Posted in: Disc Reviews by David Annandale on September 11th, 2004
In a totally enclosed dystopia, THX 1138 (Robert Duvall) gradually begins to rebel againstthe completely controlled and drug-managed existence. He dares to think, and to have an affair,and, after a nightmarish imprisonment in a featureless white limbo, he attempts an escape.
It’s hard to believe that this dark, almost abstract film with its elliptical narrative approachcould have been made by the same man who has assaulted us with such pap as The PhantomMenace and Attack of the Clones. Perhaps the one link, other than the fact that theobsession with science fiction has never wavered, is that the Lucas of 1970 takes himself asseriously as the Lucas of 2004. But here he is much more interesting, and conjures some arrestingimages out of a very modest budget. Lucas transforms existing industrial sets in a way thatis infinitely more convincing than the much bigger-budgeted Logan’s Run of a fewyears later. Warner Bros. drastically re-edited the movie prior to its initial release (which ran 95minutes). This is, apparently, Lucas’ director’s cut, and it now runs 88 minutes.
Ever wondered where THX sound got its name? Now you know. Fitting, then, that thisrelease is THX mastered. The 5.1 track is very clear and distortion-free. It treats the music (byLalo Schifrin) and the marvellous sound design (by co-writer Walter Murch) very well. Thereare some nice environmental effects as well. The sound isn’t overwhelming, but the result iseminently satisfying for a film that is over thirty years old.
The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen picture has been very nicely restored. The print ispristine, and there is, for all practical purposes, no grain. the colours are fine, as are the blacksand the flesh tones, and the image is sharp. The film looks as if it were released yesterday.
There are two discs here. On the first, Lucas and Murch provide a fine commentary, clearlysetting out how and why they went about the making of the film. There is also an isolated music-and-effects track, which branches into video segments elaborating on how Murch did the sounddesign.
Disc 2 has an hour-long documentary: A Legacy of Filmmakers: The Early Years ofAmerican Zoetrope. Richard Dreyfuss narrates this look at the company, founded by FrancisFord Coppola, that nurtured such talents as Lucas, John Milius, Scorsese and others. There’s asolid 30-minute making-of piece on THX 1138 as well. The other major feature here, andan important one at that, is Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB, Lucas’ student film thatformed the basis for the feature. The other extras are the 1971 theatrical trailer, four trailers forthe 2004 re-release, and “BALD” – a vintage promotional featurette. The menu is fully animatedand scored.
Though watching this movie can be depressing, in that you wonder what happened to thisclearly very talented filmmaker, that should in no way discourage you from seeing it. A majorrelease.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Isolated Music and Effects Track with Branching Video Segments
- “A Legacy of Filmmakers: The Early Years of American Zoetrope” Documentary
- “Artifact from the Future: The Making of THX 1138” Documentary
- “Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB” Student Film
- “BALD” Vintage Production Featurette
- Original and Re-Release Trailers