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3.5 out of 5 stars92
3.5 out of 5 stars
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on 10 June 2008
Bar a few exceptions (Bladerunner being the obvious one) I find the notion of the director's cut a highly suspicious enterprise, especially from a director whose post-70s output has been so poor. I also hate the extraneous use of CGI effects, which I think are lazy and poor in comparison to the stylish model work of films from the period. Setting aside any on the use of CGI, here it is largely sparing, adding colour and detail but rarely superfluous. As I am not familar with the original film, it wasn't always jarringly obvious what was added and what has just been cleaned up in the remastering. Yes, there are some pointless CGI creatures thrown in for good measure - Lucas probably couldn't resist - but the spirit of the 70s remains.

What is most striking about THX 1138 is the sound. Lalo Schifrin's score has apparently been digitally scrubbed up and is paramount to the mood and intensity of the film. A continual bleed of dislocated voices, radio chatter, metallic echoes and other abrasive, industrial sonic ephemera, you can see why the film had such a powerful influence on leftfield musicians from DJ Shadow to Radiohead. The latter's 'Fitter, Happier' could have been lifted directly out of the film, in which robot voices calmly reassure us that 'for more enjoyment and greater efficiency, consumption is being standardized.'All this adds to the film's maddeningly dislocated atmosphere, its themes of dehumanisation and automisation.

For a new viewer to the film, THX 1138 is shockingly avant-garde, and bears no resemblance whatsoever to any of Lucas' subsequent work. It has a loose, drifting narrative, a main character in Duval who is hardly lucid and is driven by non-articulated instincts to escape the nightmarish Orwellian society he is trapped in. Although indebted to 1984 and Fritz Lang's Metropolis, and to a lesser extent Brave New World and the works of Philip K Dick, it is important not to understate the key role this film has played in the history of Sci-Fi. It has clearly had a profound influence on countless films from Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil' and '12 Monkeys', to 'Gattaca'. Despite the science-fiction tag, this is very much a contemporaneous piece born from a climate of paranoia about surveillance that surfaced under Nixon and was manifest in films like The Conversation by Francis Ford Coppola, who was tellingly the producer here. It has its own singular visual identity, all starched whites, bald heads and surgical gowns, and there are some extraordinarily expressionistic scenes that rank among the genre's finest.

While the idea of citizens being debased to drug-induced, barcoded consumers is not wholly new - see Aldous Huxley - 'THX 1138' still seems to pre-empt alot of the more contemporaenous suspicion towards consumer culture among musicians, filmmakers and writers. In structure and atmosphere, it is nightmarish stuff that requires an audience prepared to accept ambiguity and near absence of meaningful structure or dialogue. However, such a dislocated mood is vital for a film which deals with a society of automatons whose human desires and thoughts are being ruthlessly subjugated and managed. Let yourself get sucked in!
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on 30 September 2004
I first heard of this film sometime ago and I must admit I bought the film without even having seen it beforehand. But I'm really glad I did. This film is just great to watch as the visuals are so eyecatching and that is without the obvious visual effects changes Lucas has made in his director's cut. The scene in the 'prison cell' is notable for it's simplistic appeal. Robert Duvall also delivers a unique performance. Some of the dialogue is a little strange but the film is not let down by this. To complement this film there is a good selection of extra features especially the American Zoetrope documentary.
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on 11 January 2005
THX 1138 is a film based in a future dystopia similair to 1984 -
The people of the future are drug users doped up to keep them productive as workers and emotionless - willing to do whatever ordered . It is quickly established that humans are now produced in labs and are given 'serial numbers' instead of names (THX 1138 being Robert Duvall, the main protagonists name) . THX is feeling strange and we find out this is because in an act of defiance his 'mate' LUH is replacing his sedatives with placebos - so he is essentially becoming more human .
The story follows THX'S awakening and fight to escape .
The main thing that differentiates this film from others in the genre is the dream like quality and almost white washed look of the film - This is such a great thing because it makes the film less dated. Everything is bright white and all the characters are bald - none of those 70's haircuts to detract from the story and mood! Although there is obviousely a plot the film is more like a series of memorable set pieces and if you are like myself you will find yourself muttering all the excellent quotes much to your confused friends dismay . Key scenes such as the robotic confession box where THX relays his problem to a badly synched tape recorder and a glowing portrait of ohm are excellent. The sound and look of the motorbikes chasing THX through tunnels ... There are some excellent 'what IS happening ' moments - the film is quirky as hell . Lucas nerds will notice the similaritys between the officers electric shock sticks and the light sabres ..
The other amazing thing about this film is the unique sound - in the double disk edition is an excellent featurette documenting how it was made . There are no cheesy theremins here , it truly is a real piece of work . Alot of the sound you here on the film are messages being relayed from characters through radio - there is just something about the crackling frequency -wobbling audio, and the music is spacey and haunting . I haven't seen the original but can guess at a couple of inserted scenes involving cars but i think thats it . In my opinion though this film hasn't aged badly at all when compared to other late 60's early 70's sci fi . I was apprehensive because of Lucas's new star wars twaddle (although this is his first film and pre dates the trilogy ) but was very happy . It is not a fast moving film , i wouldn't even call it a thriller thriller - there won't be surprising revelations and clever plot twists. Everything is calculated up to the ending because this is the society of the future . Consumption is being standardised - buy more - buy more and be happy .
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I think a lot of people who seem to almost stumble on to this film, think they are getting an unseen episode of the Star Wars Saga. They are then disappointed and hence write bad reviews.

