THX 1138 (1971) Reviews and overview

 

‘Visit the future where love is the ultimate crime’

THX 1138 is a 1971 American science fiction film set in a dystopian future in which the populace is controlled by android police. Mandatory use of drugs is used to suppress emotions.

Directed by George Lucas – making his feature directorial debut – from a screenplay co-written with Walter Murch, the movie stars Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasence. Produced by Francis Ford Coppola. The soundtrack score was composed by Lalo Schifrin (Magnum Force; Dirty Harry).

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“Ultimately, the intellect and style of THX 1138 linger in the memory the longest: Consider the long-lens shots that suggest alienation, the wildly imaginative sound work that simulates otherworldliness, and so on. Every frame of THX 1138 underscores why Lucas’ talent could not be denied…” Every ’70s Movie

“Lucas deliberately fills the film with geometric patterns – an array of computer banks set out like a domino board, corridors of electronic circuitry trailing off into perspective or Robert Duvall’s head emerging from a line of identical cubicles […]There are some frightening images of depersonalised soullessness…” Moria

“The futility of breaking free is always at the edges of the story – what will THX do when he gets out? He has nowhere to go. A powerfully filmed car chase enlivens the last act, but the impression of fruitless lives is what remains with you, as well as the film’s striking appearance.” The Spinning Image

Contemporary reviews:

“The principal problem with this film is that it lacks imagination, the essential component of a science fiction film. Some persons might claim that the world of THX 1138 is here right now. A more reasonable opinion would hold that we are facing the problems of that world right now. Time has passed the film by.” Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune, 1971

” …a stunning deployment of the aural and visual resources of the screen to suggest a fearful new world of tyranny by technology, […] Lucas is obviously a master of cinematic effects with a special remarkable gift for discovering the look of the future in mundane places like parking structures and office corridors.” Charles Champlin, Los Angeles Times, 1971

“It is not, however, as either chase drama, or social drama, that THX 1138 is most interesting. Rather it’s as a stunning montage of light, color and sound effects that create their own emotional impact … Lucas’s achievement in his first feature is all the more extraordinary when you realize that he is 25 years old and that he shot most of the film in San Francisco, on a budget that probably would not cover the cost of half of one of the space ships in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001.” Vincent Canby, The New York Times, March 21st 1971

Background:

THX 1138 was developed from George Lucas’s 1967 student film Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB, which he made while attending the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Technical details:

86 minutes

Fun facts:

A novelization by Ben Bova was published in 1971.

A Director’s Cut was released in 2004.

Trailer:

Clips:

YouTube videos: