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STUDIO:
Warner Bros.


MSRP:
$26.98
RATED:
R

RUNNING
TIME:
88 Minutes

SPECIAL FEATURES:
• Commentary

Theater of Noise

• Documentaries
• Original student film

Trailers

Before
he brought us pop music infused coming of age
tales and intergalactic heroics, George Lucas
delivered THX 1138, a cold look
at what our future could be if we fell further
into the embrace of consumerism and dependency.
It’s an art film through and through, something
that provides a sharp contrast to the George
Lucas of 2004 and a film that is arriving at
a perfect time to reinforce the legacy of the
filmmaker as well as shine a deserved spotlight
on a truly deserving bit of work.


Lobot
loved it when Palpatine shed the cloak and showed
off his Dark Side.

The
Flick


"That
little skank did Major Bludd in the linen closet
last night."

Humans
are nothing more than numbers, fueled by a strict
regimen of drugs and supervision. They exist
to buy. They exist to be cogs in the machine
and little else. The world is devoid of color
and bleak, manned by chrome faced robotic officers
and each day in this sterile underground is
the same as the one before. It’s that science
fiction staple that never gets old, the mirror
image of our own society where big brother rules
the roost and we’re forced to rise up.

Robert
Duvall is THX 1138, a worker whose grip on this
medicated future is loosening. He’s beginning
to show feeling and the big eye in the sky knows
it. His newfound love for his mate (Maggie McOmie)
shatters the placid little world around him
and he is taken in for “conditioning” along
with a few other people, including SEN-5241
(Donald Pleasence), another who seems a little
smitten with THX. The result is less of a traditional
narrative and more a jagged look at what mankind
hath wrought. Or could.



Finally, the answer to the question "Is
Warwick Davis a bear?".

The
film is most interesting in its starkness and
nearly comprehensive use of such a sterile palette
of colors and tones. Lucas has said that he
wanted to make THX 1138 as a documentary
from the future or another world and it’s apparent
in every frame. Sound is displaced and tells
the story as much as the images, both coming
forth in jagged and raw bursts that showcase
a filmmaker we’ve not seen since. Lucas was
a prodigy coming out of film school and this
film showcases someone much more like a Stanley
Kubrick than the master ringmaster we’ve grown
to paint the man as. This is a brave, potent
film that pulls a chair right next to both the
literary works which inspired it as well as
the pioneering science fiction films that are
considered the pillars of the genre and it adds
its own mythology to the mix. I’d seen it in
my youth but dismissed it as a boring, small
effort hampered both by its age as well as the
lack of lightsabers and landspeeders but now
it makes perfect sense why Lucas was allowed
to make Star Wars. This is almost
like the scholarly, mature big brother to Star
Wars
in both its themes of men against
oppression and mechanized villainy and also
its look at how our society (both then and now)
is so reliant on material things and our willingness
to fall in as the cattle the corporations view
us as. Of course, the irony that Lucas is now
the poster boy for marketing and milking the
consumer base isn’t lost on me, but the fact
remains that his is a career forged in art and
ambition and not commerce. I think he is being
honest when he says that this film more than
any other represents his actual place as a filmmaker.


The
goverment rule of Emperor Vidal Sassoon was
brief but fair.

For
such a tiny budget, THX 1138 doesn’t
feel like an inexpensive film. I don’t remember
the original well enough to compare, but even
without the obvious new digital bells and whistles
they’ve added it seems like a pure vision. Before
digital effects came in and spoiled the fun
for everyone, George Lucas was the master of
making science fiction look “lived in” and functional
rather than just pretty and futuristic for the
sake of lulling his audience into swallowing
the bait. Here as in the pre-90’s incarnations
of the Star Wars original trilogy, everything
seems functional and used. It’s something that
goes a long way towards making films in this
genre resonate. Since it was made in the early
1970’s, it’s hard to expect the film to represent
an accurate vision of future technology even
by our current standards, but nothing is overly
explained or presented with a knowing wink so
we are just shown the future instead of being
taken on a guided tour. It’s a smart approach,
something we don’t often see in our current
diet of science fiction. Everything has to be
shown to us, both to share recognition with
our present-day versions of them but also because
some effects artist or craftsman took the time
to realize them so they must be seen. In THX
1138
we’re given no such explanations
so we have to assume that the tubular device
that rises out of Robert Duvall’s lap has just
sucked the boy sauce out of him.