Yes it's another dystopia themed 1984 film, or if you like that dumb down feeling day in day out, hey you found your Utopian society! Where it's an offence not take your drugs!
Admittedly it does not seem to have the originality of Brave New world or 1984. The film talks of the `standardisation of consumerism'. However, on closer inspection THX and his associates seem to live in sterile, cubist, white-wash apartments. The only things in their apartment, that hinted at consumer consumption, was the crass 3D TV entertainment and a full drugs cabinet.

I remember seeing the unaltered version, i.e. non CGI enhanced version, late at night on TV, in the 1980s. I found it quite disturbing and still do today. I cannot understand the need for Mr Lucas to back and tinker with his previous productions. This was low budget film, of 1960s-70s, that now seems slightly disjointed with its `new' enhancements', as in the fast car scenes, the CGI kills the iconography of that scene. I hope that he leaves his films well alone, once finished!

This re-mastered version with a second disc of extras, is well made and thought out. The second disc is a revelation. When played on an upscaling DVD player, the film appears as if it was done in HD format DVD. The quality of picture and sound is amazing. As an all round product, it works well, sans the CGI!

All said and done is it worth the purchase? In short yes, the extras give real insights. Even modified, this movie stands up well through the passage of time. Like so many films that supposedly show the future, that were made in the latter half of the twentieth century, this film does not seem dated. If you had not heard, or seen any of Robert Duvall's work, you would think the movie was made in the last few years. If you do not buy it, then rent it at very least. The story line leaves a little to be desired, my feeling here is that Mr Lucas was heavily influenced by 2001, made a few years earlier. He rather wants to let the sound and the moving image tell you the tale, as opposed to the dialogue. As for that car chase sequence? Well Mr Lucas likes tinkering with racing cars and the opportunity arose to use it the film, these themes, believe or not run through his Star Wars saga. Hey didn't the Duvell character run over a wooki? Whats all that about?
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on 19 September 2004
This DVD set is an absolute gem, containing not only the directors cut of the film but also some truly insightful extras. The film itself is of course wonderful - what is most interesting though is the presentation of the student film and how this relates to the later 'full fat' release. Inspiration indeed for any young film maker. Another section allows you to watch the full movie sans dialogue, highlighting the sound design work of Murch - a gift for students of film sound. (my only desire now is to have the movie with dialogue only so that students could work on the sound design!)
In conclusion, a brilliant release that shows Lucas/Murch in their finest colours.
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on 14 June 2010
This is truly an amazing film. The storyline is quite simple; a man living in a dictatorial, structured society seeks freedom. But it is the life he leads that fascinates. Although it seems far-fetched and unreal, there is a disturbing element of recognisable truth in his struggle. Science, philosophy, politics; all are brought under the spotlight in this film, though not in words, but in the personalities and actions of the characters. This film is actually a representation of our inner thoughts, fears and desires. A beautifully fimed work, it makes the viewer question not only his/her reality but also, believe it or not, the value of the very film he/she is watching (E.g the blandness of certain scenes reflects the blandness of life and, in the context of scientific enquiry, the futility of trying to attain anything more than the self) This film is extremely philosophical, and may not appeal to all Sci-fi fans, but it is a film that should appeal to those who question. This film rates among the classics such as "BladeRunner", "Alien" and "2001". Why it has been so neglected is beyond my understanding.
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on 29 July 2005
That just about sums up how you'll feel after watching this film. It's just so odd. I'm a Star Wars fan, hence why I decided to take a look at this in the first place. It's Lucas' remake of his first film originally made at college. Now, I'm not a film student, I just like being entertained. This film certainly did that - you keep watching and watching, just to try and work out what on earth is going on. You follow the life of THX-1138 - a name given to a man who works in some kind of stark white underground factory, and is forced to take pills to keep him subdued/brainwashed into conforming. Sex is forbidden, however, all humans in this world are assigned a roomate to share their room (read: cell) with. THX shares with a woman, who he has feelings for. She stops him taking the pills, they have sexual relations, and are punished. The ending is excellent (I won't put it here) and whilst you are always unsure exactly as to the film's meaning, you can't just turn it off. It looks beautiful - crisp and clean and very futuristic. I don't think its aged at all. Robert Duvall is wonderful, although I still don't understand who or what Donald Pleasance was supposed to be. Well worth watching to the end. Concentration is key though.
