THX 1138 (1971)

thx 1138 poster 1971 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great visuals, great actors, ok story

Story just needed a bit more meat or direction

Movie Info

Movie Name: THX 1138

Studio: American Zoetrope/Warner Bros

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s): March 11, 1971

MPAA Rating: R

thx 1138 luh 3417 maggie mcomie robert duvall

Hey, THX…is it weird that I’m turned on that people are watching us?

Welcome to a world where emotions are ruled by the drugs you are taking.  The police force is made up robots and religion is government sponsored sponsored deity named OMM 0910.  When THX 1138 (Robert Duvall) is secretly taken off his medication by his female roommate LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie), THX 1138 begins to experience emotions he’s never had.  After sleeping together (which is forbidden), he and LUH 3417 become targets of LUH 3417’s superior SEN 5241 (Donald Pleasence).  When THX 1138 turns SEN 5241 in, all three are taken into custody.  Now THX 1138 and SEN 5241 must try to escape with SRT (Don Pedro Colley), and he seeks LUH 3417 and a way to escape the city that is hunting him.

Written and directed by George Lucas, THX 1138 is a science-fiction dystopian thriller.  The film was based on Lucas’s 1967 student film Electronic Labyrinth:  THX 1138 4EB and was produced by Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope.  The film was initially released to poor box-office results but was released in 1977 after Lucas’s success with Star Wars and was released again in 2004 as a director’s cut with extended scenes and remastered special effects.

thx 1138 robert duvall white room donald pleasence robert duvall

Oh good…you’re here too…crap

Lucas was already a name when I was little, but I never saw THX 1138 until much, much later.  While you can see some of the aesthetics of Star Wars in THX 1138, it feels more adult and more science-fiction than fantasy.  Though flawed, THX 1138 shows a new talent in Lucas.

The story is probably the weakest aspect of the film but that doesn’t mean that it is bad.  It is the classic dystopia with no sex, no personality, no joy, etc. and there are long periods of inactivity that not only bring the budget down, but also allows the ideas of the script to breathe and be explored.  The obtuseness of the script is a little much and not giving answers feels more gratuitous than a way to tell the story and make it feel deep.

The film is aided immensely by the addition of Robert Duvall who gives weight to THX 1138 who is experiencing emotions for the first time.  Donald Pleasence plays his always odd self and the unbalanced nature works well with his performance.  I wish there had been more for Maggie McOmie to do in the film since I felt some of her interaction at the beginning of the film was the real meat of the plot.  I also like the addition of Don Pedro Colley who shows up later as a hologram actor also lost in the underground.  The movie also features a small appearance by Sid Haig as another prisoner.

thx 1138 motocycle chase robots

Tron, there is a new player on the grid…his name is THX 1138

The movie is very visually compelling.  Despite a low budget, scenes like the White Room and the odd framing styles used by Lucas in the movie give it a unique look.  It feels much bigger than it really is.  Unfortunately, Lucas also “revamped” some stuff like his Star Wars reworkings and things like added mutant monkeys and bugs seem beneath the picture (though they are weird).

THX 1138 is a decent film.  If Star Wars hadn’t been a success, I still think it would float around as a cult classic style movie (maybe even more so since it might be pretty obscure).  The movie (or at least the name) of course lives on in Lucas’s other projects with references and lettering and of course the THX sound system.  THX 1138 is worth seeking out, but it feels just a stone’s throw away from greatness.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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