Harvey
continued his thrusting, completely oblivious
to the bartenders watching and taking notes.

There
are tons of stories about finding one’s individuality,
and had I not dismissed this film ages ago I’d
have realized that Equilibrium
owes a great debt to it. This is one of the
better stories/cautionary tales in regards to
our ever-present battle with maintaining our
self. The fact it was made by a filmmaker right
at the beginning of the 70’s film school brat
surge is even more impressive. The fact that
it comes from a filmmaker we now know as George
Lucas™ is the icing on the cake. THX 1138
is a special movie.

Because
it is so cold, nondescript, and alien in the
way it communicates with its viewer, it’s not
what I’d classify as an entertainment. It’s
an art film, something that is more concerned
with achieving a subconscious reaction than
winning over an audience with outright drama,
action, or comedy. There are moments that work
that way for sure, like the repeated query of
“what’s wrong?” every time someone opens their
medicine cabinet. At first it was weird, but
the more I heard it the more funny I found it
and if the voice had been any different it probably
wouldn’t have worked. I also chuckled at the
idea of Donald Pleasance pining for Robert Duvall’s
affections, the completely joyless masturbation
of the future, and the fact that after an accident
literally destroys a handful of workers that
there’s a PA announcement about how good a job
the other people are doing as mangled lumps
of humanity are dragged out of the wreckage.


Narcoleptic
Ronald always fell asleep at the pin on hole
15 at Fuzzy Zoeller’s personal golf course.

There
also is action, primarily in the last act. When
it is apparent that escape is the only logical
means of ending their crushing lifestyle, the
survivors hop into exotic cars and tear ass
through the tunnels. The scenes work well, proving
that Lucas has never had a problem staging an
action sequence. One stunt in particular will
blow your mind, especially when you discover
that the stunt man not only survived but wasn’t
hurt at all. Overall, it’s a statement film
but it has its moments. This new director’s
cut features an array of digital additions as
is per the norm for Lucas and while some of
them are more jarring than others it doesn’t
feel as out of place here. The weird creatures
at the end are just creepy enough and more lithe
than the original version’s “little people”
that it works, the added scenery brings it a
little closer to the future, and the original’s
deficiencies in execution were mostly due to
a lack of resources. As a result, I cannot really
complain about these additions. Actually, it
makes THX 1138 an easier film
to watch. In some respects this film could have
been made in 2004, something that’s damn near
impossible in science fiction. It may or may
not be a classic, depending on your particular
parameters, but at the end of the day
THX 1138
is something pretty powerful
and a testimony to the skills and mindset of
Mr. George Lucas.



It then dawned on Dolores that perhaps they
should stop performing ‘Zombie’ during their
coffee shop tour of ’04.

8.0
out of 10


Gary
hated when the Micah police showed up for their
weekly ‘Robinson’.

The
Look


This
disc was made possible by Lucas and his unrivaled
posse of technical wizards and warlocks, so
it’s obvious that the DVD is something rather
astounding to look at. What is remarkable is
how wonderful and crisp they’ve made it all
look since this film was made before the Lucasfilm
guys really took an interest in film restoration.
This is simply remarkable to look at and though
there are a few intermittent scratches to be
found upon close inspection, it’s as nice a
transfer as an older, smaller film has ever
had.

It
has to be seen to be believed. This is right
up there with the amazing transfers for Casablanca,
The Adventures of Robin Hood,
and all those other magnificent rereleases.

10
out of 10



"I never should have complimented the Sun’s
powerful rays", thought Abe. "Now
the little bitch follows me EVERYWHERE".


