The Tenth Level

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The Tenth Level
Directed by Charles S. Dubin
Produced by George Bellak
Written by George Bellak
Starring William Shatner
Ossie Davis
Lynn Carlin
Estelle Parsons
Stephen Macht
Lindsay Crouse
John Travolta
Music by Charles Gross
Edited by George Hartman
Henry Weiland
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
April 3, 1976
Running time
94 min
Country United States
Language English

The Tenth Level is a 1976 TV-movie starring William Shatner. Inspired by the Stanley Milgram obedience research, this TV movie chronicles a psychology professor's study to determine why people, such as the Nazis, were willing to "just follow orders" and do horrible things to others. Professor Stephen Turner (Shatner) leads students to believe that they are applying increasingly painful electric shocks to other subjects when they fail to perform a task correctly, and is alarmed to see how much pain the students can be convinced to inflict "in the name of science."

In the movie dramatization there were actually 25 levels of increasing voltage/pain. However, the so-called tenth level was significant in that it was always the first time in which the actual test subject heard the other (false) test subject cry out in pain.

Rather than filmed and aired as a TV-movie, it was shot directly on videotape at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York City and on location at Yale University where the original Milgram experiments had taken place, and presented as a teleplay reminiscent of the "Golden Age of Television" (the closing credits resembled those of CBS's anthology series Playhouse 90). The film was never released on video or DVD.

It was the TV debuts of Stephen Macht, Lindsay Crouse and (a then-unknown) John Travolta has an uncredited part as a student.

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