By: The Dweeb
Just after high school I went on a trip to Los Angeles to attend a ‘film camp’. One of the stops was the famed USC film school where we had a screening of several notable alumni’s student films, one of them being THX 1138. I remember sitting in awe and amazement at this spectacle, so simple yet complex. It is clear Lucas has talent, so what the heck happened? Now, I sit in awe at his first theatrical film, the newly revamped THX 1138 directors cut. Just like its smaller older brother, it is a technical achievement as well. You see the buddings of a great career about to take off, with familiar edits, sound effects and even camera movement and shots.
The film was way ahead of its time, and the Warner suits didn’t know what to do with it. Its not one of those films that can be easily wrapped up into a package. So they did what management does best, rip out the directors vision and let it die slowly. Little did they know that that punk kid from San Francisco would turn into one of the mega titans of Hollywood. I find it ironic that Warners has now decided to promote the heck out this release after all these years.
Compared to his more recent works, THX 1138 is probably his most dark and adult themed film to date. I was quite surprised that he actually has *gasp* some sex and nudity in there. I’m not used to seeing that coming from the man that gave us Jar Jar and Ewoks. THX has a very simple story line, there isn’t much movement in the story arc. This film is really a visual and audio feast, hard to believe this was made on such a small budget and yet it is very complex.
THX 1138 is George Lucas’s version of 1984, albeit not as grim as that story. His vision of the future still holds many themes and ideas that still resonate today, even though this is done with the late 60’s turmoil as his backdrop at the time. The world he portrays in here is full of stark contrasts. Everything is sterile and white, there is nothing organic except the people, who remain sedated and go about their daily lives working and consuming. Nobody shows emotion, not even reacting to the deaths of the workers in the factory.
Once THX (Robert Duvall) and his mate LUH (Maggie McOmie) break the cycle of sedation, which is illegal, they succumb to their human emotions. This starts the chain of events that leads THX to his eventual escape. In the process, he meets some odd characters like SEN (Donald Pleasance) and eventually ends up in this prison with a bunch of wackos. I guess this prison wasn’t very good because they were able to walk out of there no problem.
There isn’t much dialogue, its more of a visual tapestry. Even the current revisions George has made to this film with computer animations (which he seems to enjoy doing lately) do not distract from the original. They actually blend in nicely, unlike some scenes from the Star Wars trilogy where it just doesn’t seem quite right.
Of course, being a George Lucas film, the technical aspects of the DVD are first class. The remastered sound and picture is top notch. It doesn’t look like this film is over 30 years old, its been cleaned up so well it looks completely fresh. The audio of course, would be remiss if it wasn’t remixed into its namesake format THX. The sound is the real standout here, and the mix is rich and vibrant.
On the second disc is all the bonus material. There are two lengthy documentaries on the early history of American Zoetrope and on the making of THX 1138. I also like the fact that they included the original student film from USC as well, so you can see what the original was like. There is also a humorous documentary on the head shaving process, which of course at that time nobody had short hair.
Also, you just can’t sit through this movie once. They give us plenty of reasons to watch it over and over again. There is a branching scenes version, like the “follow the white rabbit” feature employed on The Matrix DVD. You can listen to the soundtrack only or even the commentary from George and Walter Murch. There are many good choices, and that’s the type of stuff that makes for an excellent DVD.