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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze


THX 1138 (Director's Cut) [Blu-ray]


(George Lucas, 1971)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: American Zoetrope

Video: Warner Home Video



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:28:31.347

Disc Size: 29,769,712,554 bytes

Feature Size: 21,487,878,144 bytes

Video Bitrate: 24.08 Mbps

Chapters: 24

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: September 7th, 2010



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: VC-1 Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 3533 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3533 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio French 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio German 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps / DN -4dB
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB / Dolby Surround



English (SDH), Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish, none



• Commentary by George Lucas and Walter Murch
Theatre of Noise Experience: isolated sound effects track
• 13 Master Sessions: Docupod gallery showcasing Murch's pioneering work (29:41 in total in SD)
Two documentaries: A Legacy of Filmmakers: The Early Years of American Zoetrope (1:03:35) and Artifact from the Future: The Making of THX-1138 (31:08 in SD)
Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB: Lucas' original student film (15:10 in SD)
Vintage production featurette: Bald: the making of THX 1138 (8:03 in SD)
Theatrical trailers - original 1971 (2:49 in SD),  5 X 2004 re-release (11:21 in total in SD)





Description: A chilling exploration of the future is also a compelling examination of the present in George Lucas’s THX 1138, starring Robert Duvall as a man whose mind and body are controlled by the government. THX makes a harrowing attempt to escape from a world where thoughts are controlled, freedom is an impossibility and love is the ultimate crime.


In George Lucas's fascinating feature debut (based on his short student film), the young director creates a futuristic, underground world in which bald, dronelike workers are forced to take drugs to regulate their moods and stifle their libidos. THX 1138 (Robert Duvall) and his mate, LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie), are factory workers, building the robotic police that keep order in their stark world. The soundtrack to their lives is a news service that continually lists information about factory accidents, as well as sex and drug crimes, ala George Orwell's 1984. There are electronic confessionals for workers to admit to mistakes they've made, and THX uses these outlets to express his unhappiness with his life. When LUH decides she and THX should stop taking their medication, their sense of humanity--and their desire and love for each other as a couple--is unleashed. It's not long, however, before they are imprisoned for this crime, and LUH learns then that she is pregnant. Separated, THX embarks on a journey to find her with the help of rebel SEN (Donald Pleasence) and hologram SRT (Don Pedro Colley), eventually attempting escape to the outside world. Combining complex editing and sound techniques with brilliantly subtle performances, THX 1138 is a little-known and vastly underrated sci-fi masterpiece. In an eerily prophetic moment, Lucas also predicts what people will be watching on TV in this future--news, sexually explicit films, and vapid comedy shows.



The Film:

Clearly, writer-director Lucas was still feeling his way. The story seems to be a composite of every other sci-fi novel and film ever made before and since, with its themes of individuality vs. corporate, Big Brother dehumanization, and that Philip K. Dick chestnut of robotics vs. humanity. The plot also culminates in a fugitive run from the authorities that rings all too familiar. Lucas also had the benefit of Stanley Kubrick's visionary "2001 -- A Space Odyssey," which had affected an entire generation just two years before. And those chrome-issue cops seem to anticipate the liquid-transforming cop-terminator of "The Terminator" film series.

But it's so watchable. "THX 1138" (whose earlier student version was called "Electronic Labyrinth THX 4EB") is testament to the emergence of a visually masterful filmmaker, capable of ingenious, low-tech special effects. (It was mostly shot in and around San Francisco, where Lucas found otherworldy locations such as the tunnels and stations of the BART railway system, still under construction.) The whole thing feels like a hypnotic dreamscape, so luminously stark, from its white-on-white abstract sets to the wide-eyed, bald, near catatonic residents of this world.

We are looking at the first effort by the man who was soon to make the "Star Wars" films, under his own terms and very much against the monopolistic hand of the Hollywood studios. Along with Francis Ford Coppola, who produced the film at his new Zoetrope studio, Lucas was part of the movement that gave us one of America's most creative periods, the era that produced Robert Altman, Arthur Penn, Martin Scorsese and many others.

