It's been a while since I have seen this film on Cable TV, but I find it a great commentary on the idea (from 1970, mind you) that people will be controlled with drugs (Ritalin, anyone?) in the future. THX 1138 (played by Robert Duvall) is a worker in a robot factory who didn't take his drugs leading to him making his "domestic partner"-type woman LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie) pregnant. You can see him taken to a "white room" prison with no escape in sight. THX 1138's final car chase against the robot cops is a solemn, quiet one leading to the ending...

By the way, please watch the widescreen version -- the formatted version I rented years ago is badly made for us to see, let alone understand...

Title of George Lucas's professional film directorial debut. It was adopted from his 1967 student film THX 1138:4EB The Electronic Labyrinth. Debuting in 1970 it starred Robert Duvall in the title role. THX 1138 has managed to show up in almost all of Lucas's films, in American Graffiti it was on the license plate of one of the cars, in Starwars it was the call sign of one of the Stormtroopers on the Death Star, it even made an appearence in the new Starwars movie The Phantom Menace as a marking on the back of a battle droid.

Also used as the serial number of one of the stormtroopers killed (or perhaps only knocked out) by Luke, Han, and Obiwan in the book version of Star Wars (known in the movie as TK421) written by George Lucas himself. And I quote

 But the absence of the two troopers was noticed, soon thereafter. A gantry officer passing the window of a small command office near the freighter entrance glanced out, frowning when he saw no sign of the guards. Concerned but not alarmed, he moved to a comlink and spoke into it as he continued to stare at the ship.
 "THX-1138, (emphasis mine) why aren't you at your post? THX-1138, do you copy?"
 The speaker gave back only static.
 "THX-1138, why don't you reply?" The officer was beginning to panic when an armored figure descended the ramp and waved toward him. Pointing to the portion of his helmet covering his right ear, the figure tapped it to indicate the comlink inside wasn't working.
 Shaking his head in disgust, the gantry officer gave his busy aide an annoyed look as he made for the door. "Take over here. We've got another bad transmitter. I'm going to see what I can do." He activated the door, took a step forward as it slid aside-- and stumbled backward in a state of shock.

Sorry if that was longer than needed, but I like the "what happens next?" people who haven't seen Star Wars are now thinking. I urge you to go out and see it, or read the book. If you want the ISBN please see my writeup in Star Wars.

Film: THX-1138
Year: 1971
Rating: 3/5
Summary: Fascinating art but dull entertainment.

THX-1138 is one of the lesser known films by George Lucas, the director of the phenomenally successful Star Wars trilogy.

The story is relatively simple, albeit a little hazy. Similar to Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World, the film is set in a dystopian future where people are bred in order to work to make products and buy those products. While the government doesn't seem particularly evil per se, it is intent on keeping people efficient, even though the cost of that efficiency is keeping them on antidepressants. The protagonist understandably tries to escape from this society.

Rather than always directly seeing what's happening to the main characters, a lot of the time you see CCTV footage of them being watched by someone monitoring them. It's never made clear what's going on, and it is up to the viewer to work the plot out from reading the messages on people's consoles and listening to their inane chatter as they carry out their mundane jobs.

This film oozes atmosphere, featuring a symphony of voices distorted by being recorded and repeatedly played back or transmitted over the radio. This is the only instance I can think of where a director has made the audio of a film even more stylised than the video. As a result, THX-1138 has been sampled on a lot of albums.

The problem with this film is that it tells a simple story in an interesting way. Most people are used to watching interesting stories told in a simple way. While there was nothing wrong with George Lucas's approach to directing this film, it ensured that THX-1138 will be studied by intellectuals and referenced in pop culture instead of being enjoyed by people who want to be entertained.

If you want to soak up atmosphere, then the interesting use of detuned radio communication and security footage can give even Blade Runner a run for its money, but if you want to see someone rising up against their oppressors in a dystopian future, you'd be better off watching Equilibrium or The Island.

As art, THX-1138 is great for giving you a gimpse into another world, but as entertainment, it's not well thought out. You'll either find it fascinating or completely boring.

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