The
Noise


Walter
Murch wanted to create a "Theater of Noise"
with this film, and while it’s a weird audio
track by today’s standards, it is truly experimental
and interesting as a project when coupled with
today’s home theater capabilitites. The film
has been given a loving 5.1 track that scatters
the sound to all corners and creates an immersive
and slightly claustrophobic feel to the movie.
Surely it’s intentional and it achieves more
with little than some tracks do with an all
out assault on the ears. This is an example
on how to really use the soundstage and Murch
and Lucas have pulled a rabbit out of a hat
here.

10
out of 10

The
Goodies

First, I must
say that I wish they’d included the original
version of the film here. For people like me
who haven’t seen it since we wore clothing by
OshKosh, it’s hard to know what’s been changed.
Making matters worse is that there’s no featurette
that tells what was changed or illuminates anything
about the restoration process or what has been
added to make this a "director’s cut".
That’s bad form. It’s also the only really negativ
ething I can say about the disc’s features.



It was then that the principal realized he shouldn’t
have let young del Toro be in charge of the
video annual project for Guadalajara High.


There’s a commentary
track featuring Murch and Lucas that is remarkably
devoid of much mention of the Star Wars
trilogy, instead digging to the core of their
motivation for this film as well as the rocky
road to have it made. They also spend a good
deal of time on the technical side and I was
surprised that it managed to remain entertaining
even though the film is so barren and the technical
efforts seem benign by today’s standards. If
nothing else, this DVD has reminded me why I
idolized Lucas as a young pup. It isn’t that
he made Star Wars, but it’s the
sensibilities that informed him while making
Star Wars. The intangibles that
helped elevate those films as well as American
Graffiti
into something larger than
just being action/sci-fi or just a coming of
age tale. His approach to his subject matter
is why this film still works, why this DVD is
so profoundly crafted, and why he has his own
little city in Northern California. Hearing
him discuss stuff on a commentary track outside
of Star Wars showcases the filmmaker
and not the businessman, the Oz behind the curtain.
It’s a good thing for a Star Wars cynic
like me.

There’s
also a "Theater of Noise" track that
features just the noise and sound effects of
the movie and I’ll be very surprised if this
doesn’t become a staple of nightclubs and trendy
spots, something to put on the monitors in the
background. It feels very much like an extended
music video, but one given room to breathe.
It’s very bizarre to watch and I found myself
kind of zoning out as it played. If nothing
else, people will have something new to watch
under the influence.

There
are two solid retrospecive documentaries on
both the making of the film and its influence
as well as the filmmakers who made Francis Ford
Coppola’s American Zoetrope company so interesting
in the 1970′s. They’re well crafted and it’s
nice to see the principals revisit the film
that served as a small springboard for their
careers.

The
short film that won all sorts of acclaim for
Lucas in film school is included too, and while
I didn’t find it all that entertaining I understand
how it made him a filmmaker to look out for.
There’s also a mostly weird vintage featurette
about Lucas’ decision to shave the heads of
the cast and it’s made even stranger by the
weird echo effect on some of the voices. Back
then, being bald was a little less common than
now and flowing locks were a sign of the freedom
and rebellion of the time. Now, it means that
white people can try to look tough without even
having to work out!

The
trailers for both releases are included and
I have to admit that they have done a pitch
perfect job of selling this film with the new
spots. They’re incredible. The first time I
saw one I thought it was for a new movie. That
either showcases how good a job they did or
how lacking we are of real science fiction these
days. You decide.

8.5
out of 10

The
Artwork

Buy me!Perfection.

Simple,
iconic bits of artwork are almost always more
effective than fancy usage of Photoshop and
pictures of actors that do little else than
to show off their familiar faces. Here we see
the embodiment of conformity, an image that
may not bring back tons of THX 1138
memories but instead provide a timelessness
to both the film and the DVD. It’s simple and
beautiful. Unless that’s Sinead O’Conner. Then,
it’s hideous and not Catholic.

As
an aside, they sent me a little poster of this
as well as a little pin like the pictured earring
as well as a little bar code tattoo. That’s
some cool stuff.

10 out of 10

Overall: 8.8 out of 10