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THX 1138 - The George Lucas Director's Cut Special Edition  (1971)


Rating: R

Distributor: Warner Home Video

Release Date: September 14, 2004
Review posted: September 16, 2004


Reviewed by Dennis Landmann




Robert Duvall stars as a man whose mind and body are controlled by the government. He has no name, only a prefix and a number identifies his existence. He's simply THX-1138. THX makes a harrowing escape from a world where thoughts are controlled, freedom is an impossibility and love is the ultimate crime.




THX 1138 presents a bleak future. The only things Robert Duvall's THX is allowed to do by the government is work and take pills against depression or chemical imbalances. As any person would, THX gets tired of it and seeks out other ways to spend his time. His female roommate, LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie), senses something is wrong, and not long after she voices her concerns to THX, they engage in love-making and finally express their feelings towards each other. However, the consequences of their action separates them, LUH is transferred to another area and THX must stand trial. THX's life becomes so monotonous that he seeks freedom, and so he escapes with SEN 5241 (Donald Pleasance) and hologram SRT (Don Pedro Colley) from an observation institution.


The film heavily reminds of 1984, a novel by George Orwell where the government presides over society and its people, controlling and regulating their thoughts, actions, and so on. The film's overall theme, when you deconstruct the various elements, mirrors that of Plato's "The Cave." THX 1138 feels like a take-off on the ideas from those materials, but there are differences among the similarities. Director George Lucas infuses the story with several good scenes in the beginning, although parts of the first hour are quite dull. The script is well written in spots, other times it feels as though there isn't enough "story" to wrap around the concept of a bleak future.


After the halfway point Lucas stages an exciting, very well done, pro-longed escape sequence. Since I didn't see the original version of the film, I'm not sure if the impact is the same when compared to the director's cut and all the new CGI shots and added backgrounds. THX 1138 looks great visually now, though I bet it looked pretty inventive during its time as well.


This is George Lucas' first feature film and it's an interesting film to say the least, and later he went on to make the classic Star Wars movies (not the new ones) and American Graffiti. I'd be interested to see whether Lucas can make a non-Star Wars film in the near future, or if he just doesn't have anything else left to tell.




Warner Bros. presents THX 1138 in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Wow, this film looks terrific on DVD. Most importantly, it is digitally remastered. Colors look great, as does sharpness and detail. The new CGI shots and background plates look terrific. Picture quality is solid with hardly any noise or dirt. This is a very good, pristine transfer. Optional subtitles include English, French, and Spanish.




Warner Bros. presents THX 1138 in English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. The sound is digitally remastered. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand. The sound effects are very nicely reinforced by the surrounds, and Lalo Schifrin's score comes through very well, too. A pretty good audio presentation overall. French and Spanish dub tracks are also available.




The first disc starts off with an audio commentary by co-writer/director George Lucas and co-writer/sound designer Walter Murch. There's a lot of technical discussion going on, and Lucas spends a lot of time speaking about the philosophy and themes of the film. The track lacks obvious conversational flow, and it soon becomes apparent that the comments are edited together from separate interviews with both participants. Overall, it's a pretty decent track despite the fact that some info is repeated in the documentaries.


Also on disc one is Theatre of Noise, an isolated music and sound effects track, which works quite well. Master Sessions is a branching feature that runs with the film or can be selected individually via brief vignettes. Here viewers get to see video segments featuring Walter Murch explaining the sound effects and discussing their importance. The total time of these vignettes is 30 minutes.


Disc two offers two comprehensive documentaries. A Legacy of Filmmakers: The Early Years of American Zoetrope is a 63-minute documentary narrated by Richard Dreyfuss. There are interviews with Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and the obvious participants. The title pretty much explains itself, so I don't need to tell you what it's about. It's an interesting look at the early years of an independent studio/production house.


Artifact from the Future: The Making of THX 1138 is a 28-minute all-new documentary that features interviews with selected cast and crew. It's more of a retrospective than a discussion about the film's technical nature, but nevertheless it's a pretty good piece.


Also on the second disc is Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB, George Lucas' 1697 student film that inspired the feature. It runs about 15 minutes in length, and is an interesting film. Next, Bald is a vintage promotional featurette that showcases the actors getting their heads shaved for the feature film. Rounding out the extras is the original theatrical trailer and re-release trailer.


The only thing missing from this DVD is a featurette on the film's restoration and what was added for the director's cut, or perhaps the option of viewing the original film.




THX 1138 comes highly recommended. The film, even though it's sometimes a bit dull, but more so in the beginning, presents a bleak future and tells the story of one man who wants more out of life, and the twist at the end sheds some interesting light onto the film's themes.




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