Sci-Fi Storm

Review of THX 1138 Director’s Cut

by on Dec.02, 2004, under General News, Movies, Video/DVD

I finally got the time to finish going through THX 1138 – The George Lucas Director’s Cut – a newborn has been taking a lot of our time and is a constant distraction – I’d like to view it again before writing this, but I promised a review a while ago. Anyways…in a nutshell, it may have been made in 1971, but it is still a relevant film and wears its age fairly well. And for the first feature film of the man who later gave us Star Wars and Indiana Jones, an amazing film.

I saw the original THX 1138 quite a number of years ago – I’d say at least 15, late night on cable. I remembered parts, but not a lot. This brings it all back, and then some.

In the future, your thought, emotions, and movements are all controlled. Everyone lives underground. You have no privacy. You take drugs – because to not take them is a crime. And the worst crime you can commit is to love another.

THX 1138 works in a droid manufacturing plant, helping to place the radioactive capsules that power the droids. Once false move could mean disaster. Accidents are common, and so are the deaths that go with them. His roommate is LUH 3417, and when he stops taking his drugs he falls in love. She gets pregnant, and for that they are both jailed, and work to completely escape their society.

This version, restored and remastered, includes additional scenes as well as digitally enhanced scenes. Having not seen the original in many years, it is difficult to see what was added, but notable is the workings in the droid factory, where you can see more of the actual assembly area. In general the film is beautifully restored, such that it doesn’t appear like a 30+ year old movie, but could have been filmed more recently. The exception is in some of the graphic overlays, such as the numbers – the significance of I’m not aware.

The movie was in fact based on George Lucas’ student film from when he was at USC, Electronic Labrinth THX 1138 4EB, which is included on the supplemental disc. This is a short film which gives a brief overview of the “anti-love” culture, and then picks up with the chase – a chase where for the most part the subject is not physically being pursued, but followed by camera – but is no less thrilling. Certainly some of the “high-tech” locations were borrowed from USC at the time. And the “stacks” which some techs pass through look very similar to the ones the police walk through in the feature film version.

Also included on the supplemental disc are the 1971 making-of special, “Bald”, where they even made the shaving of the actors heads a film of its own, plus two new documentaries, “Artifact from the Future: The Making of THX 1138”, which was very good, and “A Legacy of Filmmakers: The Early Years of American Zoetrope”, about the “changing of the guard” so to speak from the old-school film studios to the new corporate style that took over. Plus the original trailer and several new trailers for the DVD release. The Main Feature also includes the now-obligatory commentary track featuring Lucas and co-writer/sound designer Walter Murch. Alas, time did not allow viewing with the commentary track.

And now for the scores, on my tough 0-5 scale:

Plot/Story: An excellent, thought-provoking story that acts as an allegory for the direction society was headed, that really isn’t dated today. 5/5

Character: With Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasance, you are going to get good acting. Overall for character development I think it was a bit weak, but that may have been a factor of the youth of the writers and characters themselves. The script/dialog could be a bit dull at times. Lets call it 2/5.

Visuals/Effects: The restoration of the original film, along with the new CGI enhancements, makes for a very clean film. And who knew that minimalist sets with utter whiteness could be put to such great effect. Some of the set elements are pretty dated though (the hologram system, etc.) but you can’t fault it based on the fact that it was 1971. George didn’t go and revise everything like he did with Star Wars, but there could always be another version. 4/5

DVD Extras: Good documentaries added, and the inclusion of the original short was a must. In total, compared to most of the special editions out there, not a lot was added. One easter egg – On Disc 2, go to the arrow on the menu, and you’ll get a small list of DVD credits – but press Select and you will get to read the original two page treatment Lucas based his short on. 3/5

Overall: A good film in a nice package, but some may still feel it is dated. 4/5

Total: 3.6 out of 5 stars. Pretty good score for a movie almost as old as I am… 🙂

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