Learn more Download now Shop now Browse your favorite restaurants Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more

on 29 September 2012
THX 1138, like Star Wars, doesn't explain its world so much as simply evoke it. No reason is given for why the dystopia presented here has risen, and none is needed. The plot is basic Orwellian stuff: a man (THX 1138, played by Robert Duvall) and woman (LUH 3417, played by Maggie McOmie) fall in love against the backdrop of a society which prohibits such feelings. They rebel and are punished. This story has a more optimistic ending than 1984 though, which makes sense coming from George Lucas, the man who created the world's most famous space opera.
The back of my copy describes this film as a "compelling examination of the present", but it isn't really. Besides vague references to materialism (a disembodied voice compels our hero to buy more) and religion no points are made or analogies drawn. It's more of an audiovisual experience, and on that level it succeeds wonderfully. The atmosphere Lucas creates would be perfect for a hospital, but nightmarish to live in. In this vision of the future people live in underground cities which are barren and sterilised. Everything is technology, and robot policemen enforce state laws. My favourite shot is a lizard sitting before a system of wires which connect people to an automated voice that serves as their deity. The animal's cold indifference symbolises the state's.
THX is an assembly line worker. He builds robots (who in their unfinished state look a bit like C3PO), handling dangerous materials which sometimes explode and cause casualties. LUH, his roommate, illegally replaces his drugs with placebos, and he discovers that he's in love with her. They have sex, which is intercut with horrified lawmakers watching on a secret camera. THX is sent to prison, which provides the film's most fascinating set. Prison in this world is an endless white, empty expanse with no walls or anything else besides a few benches. The effect is uncanny, giving the impression that the prisoners are nowhere. Try as I might, I couldn't make out a single wall or anything which broke the reality of the image.
Donald Pleasance also stars, as a fellow citizen who befriends THX. I was a bit confused by his character. At first I thought he was one of the lawmakers in this world, arranging for THX to be his roommate after observing his attachment to LUH, but then he ended up in prison for tampering with the computers. No matter; Pleasance brings pathos to the character, who's something of a tragic opportunist. Don Pedro Colley plays a hologram who's developed human thought processes and helps THX. His story arc was also genuinely moving. All the supporting characters are actually better developed than THX, the hero, another quality this film shares with Star Wars.
I guess you could argue that Lucas doesn't quite go all the way with his dark vision because of the happy ending, but it doesn't matter. THX 1138 is a sensory experience, and stuns you with strange, stark images of a human race reduced to living like ants.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 10 April 2012
In George Lucas' 1971 view of 25th century "life", it's not the taking of drugs that lands you in trouble with the 'chrome robots' (police) but the NOT taking of them, for this is a chemically controlled population and environment. And, as ever, a couple of rebels try to break free from these chains....

Robert Duval (THX1138) goes through withdrawal symptoms as he stops the pill-popping, gets his libido back and makes love to his mate, LUH (Maggie McOmie). In a CCT governed environment these felonies don't go unnoticed and THX1138 is charged with sexual deviancy and drug abstinence. It soon comes clear that his sentence will be death and his body used for organ transplantation.

Naturally, Duval and other inmates of the 'detention unit' decide to escape, through the labyrinth of tunnels and with about the only action in the entire film, in futuristic cars, all the while, the soul-less robot policemen in pursuit use pleasant pre-recorded warnings.

I'd not seen or heard of THX1138 until looking up George Lucas on the IMDb. Then, I wondered if a snippet of memory from decades ago of a nude couple in a huge white void being approached by robots was one of the very same. And, yes, so it was, and is. I don't know when, or where I'd seen it before, but the pertinent thing was, that it had imprinted something indelible into my psyche.

Which is a mark of a good film. Not the chases at the end, which to many seem to be the only bits worthy of mention. To me, it is the minimalist, art-house sets that are both the most disturbing and memorable, of rows and rows of technicians and lab assistants. The story now, has been used a lot by now so that it's hardly original, but back 41 years ago (yes!, almost as old as I am) it must have painted a very chilling picture indeed.

It's also quite a dour, solemn picture; contrast that to say, 'Logan's Run', that at least some semblance of freedom on the outside that the couple had sampled and wanted to bring back to their City. I won't spoil those who've not seen THX how code no. 1138 fares and whether he finds freedom, or not.

Overall, a sobering, intelligent and superbly designed film rather than a great epic, far-reaching odyssey that Lucas was to move onto, of course. There are big hints at Lucas' genius at work here, this being his debut release, such as the robotic policemen and the ideas that he was to take into Star Wars.

One then, for the George Lucas fan club and for sci-fi enthusiasts. Mainstream audiences may well be a bit bored and baffled. The script is often confusing, with either nothing said and visuals only to tell us what's going on or, as with the rantings of Donald Pleasance in the Detention Unit, distracting and unnecessary to the story. These faults aside, this is a good sci-fi film, one to jostle the mind and a good grounding from which Lucas made such an epic career.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
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
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 2 March 2015
I ordered the US import and I have to say, contrary to some previous comments and reviews, I had absolutely no problems with it, the disc played perfectly (and my Blu-ray player is a fairly old one).

Also the picture quality was much better than I had been lead to believe!

The whole package is excellent, with great special features. The film itself is one of those that needs to be seen a few times - it's decidedly grim of course but rewards repeat views.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 29 September 2014
I saw this film when I was in my early teens, I never realised it was Lucas first movie, but it all makes sense when you watch it. A disturbing and thought provoking film, many of it's predictions have come, or are shortly to become realities for us all I believe. The second disc about Amarican Zeotrope and it's early years is also well worth watching as it brings a few things together.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 8 August 2009
Apart from being what THX (on your movie soundtracks) is named after, this is a great film if you like sci-fi. It only shows its age slightly by the futuristic vehicles, which weren't very futuristic when the film was made. The story is simple but compelling - a future man knows that the society in which he lives has become a dystopia. The rest is for you to watch in the film! Logans Run, 1984 and the like are all of similar stories, but they're all so different. This is amongst the good ones. You can also see some bits in the film which George Lucas later utilised for Star-Wars!
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 4 February 2018
George Lucas self-proclaimed "abstract film" is both intriguing and frustrating (its low budget nature either makes or breaks this). Give it a watch!
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 5 February 2015
I loved the original version, and, surprizingly, I also love this new version thT George Lucas has smartened-up quite sensitively. That is why I've given it for stars. If, however, I was awarding Amazon themselves any stars they would get just one, because they chose to release this movie for download without any closing credits. That single star would be because they refunded me instantly after I complained.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 6 January 2018
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 6 June 2015
Great to get this difficult to find film. DVD was German copy, but DVD works fine in English & defaults to English on my DVD player.

Clear & definitive "Director's Cut version" of this cult film, giving a view inside the mind of the director George Lucas, before Star Wars. Loads of special features on the second disc, including Lucas' student project film, which inspired this film.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)