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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Be forewarned: THX 1138 is not for all Star Wars fans. This is hard sci-fi, like the kind Kubrick used to make. There are no cute furry Ewoks, there is no villain, there is not much in the way of heroics. This is a dystopian future brought to you by the once-brilliant director, unhampered by his own commercial drives. This is as pure a vision as it gets.

One viewing is not enough to digest THX1138. There is not much in the way of dialogue, or exposition. There is no traditional music, and the story plods along in a very Kubrickian fashion.

It is the future, and humanity now lives in a vast underground city, so vast that nobody ever ventures out to its superstructure where malformed, monkey-like "Shell Dwellers" remain. Perhaps they are mutants, victims of a long-forgotten nuclear holocaust. It is never explained and it's never supposed to be explained. Humanity lives in a sterile, pristinely white city that resembles the dullest of shopping malls. Every word spoken is monitored, including at strange Catholic-looking confessionals, where one prays to the State and the Masses and a weird Christ-like face. Children are taught entire school courses via a chemical IV. Sexual activity is forbidden unless you are scheduled to produce a child. Sedation by drugs is compulsory. Failure to take your medications will result in drug offences and rehabilition. Some humans are deemed defective and left to themselves in a strange white prison, an asylum that seems to go on forever.

Our protangonist is THX-1138, called "Tex" for short. He is played by the young Robert Duvall. He does not feel well. He feels sick, shaky, because he is off his medication. Feelings of love and lust are stirring for his roomate, LUH. The lack of medication has allowed him to feel these feelings for the first time. It has also, however, affected his work, and one error is all it takes to clue in the powers-that-be that THX is a drug offender.

Many themes turn up again in Lucas' later films. A totalitarian faceless government, complete with faceless law enforcement, in this case, robot officers. Staticy background dialogue makes up the most of the soundtrack to this film. Remember how the Stormtroopers sounded when they spoke? Imagine that, constantly, in the background. Lucas has taken sound effects and used them as music, yet they still convey information crucial to the plot. Some shots are duplicated almost perfectly in Star Wars, see if you can spot them.

Some scenes are chilling. THX is channel surfing and comes upon a program of an officer beating a human repeatedly for no apparent reason. This is the entertainment of the future. In another scene, two techs are tormenting THX's body, but their dialogue betrays absolutely no connection whatsoever to the human being they are hurting. "Don't let it get above 48," says one, as THX is writhing in agony. "Oh, you let is get above 48, see, that's why you're getting those readings."

The theme of escape, which was common with Luke Skywalker in the first Star Wars, is what is driving THX. He eventually finds an ally in Don Pedro Colley, a "hologram" who he meets in the white asylum. SEN (Donald Pleasance) is suitably creepy as a man whom seems obsessed with THX and LUH. Together, can they escape the city and see what is beyond?

Lucas loves tampering with his films and THX is one of them. CG race cars and cityscapes enhance the film, while CG Shell Dwellers look phony and out of place. I would have preferred the original Shell Dwellers, but in the cityscapes, the new effects certainly add depth and believability.

DVD bonus features are awesome, including ample documentaries. The main feature for me was the original black and white student film that Lucas made: THX1138-4eB - Electronic Labyrinth. See how his vision survived intact to the big screen, and see how ideas such as dialogue acting as the soundtrack was present in the original short.

A fantastic visionary sci-fi film, and a warning to us today. We must not allow our society to become as controlled as THX's. Not for everybody. Only for those who like thinking man's sci-fi.

4 stars. Near perfect.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon December 19, 2013
The movie may date from 1970, but its message is far more significant than a far echo of its decade.

Not as smart as "Solaris" or "2001: A space odyssey", it nevertheless captures human determination, and the sheer will to be free, no matter what's sent our way. Robert Duval plays his role (THX-1138) to a degree of perfection: introvert, yet boiling with an inner rage at all time. This rage, he uses to exact his plan to try and get out of this futuristic hellhole, and with some added CGI (Lucas, can't help himself), the movie actually benefits from having a nice scope and greater visuals, though I wonder what the original film looked like.

Special features are very entertaining, insightful and come in great numbers, culminating to almost 3-4 hours worth of visual documentaries, plus a commentary track. It is hard to ask for more in this case.

