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THX 1138:

These days it isnít heard to imagine a future where your social security number became your only form of identification. Besides, in America, it now seems to be just about the only form of identification that really counts anyway. Well, take that concept to the nth degree and imagine a bleak time in the future, when all other forms of human identification are stripped away- leaving people to be identified by serial numbers or even barcodes- sounds scary even now. However, back in 1971, when George Lucasí THX 1138 first premiered, Iím sure it seemed far more frightening, especially when you consider that people were still shuffling papers manually, there wasnít a computer on every desktop and information wasnít instantaneously accessible.

George Lucasí vision of the future in THX 1138 is a dystopian nightmare, where people are stripped of their individuality and mind controlled by conditioning and drugs into conformity. The state sees and controls all aspects of the peopleís lives; making them into perfect consumers where they are encouraged to "buy more" but not to have any wants and desires- especially love or physical intimacy. THX 1138 stars Robert Duvall as the title character a high tech assembly line worker with a rather dangerous job, who finds it increasingly difficult to concentrate on his assigned tasks. As it turns out, THXís female roommate LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie) has been weaning him off the state mandated mind controlling drugs that help him do his job, in an effort to pursue an illegal physical and emotional relationship with him. Although LUH succeeds with THX, their relationship is eventually discovered- with the two immediately separated and THX finds himself having to endure state sponsored reconditioningÖ The cast of THX 1138 also features Donald Pleasence, Don Pedro Colley and Ian Wolfe.

Warner Home Video has made THX 1138: THE GEORGE LUCAS DIRECTOR'S CUT available on DVD in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. The Directorís Cut of THX 1138 presents audiences George Lucasí personal vision for the film, which has been augmented with new digital effects that add breath, scope and production detail to movie that couldnít be afforded by the filmmaker in 1971. The transfer is genuinely excellent for a film of its age and original production limitations, appearing virtually pristine, nicely sharp and well detailed. Much of the film places the characters on antiseptic white backgrounds, so the film has a somewhat limited color palette. However, whatever hues there are throughout the film are rendered with fine saturation and no noise or smearing. Additionally, flesh tones appear just fine. Blacks are inky, whites are pure and contrast is smooth. Some noticeable film grain creeps in from time to time, but never appears excessive, which is quite impressive for this Techniscope production. Digital compression artifacts are always well contained.

THX 1138: THE GEORGE LUCAS DIRECTOR'S CUT comes with a nicely upgraded Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. Owing to the limitations in 1971 sound technology and the fact that THX 1138 was originally presented in monaural, this isnít the most involving re-mix on the market. However, it is a highly effective reworking of the filmís soundtrack. The forward soundstage tends to dominate, although the rear channels kick in at key moments with well-placed active effects, not to mention some great ambient and musical fill. One highlight of the soundtrack is Lalo Schifrinís music, which is rendered with a very good level of fidelity and sense of integration. Dialogue is always understandable, but the voices donít have the natural warmth of newer soundtracks. French and Spanish 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Disc one features a highly informative running audio commentary with co-writer/director George Lucas and co-writer/sound designer Walter Murch. Also featured on disc one is Theatre Of Noise- an isolated music and effects track, plus Master Sessions With Walter Murch in which the sound designer discusses his work on individual sequences from the film.

Moving on to disc two, one will find the remainder of the supplemental programming. A Legacy Of Filmmakers: The Early Years Of American Zoetrope is an excellent hour-long documentary that looks at the company that sprung up around Francis Ford Coppola and a new generation of moviemakers, when the Hollywood Studio system was coming to its end. Featuring new interviews with the filmmakers and actors, Artifact From The Future: The Making Of THX 1138 is a thirty-minute look back at the creation of Lucasí feature film version of his student film. Next up, we have Lucasí actual fifteen-minute USC student film ELECTRONIC LABYRINTH THX 1138 4EB. Bald: The Making Of THX 1138 is a vintage seven-minute look behind the scenes that features a look at the actors having their heads shaved for the film. Finally, there five original theatrical release and re-release trailers for THX 1138.

THX 1138 is a fascinating and frightening look at the kind of dystopian future that could be imagined in the early 1970s. THX 1138: THE GEORGE LUCAS DIRECTOR'S CUT offers a newly perfected look at the film that features a pristine appearance and improved effects work. Warnerís DVD looks and sounds great and offers an excellent array of worthwhile and interesting supplemental features. Recommended.

Please note: THX 1138: THE GEORGE LUCAS DIRECTOR'S CUT is offered on DVD in two versions- a single disc version for $19.98 and the two disc Special Edition for $26.98.



THX 1138 (The George Lucas Director's Cut Two-Disc Special Edition) (1971)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2004 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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