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Lucas’ other sci-fi classic soars in re-release

Marty Schroeder | Monday, October 4, 2004

When released in 1971, “THX 1138” was light-years ahead of any film of its time. It came during a period when the old studio system of Hollywood was failing and the new generation of young, adventurous filmmakers was taking over. Names like Scorsese, Coppola, Spielberg and Lucas were just beginning to be passed around in film circles and it was this film, the first to come out of Francis Ford Coppola’s production company American Zoetrope, that put these new filmmakers on the map.Directed by George Lucas and produced Francis Ford Coppola, this tale follows a man living in a future that has outlawed emotion, sex, and even love. Robert Duvall plays the character named THX 1138, a factory worker who makes the robotic policeman that oversee the futuristic society of the film. His living partner, LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie), alters his drug regimen and THX 1138 begins to feel emotion. Eventually he and LUH 3417, who fall in love, plot an escape which suffers though many hardships as they fight the “Big Brother” that is present everywhere in the guise of the mechanical policemen and cameras that patrol every level of society. THX 1138 becomes more and more resolved in escape throughout the film, meeting the outcasts of society as he is thrown into a permanent hold for the people who choose not to conform to the standards that “Big Brother” has set out. He is attacked by the animals outside of the antiseptically clean city as he escapes and entangles himself in a very suspenseful car chase. The story of this film is but the visuals are where this film stands out. The design of this film is Lucas at his best. The futuristic city is devoid of color as are the ubiquitous white jumpsuits that the citizens wear. At times this creates the very unusual effect of floating heads as the white uniforms blend in with the white walls of the city. The police are mechanical but they possess a human quality that is very unnerving. These robots also possess a single-mindedness making them the perfect law enforcement as they will follow their orders out without question. This film is also almost completely devoid of African American characters. There are a few but for the most part Lucas’s futuristic society contains only Caucasians. This choice in casting compounds on the oneness and lack of individuality of the society presented.This DVD was released as a special edition director’s cut including two discs. The first disc contains the original feature film released in 1971 with some additional footage that Lucas was unable to place in the film due to the restraints of special effects in 1971. The feature film is presented in the original widescreen 2.35:1 ratio, keeping what Lucas intended for his audiences to see. The second disc contains two documentaries, Lucas’s student film “Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB” (of which THX 1138 is based on), and the original theatrical trailers for “THX 1138.” The most fascinating part of the extras comes in the documentary, “A Legacy of Filmmakers: The Early Years of American Zoetrope.” This documentary recounts the actions of a group of upstart film students who graduated in the late 1960’s. It explains how Coppola, Lucas, Martin Scorsese and others rebelled against the old guard of studio filmmakers and how they changed the face of American cinema. This is an excellent film that received very little attention at its original release. It is a blessing to generations that Lucas decided to release it in the way they he wanted to release it. This film pushed audiences to the limits and was the first film to be released by American Zoetrope. The legacy of a few, brilliant, and upstart filmmakers will forever be immortalized in this release.