THX 1138. Brainchild of the director famous for bringing Star Wars and Indiana Jones to the big screen. The letters THX are something not entirely unfamiliar to me. I see them all the time at the movies. They belong to the name of Lucas’ sound production company. But what is not always recognized is that they also belong to the name of the titular character in Lucas’ first film: THX 1138.
THX, as played by Robert Duvall, is a man living in a dystopian world policed by robots and controlled by drugs. Not illicit drugs, but drugs created to repress feelings among other things. In this world sex is prohibited. I’m not sure entirely how they procreate, but whatever, I didn’t understand many aspects of this movie. When one day he is manipulated by his female roommate, LUH 3417, into taking the wrong drugs, they become overwhelmed with their emotions and… yep, you guessed it, they bang. I’m not sure if it is intended to be seen this way, but this recalls Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to me. Unknowingly, they are being monitored. The next day the 2 decide to run away together after working one last shift at their jobs, (He helps make the police robots… which would be pretty cool). Well, they never see each other again, she is requested by her boss and then goes missing. A friend of THX, SEN 5241, makes illegal arrangements for them to be roommates, which THX reports on SEN for (what a hypocritical bastard!). They both end up being arrested and put into prison.
Prison here is simply a massive miles and miles wide white room. Originally THX is alone, before being roughed up by the robocops. Then he is suddenly with LUH again. they do it again, then she tells him she is pregnant. THX gets roughed up by the mechanical men some more before being brought to an area with more prisoners including SEN. He sits around in silence for a while, with dudes yelling and ranting and people known as under dwellers (They all live underground, under dwellers lived closer to the top) being brought in as well. SEN tries to rally the group into unspecified action, he is one of the ranters, until THX ups and leaves and SEN follows. They walk for what could be a mile, could be a marathon could be 100 miles. They come across a lost hologram and together find the exit. The exit: A door. An unlocked door. The simply walk out.
They exit to find themselves in a packed hockey arena at the end of a game with everyone heading to their cars. Not really, but they find themselves in a passageway roughly that full. They loose SEN who ends up just walking around until he gets picked up again by our copper coppers. THX and the hologram try to hide for a while, but eventually bring attention to themselves. They are able to find LUH but she has been reverted to a fetus. They steal a couple of cars and race away from the police, in what is actually not too bad of a chase scene. The hologram hasn’t been programmed how to drive, so he hits a pole pulling away from his parking spot and gets hauled away. THX races until his car overheats. He ends up climbing up a giant shaft toward whatever terrors await him topside. The police follow him until their operation is deemed to expensive and they are forced to turn back, despite being mere feet away from him. THX climbs out and we see him standing against the setting sun. End of movie.
I’m not really sure what I am supposed to take from this movie. Honestly, I found it hard to follow. Parts of dialogue are heard through the ears of someone monitoring them, and are muffled. Sometimes things are said against other speech and are difficult to understand that way. There are long stretches of silence. I found myself disinterested almost from the beginning. The opening scene grabbed my attention because it was a scene from an old Buck Rogers serial, but I’m not sure what that had to do with anything. Afterword I lost interest quickly. I dosed off a few times and had to rematch a few scenes. I pull a little bit of commentary about government policies, but that’s about it. It reminds me of what I think parts of 1984 are like, though I have not yet read that book. It’s on my docket.
Before THX’s arrest he is in the middle of a delicate robot procedure, when the government turns off his brain, because they can do that here. When he is turned off he drops a radioactive rod and the whole area evacuates. They quickly realize their error and turn his mind back on. When questioned those responsible throw out a casual “control centre 626 holds no responsibility for error in mind lock” and continue on with their work. I feel this is something that happens in government way too often.
When THX and SEN find the hologram from a distance they are excited, when he gets closer they lose excitement, though they don’t yet know he is a hologram. He is a large black man however, and this was made in 1971. Is this a racism issue, or is something else going on.
Overall, I did not enjoy this movie. I imagine one day I’m going to sit my teenage son down and make him watch this movie. I will say “Son, this is what will happen if you ever have sex.” And he’ll say “What I will get arrested by robot cops and put in a white room jail cell?” To which I will say “No. If I catch you having sex I will make you sit through this movie again”.
THX was originally intended to be a 7 film series, but that clearly didn’t happen. It did not do well in theatres, but does have a cult following and 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. I do not know why. This was originally done by Lucas as a 15 minute short film in university. That film has made it into preservation in the National Film Registry, but this film has not. Unfortunately, I was watching both a directors cut and digitally altered version of the film. Ideally, I would liked to have seen what audiences in 1971 would have seen in the theatre.
Thanks for reading! Tell me what you think about the film in the comments section below. I will be reviewing Ra’s Al Ghul first appearance in the pages of Batman #232 next, so check back in a couple of days for that.