Excerpt from Desson Thomson's review at The Washington Post located HERE


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

THX 1138 on Blu-ray from Warner exports the film's incredible visual power. Credit also deservedly goes also to dual-DoP's Albert Kihn and David Myers. But this 1080P transfer seems to get the absolute most out of antiseptic aura of snow-driven, impersonal, whiteness. Despite the early 70's stock used the film is clean, precise and the HD rendering still retains the underlying depressed 'feel'. From the standpoint of visual expression the film is masterful and the Blu-ray has captured so much of what makes this a great viewing experience. It has grain and some infrequent noise. THX 1138 has a grandness of scale that is never overwhelming but I often felt like I was in a 'cinema' as I progressed through my viewing. Lucas digitally restored "THX 1138" at his own Industrial Light & Magic facility and he also included the, roughly, 5 minutes Warner removed for its brief, initial, theatrical run (hence: "Director's Cut"). While the film might only be considered 'reasonably interesting' - the appearance is one to rave about - especially in terms of the in the higher resolution now available in your home theater - so the improvement over SD-DVD feels almost... exponential.



NOTE: Dean tells us in email: "I own THX-1138 Blu-ray and I originally had problems playing it on my multi-region Panasonic DMP-BD60. It gets to the Warner Logo and then simply stops, and couldn't access the main menu or play the film. However it seemed to play perfectly fine on my PS3. It seems this particular title requires 230kb of memory in order to play (most likely due to the elaborate menu which is different to the usual Warner menus). I used an SD card on my Panasonic player and it works fine now." (thanks Dean!)

















Audio :

Solid lossless audio rendering with a DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 3533 kbps. One could talk quite extensively on the sound of THX 113. The unique quality of the overhead voices ("Buy more, buy now...") really benefits from the HD transfer - this is described very well by Walter Murch - who discusses it as emulating a HAM radio. Like the video, Lalo Schifrin's score with some orchestra and abundant synthesizers also adds its impact to the overall experience. This had some of its evolution in Murch fiddling with classical music and external noises - sometimes playing it backwards, slowed down etc. Any intended reverberation or echo effect is reproduced very well by the new DTS-Master. It has some buoyant range. There are some foreign language DUBs and plenty of subtitle options and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.



Extras :

Most of the supplements are duplicated from the Director's Cut DVD including the commentary by George Lucas and Walter Murch - recorded separately (specific scenes) but put together for curious fans to indulge. The featurettes are the same - the vintage production pieces: Bald: the making of THX 1138 running 8-minutes, Lucas' original 15-minute student film Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB, the two excellent documentaries: A Legacy of Filmmakers: The Early Years of American Zoetrope (1:03:35 in SD - this is a fascinating 'must see') and Artifact from the Future: The Making of THX-1138 (31:08 in SD). The 13 Master Sessions described as a 'Docupod gallery' showcases Murch's pioneering work which is accessible during the film as a red square appears and you can leave the scene for his discussion of that particular segment and when it ends the film starts up again at the appropriate spot. Several interesting parts here - and you can appreciate the extent that production had gone to in creating the audio for the film. One can enact a 'Theatre of Noise Experience' which is the isolated sound effects track and there are theatrical trailers - original 1971 (2:49 in SD), 5 X 2004 re-release (11:21 in total in SD). So - basically this is as stacked (2.5 hours not including the commentary) as the previous DVD but everything is accessible on one dual-layered Blu-ray disc.



I'd strongly agree with Roger Ebert in this case as he says about THX 1138; "The movie's strength is not in its story but in its unsettling and weirdly effective visual and sound style." Obviously, for your home theater, this can be gained to maximum efficiency on Blu-ray. What often felt like borrowed concepts the film has its own agenda and is definitely worth seeing in the newer format for both video and audio. This Blu-ray would represent far closer to what Lucas wanted and we give it a solid recommendation. 

Gary Tooze

August 31st, 2010




About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze








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