Not the "be all end all" of sci-fi movies, THX-1138 has enough smarts, ingenuity and pacing to be called a film. And a classic film, at that. Its message will most likely be as resonant 50 years from now as it felt 40 years ago.
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on June 8, 2003
George Lucas`s first film....it`s a dark,scary and all to possible conclusion for the human race.Freewill and its costs are put on display when THX1138 with the help of his roommate,decides that there must be something better and strives to find it at all costs.A stunning look into the possible future finds humans reduced to slaves,where sex is forbidden,religion is used as a pacifier to the masses and brutal violence is inflicted by robot police officers for every infraction.What ensues is one mans race to find that freedom....but when forced to decide which is more important - freedom and its unknowns or the supposed safety of his current life - what is he to do?I say that this is the best film George Lucas ever made.When it comes out on dvd it will be cause for celebration - the sound and visuals are if nothing else stunning.Until then check it out and afterwards you to will question your role in your own society.Is tomorrow really worth looking forward to?
Be afraid...be very afraid.
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on February 5, 2002
I've started a tradition of dusting this flick off the winter before a new Star Wars movie is due. In this lamented classic from '71, Robert Duvall plays THX-1138, a seemingly anonymous denizen of an underground city where enforced drug addiction, constant supervision by security cameras, prohibitions against sex and ceaseless (and hazardous) work has created a society of parahumans with shaven heads. Those needing spiritual guidance (for things the drugs can't help) can consult the divine "OM" at a "unichapel" - a sort of phone-booth confessional. Most of THX's problems stem from his roommate's sudden burgeoning love for him. Hoping THX will respond, LUH (Maggie Mccomie) secretly replaces his normal drug intake with stimulants. Falling in love with LUH, and though it will make him more accident prone in his already dangerous job, THX tries to get off the drugs completely. In their romantic moments, they consider running away - sexual intercourse and drug evasion each being considered serious offenses - but their subterranean city is the only world they know. Complicating things are the attentions in THX placed by SEN-4251 (Donald Pleasance), LUH's supervisor. Though THX informs on SEN, both he and LUH are convicted for their own illicit affair, and separated. In a strange prison - a room seemingly without walls and set in another dimension where everything is white - THX becomes withdrawn. Now a cellmate, and unpopular with the other prisoners, SEN looks to THX for help. With the help of SRT (Don Pedro Colley), who seems to be another prisoner but claims to be a hologram come to life, SEN and THX escape the prison and reenter the "real" world. Separated from SEN, SRT and THX try to elude police robots, though none of them have a plan. (The enforcement end of the society sets strict limits on the resources budgeted for THX's re-capture, and will cancel the effort if he manages to hold out) In the end, only THX achieves escape, though it's in one of those cryptic, open-ended endings that were all the rage in 70's sci-fi flicks like "Phase IV".
This was George Lucas's first real feature, one that strongly hints at the latter Star Wars movies, set a benchmark for integrating sound effects into the narrative of a script and, when it tanked, forced American Zoetrope producer Francis Ford Coppolla to helm "The Godfather". Narrative is pretty loose - it took me a few viewings to even understand the dialog, which the script uses less to tell a story than display the many faces of beaten down victims of a totalitarian society. More crucial is the stream of radio-speakers, announcers whose voices float through the ether of Lucas's imagined world. Though many voices remain off-camera, they have the largest impact on THX's life (In once scene, two off-camera technicians fiddle with the security settings for THX's cell, even as they see how this somehow causes THX to suffer horrific pain). Though some scenes hint at parts of Star Wars (such as when THX tries to use a computer to locate LUH, or is trapped in surveillance room with stormtroopers er...I mean police robots having blocked his only way out) they have none of the underlying heroism of the latter series. Lucas is often touted (more often criticized) for being better with machines than people, but he brings out some real pathos here - in one heartbreaking scene near the film's end, children glide in a stupor with their shaven heads, fed narcotics IV'd from bottles on their wrists. The cinematography is excellent, especially in the car chase at the end - the sequence seems otherwise gratuitous, but it's filmed well, and shows that Lucas has a feel more machines and velocity. This was the artsy sort of film supposedly made unprofitable by popcorn epics like Star Wars. When people complain about the escapism and mindlessness of Lucas's films, he can take THX-1138 out and complain about how they underappreciated it. This is a flawed but priceless classic.
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on January 18, 2001
