THX 1138

Directed by George Lucas

> > Oct 2004

THX 1138 - Directed by George Lucas
By Kathleen OlmsteadIt's surprising that it has taken so long for George Lucas to restore and re-release his first and favourite film. Money certainly wasn't the issue, as THX-1138 is a slight film, with a plot reminiscent of a Twilight Zone episode with simplistic comments on totalitarianism and rampant consumerism, but it's well-executed and looks good. Shot on location in and around San Francisco, THX is set in a world beneath the earth's surface controlled by robots. Citizens are drugged to control emotions, sex is illegal and babies are grown in a lab. THX (Robert Duvall) and LUH (Maggie McOmie) buck the system by refusing the pills and falling in love. This is a very bleak version of "things to come," which Walter Murch refers to as a "used future," where nothing is shiny and new. This is not a story where the hero beats the oppressive system, and was made years before Lucas conceived of A New Hope. There are plenty of extras, including interesting archival bits like Lucas's original student film THX 1138 4EB and "Bald," a featurette to promote the feature's initial release. It focused on the actors shaving their heads for the film, which allows Coppola to ask the important question, "How are you going to get girls to have no hair?," rather than focus on the story. It probably would have been a good teaser had anyone seen it in 1971. The audio track by Lucas and Walter Murch (co-writer and sound designer) provides interesting filming details. Murch (I'm a big fan and think he's one of the smartest, most erudite people working in film) offers insight into sound development and design. By playing the "Master Session" track — a red dot that appears at select scenes — you can skip to a clip of Murch describing how each effect was achieved. If you're at all inclined towards the power of sound editing, this is essential stuff. "A Legacy of Filmmakers" details the early years of American Zoetrope, a company started by Coppolla for auteurs to produce films outside of the system. It's not a challenging film but does document the amazing potential — Zoetrope featured industry, corporate and Hollywood filmmakers of today when they were young independent upstarts — that collapsed after the failure of this first feature. It's sort of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: The Good Parts. Lucas never wanted to make big budget merchandising machines and if Warner had been more accepting of THX, he might not have gone down such a traditional path. While Murch and Coppola remain excited about the adventure of filmmaking, Lucas is caught up in his own work. Now that he is finished with all that Star Wars stuff, he can return to making small personal films like THX. Even I'm amazed (as a loyal Star Wars brand believer) by the size of Lucas's ego. He believes he can do no wrong. We'll just have to see about that. Extras: "making of," trailers. (Warner)
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