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Isolated music score
THX-1138 - Director's Cut
American Zoetrope/Warner Home Video .
R4 . COLOR . 84 mins .
PG . PAL
George Lucas is among one of the most controversial filmmakers in recent history. He is responsible for quite possibly the most popular and easily-recognisable of film legacies, Star Wars. Since its release in 1977, Star Wars has influenced cinema to the furthest degree and has become the most referenced film of all time.
THX likes to walk to work in style.
It is in Lucas’s latest two efforts, Star Wars Episodes 1 and 2, that his ability as a director and general filmmaker been called into question. The excessive use of computer generated environments is the primary concern, taking away from the ‘b-grade authenticity’ of the original Star Wars films. In late 2004 the three Star Wars films were released on DVD, sporting an exclusive ‘George Lucas Director’s Cut’ under the guise of the ‘special edition’ title (also released theatrically in 1997). Extra scenes and extra special effects were added in his effort to ‘bring these old films into the 21st century’; much to the disgust of his fans.
Often forgotten are Lucas’s two films preceding Star Wars; THX-1138 and American Graffiti – both equally as influential as Star Wars, but in different genres and styles of filmmaking. American Graffiti heralded the wave of ‘teen-films’, about school life and teenage angst – essentially responsible for today’s American Pie or The Girl Next Door. THX-1138 also stands as a highly influential sci-fi film, using sets and characters placed far into the future to make comments on modern society. Films such as Brazil and Gattaca take heavy influence from THX-1138, dealing with futuristic societies and the affect it has on human beings.
To coincide with the newly remastered release of Star Wars, George Lucas has returned to THX-1138 to add extra visual effects and previously deleted scenes. This will upset many fans; however Lucas fortunately hasn’t gone as overboard as he did with Star Wars. There are a small number of scenes were noticeable CG effects are present, but it often doesn’t distract from the film itself.
THX-1138 is essentially an exploration of the human spirit, and its ability to overcome all obstacles in order to reach its goal. Using the now common, but then anachronistic, environment of an oppressive, futuristic world as a platform to build from. The character of THX-1138 (played by Robert Duvall) lives in an institutionalised world of routine and submission. He takes sedatives on regular intervals (along with all other inhabitants) to remain subdued and an efficient worker. Somehow, the cocktail of drugs THX is fed impairs his (and all others’) creative ability; he is now a ‘slave of the machine’.
Now is this where television is headed?
THX’s roommate, LUH-3417 (played by Maggie McOmie) has somehow broken her cycle of work and sedatives – to become a ‘free-thinker’, who feels it’s best to share this experience with her roommate. After becoming dreadfully ill, due to the lack of drugs in his system, THX begins to slip-up at work and generally act quite strange. This is noticed by the bodies in charge (who video-monitor everything), who then track his movements in an attempt to ascertain the cause of his defection.
Now with a ‘free’ mind, THX notices, daresay ‘falls in love with’ LUH – who has basically been hanging out for months to rub up against him. They come together in one passionate symbiotic act, which is obviously and unfortunately closely monitored by the bodies above. Sex is outlawed, and because of this both THX and LUH are imprisoned. It is there THX meets SRT (a hologram) who promises to help him escape their white prison to find LUH.
THX-1138 explores many different themes and issues, that are all as relevant to our society as they were 30 years ago. Lucas has here made a far more complex film than anything else he’s touched, and it will probably sadden its audience to think that Lucas could have gone down the same path as the likes of Kubrick. THX-1138 is a film that, directorially, feels very similar to many of Kubrick’s works; however no where near as polished or refined.
The unfortunate downfall of this film is that it was Lucas’s first feature, and as auspicious as it seems today, does not rank with the likes of Mike Nichols or Sam Mendes in terms of brilliant debuts. Many scenes could have been cut shorter, and the general pace of the film could have been tightened up to a far greater degree. There is no fault in terms of acting ability and direction, as Robert Duvall (one of the very greats in 20th century American cinema) performs exceptionally well.
