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THX 1138:
THE GEORGE LUCAS
DIRECTOR'S CUT

These days it isn’t heard to imagine a future where your social security number becomes your only form of identification. In America, a social security number 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 Lucas’ THX 1138 ($24) first premiered, I’m sure it seemed far more frightening, especially when you consider that people were still shuffling papers manually, there wasn’t a computer on every desktop and information wasn’t instantaneously accessible.

George Lucas’ vision of the future in THX 1138 is a dystopian nightmare, where people are stripped of their individuality and are force into mind controlled conformity by conditioning and drugs. In this vision of the future, the state not only sees all- it also controls all aspects of the people’s 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, THX’s 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 being immediately separated and THX finds himself having to endure state sponsored reconditioning… 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 Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The Director’s Cut of THX 1138 presents audiences George Lucas’ personal vision for the film, which has been augmented with new digital effects that add breath, scope and production detail to movie… all things the filmmaker couldn’t afford in 1971. I have to say that I am very impressed by the 1080p presentation of THX 1138, which looks startlingly good considering its economic 2-perf Techniscope origins. All things considered, stunning levels of sharpness and detail have been pulled out the film elements; this is especially noticeable in close-ups of the actors’ faces. Still, much of THX 1138 takes place in a sterile, antiseptic white on white world that can hide some of the detail contained in the image. Color reproduction is very good, bright colors are authentic and well saturated. Flesh tones are totally realistic. Blacks are inky, whites are pure and contrast is smooth. The elements from which THX 1138 has been mastered appear virtually flawless. A fine sheen of grain is noticeable during the presentation and can become more noticeable in areas of pure white.

THX 1138: THE GEORGE LUCAS DIRECTOR'S CUT is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The film’s soundtrack was upgraded at the time of that the director’s cut was created and, apart from the modestly improved fidelity of the lossless encode, is very similar to what was contained on the DVD release. Owing to the limitations in 1971 sound technology and the fact that THX 1138 was originally presented in monaural, this isn’t the most involving re-mix on the market. However, it is a highly effective reworking of the film’s 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 Schifrin’s music, which is rendered with a very good level of fidelity and sense of integration. Dialogue is crisp and always totally understandable. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplements, most of which were ported from the DVD release. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with co-writer/director George Lucas and co-writer/sound designer Walter Murch. Other sonic features include: 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. A couple of documentary programs follow: 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 Lucas’ feature film version of his student film. Next up, we have Lucas’ 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 are five original theatrical release and re-release Trailers for THX 1138.

THX 1138 remains a fascinating and frightening look at the kind of dystopian future that could be imagined in the early 1970s. The Blu-ray presentation marks a terrific and worthwhile visual upgrade. Recommended.

 
THX 1138: THE GEORGE LUCAS DIRECTOR'S CUT 


THX 1138 (The George Lucas Director's Cut) [Blu-ray] (1971)

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DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright 2010 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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