so elaborate as to create a job at the postal service, an elaborate relationship with girlfriend, an apartment, etc., etc. I think the hallucinagen is a Red_herring_(narrative), to temporarily explain the gov't agents(demons) who pursue Jacob. I believe another candidate as real drug used in military experiments is Dimethyltryptamine also known as DMT. DMT or BZ really has nothing to do with the plausibility of the movie (and certainly they don't create complete dreamlike narratives in the user's mind). If the producers were seeking plausibility they would have introduced this at the beginning of the film, not the end.Cuvtixo (talk) 00:59, 7 April 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Lyne explains in the director's commentary that he mentioned the drug because he wanted to introduce ambiguity. IOW Lyne felt that without this note the movie would be resolved as being mostly the goings-on in the mind or spirit of a man who is afraid of dying, and with it there wouldn't be a way to determine whether this interpretation is accurate or whether Jacob's unit was given a drug (not necessarily BZ). Given this, if we should give more weight to any interpretation, it's the former, since this is direction Lyne feels the film takes the viewer until all actors have left the screen. We can also mention that the drug interpretation is possible, but I think it would be inappropriate to say that it's BZ. -- SgtSchumann (talk) 03:21, 7 April 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell[edit]

Surely some mention should be made of the obvious inluence of Blake's work on this film, from his etching of the same name to the entire message of TMoHaH.

Trivia section removed.[edit]

I removed the trivia section from this article. Some of the grammar was tortured. I started to fix it, but then I realized most of the statements had virtually no relation to the topic of the article. Why are heavy metal bands and video games being mentioned in an article about a movie? Re-add the trivia (if you must) to their respective pages.

If the trivia section is put back in, please do the following:

  • Correct the grammar.
  • Provide sources for the statements. Absolutely no references were provided for any of the statements made.
  • Provide a compelling reason to list every band that makes use of a three second sample from this movie.
  • Provide a compelling reason to dedicate several paragraphs to a video game that was influenced by this movie. Alternatively, create a separate "Media influenced by Jacob's Ladder" category in the article.

If the trivia section must return, please provide sources! If you don't, then I'll either tag it with (fact) or delete it again. NinjaRobotPirate 16:36, 31 March 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Trivia section re-removed, it follows below for anyone who wants to try to re-integrate some of it into this or other articles:


Special Edition DVD of the film
  • It is suggested that Louis may actually be Jacob's guardian angel. His name resembles the name of Lus (or Bethel), the place where God placed the stairway to heaven in the biblical story of Jacob.
  • Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin initially wanted the demonic and angelic symbolism to be more representative of popular imagery - devils with pitchforks and angels with feathered wings. However, Adrian Lyne decided it would be far more interesting and frightening with more vague and menacing demonic figures.
  • Several scenes that were filmed did not make the final cut of the film. Some of these are included in the DVD special edition. (Two of them being of Jacob taking an antidote for "The Ladder" and the other resulting deleted scene is of a hallucination in the subway. A third one is of Jezebel showing what she truly is to Jacob.)
  • When the screenplay was published in book form, Rubin and Lyne had not yet decided on a way to end the film. Each had a different vision of the final denouement, and the original filmed ending is the one included in the published screenplay. A vast portion of the screenplay is not included in the final cut of the film.
  • A quote from Meister Eckhart was paraphrased in the denoument of the film: "Eckhart saw Hell too. He said: 'The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of life, your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they're not punishing you, he said. They're freeing your soul. So, if you're frightened of dying and... and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth.'"
  • There are no optical visual effects at all.
  • Jacob Singer never appears on-screen in any hallucinations -- all of them are from Jacob's point of view.
  • Scene in bathroom, in which Jacob screams "Stop it! You're killing me!" is sampled in song "Next In Line" by Seattle Progressive metal band Nevermore.
  • The "Vietnam" scenes were actually filmed in Puerto Rico.
  • The line "If you're frightened of dying, and you're holding on..." is used as the final words of the non-vocal version of the VNV Nation song "Forsaken".
  • The album Psyence Fiction by the band UNKLE features the track "Rabbit in Your Headlights" (co-written by Radiohead's Thom Yorke), which also samples the aforementioned line. The same quote is used in the songs "Leave The Light On" by Lagwagon and "Nostalgic For Guillotines" by Boy Sets Fire. The movie is also the basis of Iron Maiden's song "The Legacy" where the song intro is a three minute acoustic 'lullaby' which describes what is obviously a similar situation to the opening scene of Jacob's Ladder.
  • The movie is referenced in the 2002–2003 revival of The Twilight Zone in the episode, "Night Route". The episode has other similarities to the movie as well.
Anyhow, that episode was not "Night Route" but "Nightcrawlers"
  • For approximately 30 seconds, a boom microphone is visible on screen. This is a technical goof.
  • The creative staff of the Silent Hill video game series are big fans of Jacob's Ladder, and influences from and references to the film can be seen throughout games.[citation needed]
  • Lewis Black of the Daily Show has a very small speaking role in the film. He plays the doctor that examines Jacob after he has his ice bath. He has only one line: "You're a lucky man Jake, you must have friends in high places."
  • Kyle Gass, one half of the duo Tenacious D, plays one of Jacobs neighbors in the ice bath scene.
  • This movie was number 21 on the cable channel Bravo's list of the "100 Scariest Movie Moments".

