MOVIE REVIEW | ***DIRECTOR DEBUT WEEK*** Lucas: THX 1138 (1971)

THX1138
Poor old George Lucas gets a bad wrap.  Sure, I didn’t like the Star Wars prequels, but I was in my 20s when they came out, they weren’t made for me.  Just like my parents who were in their 20s and 30s when the original trilogy came out and didn’t like those.  The Star Wars movies are kids movies, and if you see them early enough, chances are you’ll love them into adulthood.  Yet the nostalgia of those original trilogy fans is so rabid, Lucas has spent the last 15 or so years vilified as a hack.  But George Lucas is more than Star Wars.  He also made the great American Graffiti, and before everything else, he made THX 1138.

This is science fiction, but it’s not the kid friendly, gee-whiz science fiction of Star Wars.  THX 1138 is serious, dark, adult shit.  In this world, mankind are drugged up drones, living in a cold empty world, surrounded by sanitised white and constantly monitored by big brother.  Robert Duvall is THX, a factory worker who builds the police robots that help keep society down.  His missus, LUH (Maggie McOmie) realises they are being numbed by the mandatory drug program and orchestrates THX going cold turkey.

Sobering up, THX starts to think for himself and feel all the emotions he’s been missing.  Soon, THX and LUH are also mixed up with Donald Pleasance as SEN.  They’re growing independent thinking brings them to the attention of the authorities and shit gets real.

Over the years, Lucas has more than once talked about his desire to make small, personal, not so commercial movies.  Based on the Star Wars series and America Graffiti, I always thought he only knew how to make mass appeal, feel good crowd pleasers.  But THX 1138 shows he’s capable of genuinely subversive, interesting and very non conventional story telling and film making.

Robert Duvall is great in the title role.  He sells the lobotomized, dead eyed compliance of the movie’s early scenes and convincingly evolves through confusion to realisation to rebellion as the story progresses.   Of course it’s no surprise that Robert Duvall puts in an awesome performance, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining.

And what was the story with Donald Pleasance in the 70s?  He was either insane or an absolute genius.  From movies like THX 1138, to Halloween to the amazing Wake in Fright, he really does have one of the most interesting and bizarre resumes of the decade.

Now that George Lucas is out of the Star Wars game, and now that I’ve finally seen THX 1138, I really hope it does free him up to make the small, personal, not so commercial movies he’s talked about in the past.  The result could be like the Frances Ford Coppola of the last decade.  Maybe not amazing and as hugely successful as his prime, but never boring.

THX 1138
Directed By – George Lucas
Written By – George Lucas, Walter Murch

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