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on 19 July 2010
You can't understand this film if you do not see or know the original version Lucas produced when he was a student at USC (Electronic Labyrinth THX1138 4EB) in 1970. But you can appreciate it even if you do not know the original. You will at once feel the film is alluding a lot to other films that you may know. You are confronted to a universe that must make you feel claustrophobic like Brazil or 1984. You are confronted to a film where every single act or word of yours are registered and scrutinized like in 1984. You are confronted to a world in which you are docile or you are tamed by some re-education or recycled if not possible to reform you like in many films like Total Recall for one, or Brave New World for two. You discover little by little that this world is totally closed and that reminds you of Cube. But the film keeps somewhere a touch of hope. They started a few and will only end up one, but that one will escape that closed urban world into something that is nature, a nature they did not even know about inside that world, and that is definitely like in The Matrix. The worst part of this world is that everything is exactly what it does not look like. The policemen or security agents, which are robots anyway, look and sound helpful when their only objective is to lure you into submitting, including into submitting to your isolation and elimination. The positive side of this robotic security force is that they cannot go out of the totally self-contained urban world, and if you succeed they won't be able to pursue you. The film then becomes a parable of what is to be expected if we let urbanization take us over, including our minds. But when you see the original short film you discover another approach. It is an electronic labyrinth hence it becomes a self-imposed dependency, like the dependency some of us experience and practice with electronic games. We let ourselves be locked up, not physically but mentally in some attractive game world without realizing we are trapped because these games are habit forming. And when we realize that dependency then the virtual world in which we live is nothing but an electronic labyrinth out of which we cannot escape. This meaning is still present in the present film but a lot less and it is more escaping from the security forces and agents than escaping from a labyrinth in which we are locked up because of our own decision. In 1970 that film could only be a warning to young people about any addictive practice. In 2009 the meaning has changed and we are definitely conscious of the world around us and how it is enslaving us even to think that we are happy because we make ourselves happy by accepting the general conditioning. The happiness of sardines in their oil in their tins. Then the only difference is either tomato flavor, or lemon flavor, or mustard flavor, etc. And that's what Old Marx's class differences are reduced to in our consumer society. Enjoy the trip and then enjoy the documentary on Zoetrope and the way essentially two young men, Lucas and Coppola, changed the world and remember what Coppola answered Lucas when this one, an intern in Warner Bros when a student at USC, asked him if he could watch him shooting the film he was shooting then: "Oh sure, take a chair and watch, but under one condition: you must come up with a brilliant idea everyday!" Lucas must have and Coppola must have been satisfied since they have worked together ever since.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
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on 5 December 2004
This was a blind purchase for me. But it turned out to be a right one. I've been a fan of Mr. Lucas for some time. But this demonstrates his work well. I think after star wars, he should definatly go back to making original films.
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VINE VOICEon 11 February 2008
For some bizarre reason it has taken me until 2008 to actually see THX, probably because its rarely talked about (except as a footnote) and has never been shown on TV. All the more surprising to learn its absolute genius; a bizarre cross between Tron, Bladerunner, Logans Run and Brazil...hold on...THX predates all those films, are we looked at a film that is highly influential too? The story revolves around a familiar Orwellian state-controlled future but its how Lucas goes about showing us it that is so fantastic; beautiful clinical designs (and symetrical clinical acting), sound design up there with Ben Burtt's Star Wars work and haunting music (did I hear a touch of Empire)make this a weirdly "un-dated" experience. Actually I did start to get a little suspicious with some of the effects and when a CGI bug turned up I realised that Georgie Peorgie has been up to his old tricks and reimagined one of his old films. No matter, by in large they all fit far more flawlessly then much of the Star Wars tinkering. A proper classic.
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