Lexicon (talk) 22:13, 3 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I have again removed the trivia section. First, it's a huge section of useless crap. Second, the whole idea of trivia is that it's too trivial to be important enough to insert into the main article, so the vast majority of it never will be. And finally, it's all unreferenced, and has never been referenced, so it now must go. If you can a) find a reference for a piece of trivia, and b) find a place for it in the article, feel free to re-insert that piece of trivia. Lexicon (talk) 15:24, 6 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Son or Not?[edit]

The article assumes that he has a real son. I am not convinved that this is estalished ever in the flick. The entire movie, save Vietnam, could all be in his mind... Correct me, someone. 01:54, 3 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

No clue, haven't seen the movie in many years. However, a unilateral wholesale change of the article that removes useful wikilinks in the process probably isn't helpful at this point. What we need is to quote reviews and such that discuss the plot, instead of determining it ourselves, which would be original research. Lexicon (talk) 14:34, 4 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This seems to me rather a pedantic point in any case. I say leave the article as it is. garik 17:43, 4 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Sorry everyone; I have no interest in trying to change the article. I was just asking a question about the status of one of the charactors. 04:31, 7 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The son is real, it is mentioned by jezebel that gabe was the kid that died before he went to veitnam, so the sons spirit was actually there to greet him and guide him to the light(heaven). The life with jezebel is just him trying to hold on to his life by conjuring up relations with people he knew from the past; hallucinating a life after Nam, and he mentions to his wife after waking up at the house with his family, that he had a dream where he was with jezzy from the post office. So jezebel was just his imagination. All this is somewhat explained in the new version dvd with a few deleted scenes that shed light on the movie. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:44, 3 November 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Influence of Mr. Arcularis by Conrad Aiken?[edit]

I love the movie. In high school, we read a short story by Conrad Aiken entitled "Mr. Arcularis" which is *very* similar. I always assumed Jacob's Ladder was that story transported into Vietnam, much as Apocalypse Now is Heart of Darkness transported to Vietnam. But I've never been able to find evidence to this effect. Does anyone know more on this possible connection? And do check out the short story, it's good. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:44, 27 April 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Metaphors section[edit]

If someone doesn't provide citations soon for all the unsourced claims and opinions made in the evaluation section, it's going to have to be removed almost entirely. garik (talk) 14:20, 7 November 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Right, I've removed the Metaphors section, since it appeared to be nothing but OR. garik (talk) 17:41, 7 November 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge[edit]

The article currently mentions Bierce's short story and a short film based on it. It seems to me that it makes sense to mention Bierce's story, because it is the first (popular) story to have the kind of twist that Jacob's Ladder has. However, I think that if we mention the film, then we've begun hopping down a bunny trail unless we have a reference that says that Lyne was influenced by it. Do we? —Preceding unsigned comment added by SgtSchumann (talkcontribs) 03:35, 7 April 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

According to the screenwriter's introduction in the published script version, the film began life as a spec screenplay, so if there were any influences, it would be on the writer, not the director. (talk) 14:09, 12 May 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

1975 not 1977[edit]

I just checked the published screenplay. The Jezzie (Elizabeth Peña) era is 1975, not 1977. (talk) 14:09, 12 May 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Labyrinth Dungeons & Dragons: interviews from film describe audience test results, "catatonic". Revelations, Jezzie, in dvd extras sure explains phenomena experience, and encouraging for production works. Forward, public & private. feedback75.203.243.222 (talk) 20:07, 3 July 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Questionable material: "Innovative Effects"[edit]

This section details a single technique, despite the plural heading, and goes on at length about a number of unrelated films that use a similar technique. Furthermore, "innovative" is completely misleading if the mention of the Brothers Quay is accurate: it claims that they've been playing with this technique as far back as 1986. Unless the rules of causality are under dispute, it seems a misstep to call Lyne's use of the technique "innovative". Reducing this section to a sentence -- at most -- would be a step in the right direction. Eradicating it would be better. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:41, 21 August 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]


