THX 1138

THX 1138

Movie: THX 1138
Director: George Lucas
Produced by: American Zoetrope, Warner Brothers
Released By:
MPAA Rating: PG

Based on his award-winning student short, George Lucas’s debut feature cerebrally celebrates the possibility for individual freedom against all odds. In a 1984-esque white-washed future underground dystopia where sexuality is banned, all humans sport shaved heads and the same shapeless outfits as they go about their work in a mandated state of sedation, listening to exhortations to “Buy and Be Happy.” Black-clad robot cops chant a mantra to their victims that “everything will be all right” and automated confessional booths emit soothing therapeutic bromides. But unbeknownst to THX 1138, his roommate LUH 3417 has been reducing their meds, resulting in their mutual discovery of love and THX’s subsequent imprisonment for drug evasion and sexual misconduct. Determined to find the pregnant LUH, THX breaks out of prison with the help of his cellmate SEN 5241 and an escaped TV hologram. With fugitive pursuits strictly budgeted, THX only has to evade the robocops until the funds run out, but surveillance is omnipresent and THX’s vehicle keeps overheating. Making the only film produced through the first incarnation of Francis Ford Coppola’s independent studio American Zoetrope, Lucas and his small crew, including co-writer and sound editor Walter Murch, shot THX 1138 in northern California with no interference from distributor Warner Bros. When Warners saw the austere result, however, they recut the film before its release. Neither the studio’s nor Lucas’s cut was a popular success, but THX 1138’s coolly minimalist style and story-telling gained fans on the college screening circuit, just as Stanley Kubrick’s poetic 2001: A Space Odyssey had attracted a large youth audience in 1968. When Lucas returned to sci-fi after American Graffiti, he traded restraint for nostalgic fun in the film that guaranteed his creative freedom in Hollywood: Star Wars.

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