The plot underlying the Star Wars Trilogy probably has no intentional contact with this expanded version of a short film that Lucas produced while in school, but any fanatic would spot the signs. There are no heroes in THX-1138, no underlying battle between good and evil, no underlying benevolent power. There is a godlike figure supposedly in charge of the repressively structured underground society in which the film is set, but we're never supposed to believe in it - only the unfortunate citizenry whose power of disbelief is numbed by an undending stream of repetitive labor and mood-controlling drugs. In the original student film, THX-1138, a citizen hoping to escape the oppressions of the command society, is already on the run. Instead of a story, Lucas essentiually filmed a man running while verious high-tech apparti track his every move. Using a method he'd later perfect in American Graffitti (and Star Wars, ofcourse) Lucas enveloped the viewer in sound, creating a soundtrack scored by overlapping radio effects and radio-distorted voices. The technique (a sort of techno version of the overlapping dialog trademarked by Altman) plunges the viewer into a futuristic police state where not even thoughts are private. The technique is expanded in the feature version. Now, THX-1138 (Robert Duvall) is a loyal worker whose only desire is to faithfully serve the godlike supreme being by repairing the most police-robots and causing the fewest accidents. He also wants to love his mate, LUH. It's only upon her disappearance - following his escape from a holding cell while locked up for causing an on-the-job-accident - that he even contemplates escape. His only hope of eluding the relentress enforcer robots is to hold out long enough for the cost of his capture to exceed a certain percentage of the profit. Even so, escape is not his plan - he has no concept of freedom to hold out for, and lacks the necessary desire for it that creates modern heroes. This is a sci-fi movie for the art-film crowd.
Still, Star Wars films should see this film (though it won't make them appreciate "Phantom Menace", sorry) for the subtle clues it leaves for later films. Trying to track down LUH, THX breaks into a command center and plugs her name into the main computer...only to learn disturbing news. At first, THX thinks he's found her, but then realizes that her name has already been reassigned to test-tube fetus. (As a further clue, in "Star Wars", when trying to track down Princess Leia, Han and Luke try to sneak in as Storm Troopers to cell block 1138). THX's charachter lacks even the power to fully realize sorrow, which only heightens the emotional impact for us. Suffice it to say, the Jedi won't ride to the rescue. Even a climactic car chase through a tunnel - with Robert Duvall at the wheel of some souped up stolen squad car being chased by motorcycle-mounted enforcer robots - seems to recall the death star trench run.
One more interesting footnote - Francis F. Coppolla was so determined to get a major studio to green-light this film that he agreed to direct a movie he really wanted no part of and expected would do nothing for his career: The Godfather.
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on January 18, 2001
The plot underlying the Star Wars Trilogy probably has no intentional contact with this expanded version of a short film that Lucas produced while in school, but any fanatic would spot the signs. There are no heroes in THX-1138, no underlying battle between good and evil, no underlying benevolent power. There is a godlike figure supposedly in charge of the repressively structured underground society in which the film is set, but we're never supposed to believe in it - only the unfortunate citizenry whose power of disbelief is numbed by an undending stream of repetitive labor and mood-controlling drugs. In the original student film, THX-1138, a citizen hoping to escape the oppressions of the command society, is already on the run. Instead of a story, Lucas essentiually filmed a man running while verious high-tech apparti track his every mood. Using a method he'd later perfect in American Graffitti (and Star Wars, ofcourse) Lucas enveloped the viewer in sound, creating a soundtrack scored by overlapping radio effects and radio-distorted voices. The technique (a sort of techno version of the overlapping dialog trademarked by Altman) plunges the viewer into a futuristic police state where not even thoughts are private. The technique is expanded in the feature version. Now, THX-1138 (Robert Duvall) is a loyal worker whose only desire is to faithfully serve the godlike supreme being by repairing the most police-robots and causing the fewest accidents. He also wants to love his mate, LUH. It's only upon her disappearance - following his escape from a holding cell while locked up for causing an on-the-job-accident - that he even contemplates escape. His only hope of eluding the relentress enforcer robots is to hold out long enough for the cost of his capture to exceed a certain percentage of the profit. Even so, escape is not his plan - he has no concept of freedom to hold out for, and lacks the necessary desire for it that creates modern heroes. This is a sci-fi movie for the art-film crowd.
Still, Star Wars films should see this film (though it won't make them appreciate "Phantom Menace", sorry) for the subtle clues it leaves for later films. Trying to track down LUH, THX breaks into a cmmand center and plugs her name into the main computer...only to learn disturbing news. The charachters lack even the power to feel sorrow, whcih only heightens the emotional impact for us. Suffice it to say, the Jedi won't ride to the rescue. Even a climactic cra chase through a tunnel - with Robert Duvall at the wheel of some souped up stolen squad car being chased by motorcycle-mounted enforcer robots - seems to recall the death star trench run.
