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THX 1138

Entry updated 19 December 2017. Tagged: Film.

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Film (1971). American Zoetrope/Warner Bros. Directed by George Lucas. Written by Lucas, Walter Murch, from a story by Lucas. Cast includes Robert Duvall, Maggie McOmie and Donald Pleasence. 88 minutes, restored to 95 minutes. Colour.

A subterranean future society is governed repressively by Computers and bland human technocrats who keep the population under control with Drugs. Everyone wears white clothing, heads are shaven, and sexual intercourse is forbidden (breeding is by artificial insemination) – it is a truly sterile, antiseptic world. One of the few dissenters is THX (Duvall), who experiments with Sex; his cellmate becomes pregnant and is liquidated. THX is imprisoned in a White Limbo but escapes and reaches the surface and freedom. It is an old and familiar story to sf readers, but Lucas presents it with some panache. He begins with apparently unrelated visual fragments, accompanied by snatches of dialogue, all of which gradually coalesce to form a comprehensive Dystopian nightmare, visually impressive but not lavish, with a bleak sense of style and a drily witty script.

THX 1138, though a small masterpiece, failed commercially – unsurprisingly since it is both difficult and downbeat; it did a little better when released again after the success of Lucas's Star Wars (1977) with some footage originally excised by a worried Warner Bros restored. The novelization is THX 1138 (1971) by Ben Bova. [JB/PN]


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