So long and THX for all the fish

Robert Duvall with George Lucas on the set of THX 1138

So if you haven’t heard already, actor Shia LaBeouf admitted in an interview a little while ago that the long awaited sequel Indiana Jones & The Crystal Skull was, basically, a dud. “When you drop the ball, you drop the ball,” he is quoted in the LA Times.

Of course this is not something you didn’t know already.

George Lucas, producer of that film and creator of the Star Wars series, definitely does not know how to make movies anymore, and it should surprise no one. Some people, enraged by his lazy attempts to cash in on his legacy, have gone as far as to say he simply never had any talent at all.

Of course, anyone who has seen THX 1138, a brutally cold sci-fi dystopia from 1971, knows that isn’t true. It’s an overlooked gem that combines Lucas’ once-renowned knowledge of audio-visual trickery with a surprisingly strong script and a game cast.

Set in a sterile world, the character THX 1138 (Robert Duvall) lives in a densely-populated underground city, wasting his days performing an unspecified job that is as monotonous as it is irrelevant. He has been getting headaches ever since he stopped taking the state-mandated drugs that are supposed to keep him content.

Soon, he initiates an affair with his roommate, LUH 3417 (Margaret McOmie). Since this is a sci-fi film written by a geeky young man, sex is the ultimate crime of the state. Their situation comes to the attention of a security monitor, who blackmails THX into becoming his roommate. Not long after, all three end up in prison, but LUH is separated from THX when it’s discovered she is pregnant. THX breaks out of the city in the hopes of finding her, joined by SEN and a fellow prisoner.

It’s great science fiction that raises profound questions about human nature. Is there any kind of freedom when you lose touch with your own humanity? Are human beings doomed to turn their societies into cages? It’s also suggested that THX’s dreams of escape may ultimately be fruitless.

Now, I have a few caveats about the DVD release. Yes, George Lucas created new visual effects for the disc, but contrary to the annoying Star Wars upgrades, all but one of them blend in seamlessly. The original cut of the film was slightly hampered by a brief, ridiculous scene where THX wrestles a dwarf. Rather than take the wise path of cutting this from the otherwise sombre and thoughtful film, Lucas left the scene intact and replaced the dwarf with a CGI monster. It’s like going to a restaurant and getting served the wrong entrée twice in one evening!

Despite that missed opportunity, THX 1138 is one of my favourite films and it’s a nice reminder of the talent the near universally-hated George Lucas once possessed.

Let us hope beyond hope he is not planning a sequel starring Shia LaBeouf.


Blogoween: Motel Hell (1980)

Every now and then when I was a lad browsing through the horror section of a video store, you’d get a video cover that would just burn itself into memory.

17 October 2009

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