One more interesting footnote - Francis F. Coppolla was so determined to get a major studio to green-light this film that he agreed to direct a movie he really wanted no part of and expected would do nothing for his career: The Godfather.
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on December 22, 1999
George Lucas, Francis Coppola and Robert Duvall joined forces years ago to create this disturbing cinematic statement on the consequences of THE POLITICALLY CORRECT society. The irony is probably none of them realized the thrust of the film, nor its imminent realization in our present "PERSON of the YEAR" culture. (Check out TIME magazine in 10 years awarding the THX-1138...or 1139,or whatever "sensitive" sobriquet is then acceptable for who was once identified MAN OF THE YEAR.) The power of the film lies precisely in the fact that frightening as the images in the film are, they do not frighten...they merely irritate or provoke a smug contempt.(What kind of fool would go into a "Confessional" and bare his soul to a cardboard Jesus, then receive his 25 cent "boxtop" blessing?) The goofy, metallic-faced robot police force and the high-fashion dress code of a society that has gone from Tommy Hilfiger to ice cream man vanilla whites are so absurd and so lacking in menace that one might simply say George needed another semester in movie school to get it right.(Everyone knows Nazis wear black and sport flashy runes not these wimped-out projections of a typical high school uniform within five years.) Of course the film shows no real violence. Violence requires energy and Lucas'THXers are depicted as lacking sufficient energy to muster even will to grow their own hair...never mind food or anything else requiring will and wit. THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS...not with a bang, but with a whimper. Lucas' contribution to the cinematic literature of fascist dystopias is powerful (but hardly "enjoyable"...say like Arnold's THE RUNNING MAN) because it is difficult to portray impotence without simply provoking boredom. The black and white images of THX-1138 do not bore...they, in my opinion, stun. This is Dante's "First Circle" and our PC-Thought Police are shown to be dancing us down a "white brick road" to it with no Wicked Witch of the West to blame for cowardice, heartlessness and stupidity in failure to protect "home"...the individuality that makes humanity possible. See this film at least once. STAR WARS is fun for kids...THX-1138 is serious, thoughtful film making that provokes like good literature.
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on November 24, 1999
Much ignored by many reviewers, this film (THX 1138) has a ground breaking soundtrack. Assembled and Edited by Walter Murch (the Conversation), the constant babble of an electronic, cybernetic society, creates an audio montage that greatly enhances George Lucas' excellent first full production movie.
THX was started as a student project and subsequently turned into a full movie with the production assistance of Francis Coppola.
I originally came across this film on late night TV in 1977. Obviously, there were no videos then, but I had an audio cassette recorder connected to my tv, so for many years I had only an audio copy of the film. Clearly this has caused me to focus on the sound of the movie. If you have your tv or video connected to your HiFi (if not why not?) play the video with your HiFi on at a decent (cinema) level. You won't be disapponted by the cyberbabble - 'make the correction THX!'.
Is our society going the same way as Lucas' vision? Next time you're in a shopping mall, think of this video and 'buy more now, buy more and ...be happy'.
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on March 17, 1999
This is definitely an unusual film. If I had to put a label on it, I'd call it experimental. That isn't to say that this film is not good, it is good, but it is not the kind of film that a person would watch for entertainment, or to round out an evening. It requires more attention and thought than most films, and some people might find it difficult to sit through.
Nevertheless, it is a film that many people will enjoy. Certainly, it will expand your experience in movies, and give you a lot to think about. I have found that there are quite a few elements of the film that stick in my brain (just unique features and ideas that you don't find anywhere else), and I think this is probably one of the areas where this film really shines. I would probably recommend this film to others just for this quality, but there is quite a bit more depth in it.
I didn't give it 5 stars, because I didn't want everyone to think that this is the kind of movie you buy and watch every friday night with a big bowl of popcorn. Additionally, the movie could use quite a bit of improvement. Hopefully, people aren't expecting a big-budget-all-smooth-and-shiny picture, but despite it's bumbs and rough spots, this movie has quite a lot going for it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2013
This is a great movie. It was remastered with discretion. If you haven’t seen the original, you cannot tell what was actually modified. The only problem is the complex menu. I had to plug a USB stick in my brand new Blu-Ray reader to provide additional memory to the machine. Otherwise, the disk would not start.
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