Those who enjoy the artistic and influential aspects behind classic films will certainly be rewarded after watching THX-1138. Similar to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, THX-1138 bursts at the seams with imagery and innovation ahead of its time – which will often prove interesting to today’s patient audience.
This is an utterly wonderful transfer. One would have to compare this transfer to that of the recently released Star Wars DVD set, or perhaps the Indiana Jones DVD set. Every possible facet of this transfer is flawless.
"This can't be happening!"
Much of the film is very bland looking, differing in shades of grey and white. For much of the film, it’s the skin tones that reassure you the film was shot in colour. Having said this, every different colour presented is maintained in its original vivid nature. Black levels remain solid throughout, and will blend in with the natural black of your monitor.
Aliasing appears non-existent, which is a blessing considering how detrimental heavy aliasing would have had on the film. No artefacts to speak of either.
Overall, it’s an exceptional transfer. This is one example of an amazing restoration.
We’re presented with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, which won’t compete with the likes of I, Robot in terms of Home Theatre Tearing Power™, however does adequately support the film.
Overall it’s a very polished, quality track. All music and sound effects are presented with great clarity and fidelity. Use of the surround channels is not overtly frequent; however they only occasionally lay dormant. Subtle ambience fills the rear channels for most of the film. The sub is used only occasionally, but always to great effect.
The only real issue with the soundtrack is the drowning of dialogue under sound effects or music. I found that I either needed to seriously crank the volume (which wasn’t really very pleasant, given the nature of the film), or turn the subtitles on to recognise what is being said. I’m not certain this is entirely a fault of the transfer, however it still proved irritating on occasion.
Warner have demonstrated, successfully, that quality always comes before quantity. This two-disc edition contains a limited number of features, but all are of high quality or are incredibly valuable.
Drug Evasion? This must be where society is headed!
Alongside the feature is a brand new commentary featuring director/co-writer George Lucas and co-writer/sound editor Walter Murch. This engaging commentary delves into the many themes within THX-1138, as well as providing additional insight into the production of the film. An isolated sound effects track ‘The Theatre of Noise’ is also provided as an additional soundtrack. A seamless branching option is also available that branches from the film into an audio ‘master session’ with Walter Murch periodically.
We’re treated with two brand new documentaries; the first based around THX-1138 the film. George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola are two of the many guests in this well paced, interesting documentary. Many of the team who originally worked on the film reunite to share experiences and opinions on the production process. The other documentary is based around the production company American Zoetrope its tumultuous past. Founded in the late 60s by Francis Ford Coppola, American Zoetrope are responsible for some of the greats in American cinema (including The Godfather). This feature-length documentary is compelling and interesting, featuring many different filmmakers (including Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese) who share their views on American cinema history. Two excellent special features.
As mentioned in the film review, THX-1138 is essentially a remake of a short film created by George Lucas in film school – THX-1138:4EB (Electronic Labyrinth). This very film is presented as a special feature, with optional subtitles. The video (and sound) quality is very poor, but that is to be expected from a ~35 year old amateur source.
When theatrically released in 1971, Coppola and Lucas made a brief featurette. This vintage featurette is presented on the special features disc, in undoctored grainy glory. Interesting to watch, but no where near as good as the newer, longer documentary also found on the disc.
Promotional material from its theatrical release, as well as the 2004 DVD release are available also.
Love Conquers All
This is an excellent package from Warner, who have obviously put some effort into this release. An exceptional restoration job has been done on the video, and the soundtrack remains quite good – if a bit unbalanced at times. The documentaries on the special features disc are just great, and (for this particular reviewer) proved more worthwhile than the feature. Those interested in the film will be delighted by the excellent commentary and branching options.
THX-1138 is an intriguing film, and one that Lucas should certainly be proud of. Star Wars buffs will love to find hidden references and Lucas trademarks, and even those interested in a solid sci-fi will come to hopefully be entertained by this film.