A number of volatile anaesthetics, and some compounds synthesized in the search for new anaesthetics, have been tested on guinea-pig intestinal smooth muscle in vitro. All the compounds produced a contractile response. This effect did not correlate well with convulsant activity in vivo among the compounds tested. Two kinds of stimulant effect were distinguishable: (1) Rapid, transient contractions, abolished by cocaine or lachesine; most of the anaesthetics in clinical use had this action. (2) Slow, sustained contractions, unaffected by cocaine or lachesine; this effect predominated among the fluorinated ring compounds. Hexamethonium and mepyramine did not affect the contractile response to any of the compounds. The first type of effect presumably represents excitation of postganglionic nerve cells, while the second type is a direct action on the muscle cell. The action of perfluorobenzene, which is of the latter kind, was studied further. Adrenaline and lack of calcium diminished the contraction in parallel with the contraction to histamine, which suggests that the cell membrane was the site of action; in contrast to the stimulant action of histamine or acetylcholine, the effect was highly temperature-sensitive, being almost abolished by cooling to 32 degrees C, and enhanced at 40 degrees C. The depressant action of anaesthetics on smooth muscle is affected very little by temperature changes. These findings are discussed in relation to other observations which suggest a stimulant action of volatile anaesthetics on excitable tissues. Protein denaturation is tentatively suggested as a mechanism of action.