People have the oddest ideas about war, Hitler, and all those ignored. Max. Histories Mysteries could not unfold truth to the people, and black listed me also. Walter Winchell75.201.214.15 (talk) 06:00, 23 November 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Since the Antecedents section mentions the Ambrose Bierce story, shouldn't it also mention Albert Camus "The Stranger", the novel Singer is conspicuously reading in the subway? Another tale about making sense of impending death, although in that case doing so without the assistance of religious trappings. Steve Wise (talk) 04:46, 29 December 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Jacob's service number[edit]

While I've been won over to the idea that just random mention of service numbers in films is a bad idea, the line in this article talking about the use of the property master's service number is referenced and unique in that the producers did not simply make-up a number, but used the service number of someone directly connected to the film. A good example would be if a telephone number of license plate appeared in a film, and it turned out to be Brad Pitt or somebody else's real information (okay, that wouldn't happened due to legal issues but its a good example). - OberRanks (talk) 01:47, 10 March 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

dvd extras[edit]

There is an interview on dvd extras of Jacob's Ladder which discusses testing film on audience, and how they became catatonic. This could prove theatre effects are capable of psychologically improving atmospheres by sending informations to certain areas. There is an attinuation process in the human psyche which is adjusted according to individual's knowledge, charactor, etc., and superstition followed by supernatural movie effects can cause temporary disorders, which is also attenuation balance. Medicine Man <|> (talk) 15:43, 8 November 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Is this incomprehensible edit directed at improving the article? Cresix (talk) 18:20, 16 December 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Only the last line of each paragraph appears to be any kind of synthesis. The setup of the section appears to be textbook OR, and the bits that actually have relevant cites should be worked in elsewhere. (talk) 23:04, 19 March 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]


The title of the film refers to the biblical story of Jacob's Ladder, or the dream of a meeting place between Heaven and Earth (Genesis 28:12). The earliest literary antecedent appears in Don Juan Manuel's Tales of Count Lucanor, Chapter XI,[1] in which a life happens in an instant (1337). This story was rewritten by Jorge Luis Borges in the short story "The Wizard Postponed" in his book A Universal History of Infamy (1935). A similar dying hallucination occurs in Borges' short story The Secret Miracle (1944). The film is also viewed by many, including the screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin,[2] as a modern interpretation of Bardo Thodol (the Tibetan Book of the Dead).[3]

"The Ladder"[edit]

Jacob is told that the horrific events he experienced on his final day in Vietnam were the product of an experimental drug called "The Ladder", which was used on troops without their knowledge. Jacob is told this by Michael Newman (Matt Craven), who is later seen treating his wounds in a Medevac helicopter. He is told that the drug was named for its ability to cause "a fast trip straight down the ladder, right to the primal fear, right to the base anger." Although the name "The Ladder" also has a metaphorical and religious significance beyond this, it is notable that the film begins in a subway station and ends on a stairway.

At the end of the film, a message is displayed mentioning the testing of a drug named BZ, NATO code for a deliriant and hallucinogen known as 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate that was rumored to have been administered to U.S. troops by the government in a secret attempt to increase their fighting power. The effects of BZ, however, are different from the effects of the drug depicted in the film. Director Adrian Lyne himself noted that "nothing ... suggests that the drug BZ—a super-hallucinogen that has a tendency to elicit maniac behavior—was used on U.S. troops."[2]

Talk:Jacob's Ladder (film)/GA1


  1. ^ "Conde Lucanor : Ejemplo 11". Wikisource. Retrieved 2008-11-13. {{cite web}}: Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  2. ^ a b Hartl, John (1990-11-01). "Adrian Lyne Met A Metaphysical Challenge". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2010-02-06.
  3. ^ Golden, Tim (1990-10-28). "FILM; Up 'Jacob's Ladder' And Into the Hell Of a Veteran's Psyche". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-22.

The painting illustration[edit]

I'll just place it here as for now, due to possible copyright issues. --Niemti (talk) 04:35, 9 January 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I think displaying it on the talk page is, for copyright purposes,the same as displaying it in the article; we're still posting it on an additional page without a fair use rationale. So let's shrink it down to a link. If any future editors of this page would like to find a way to use the image it's at File:Head VI (1949).JPG. -- Khazar2 (talk) 12:31, 9 January 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I expanded on the dev, might need some copyedit. --Niemti (talk) 21:19, 10 January 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

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