Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
THX 1138 was George Lucas' first full length movie. It was made in 1970 as a remake of an earlier student work (, 1967). The movie is set in an underground dystopia, and shares themes with 1984, Brave New World and, to a lesser extent, Ayn Rand's novel Anthem. One of the inspirations for this movie is the short film 21-87.
Lucas revisited THX 1138 in 2004 and created a new Director's Cut. Using CGI techniques that weren't available in 1970, he was able to show a world that is visually expanded from the original version. This Director's Cut was released to a limited number of screens on Sept. 10, 2004 and on DVD in Region 1 on Sept. 14, 2004.
The film essentially consists of three acts.
In the first act, we are introduced to daily life in the dystopia by following around the central character, THX 1138 (Robert Duvall), a nuclear-production-line worker who stops taking his (soma-like) drugs. As the effects wear off, his repressed senses of sexuality and freedom become evident. He is subsequently convicted of a "sex-crime" in the form of a sexual relationship with his female roomate LUH 3417, played by Maggie McOmie.
The second act sees THX incarcerated for his crimes in a white limbo world along with a collection of other prisoners, including Donald Pleasence as SEN 5241. The outlook and content of this section of the film is somewhat reminicent of the works of Samuel Beckett. Most of the prisoners seem uninterested in escape, but eventually THX and some others decide to walk through the limbo and eventually find an exit. Upon their escape THX attempts to find LUH. He learns that her identity has been reassigned to a fetus in a growth chamber. He assumes that she has been considered incurable and killed.
The third act is a Logan's Run style escape (predating Logan's Run), featuring a futuristic and often-copied car-chase sequence through a tunnel network. THX is chased by robot police and eventually locates a manhole cover which leads out into the sunlight. As the robot policeman is about to catch up with THX, the budget for his capture reaches an end, and the robot retreats, leaving THX to climb out into the harsh surface sunlight.
It is rumored that the song "We Are 138" by punk band The Misfits (known for their B-Movie and underground sci-fi song plots), was inspired by this movie.
The number 1138 is a recurrent Easter egg in subsequent George Lucas films and products of the Lucas-founded LucasArts (computer games) and Industrial Light & Magic (special effects). For example, 1138 is the number of a cell block on the Death Star in Star Wars Episode IV, the number-plate of Paul Le Mat's deuce coupe in American Graffiti is THX 138, the number 1138 is printed on a battle droid's backpack in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and 1138 appears on a door in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
The cinematic sound systems company THX Ltd. is owned by Lucasfilm, and is named after this film.
THX officially stands for "Tomlinson Holman's eXperiment". Tomlinson Holman developed the THX sound system, having been commissioned to do so by Lucas in 1982. However, the true meaning of "THX 1138" is much more mundane: it is actually George Lucas' old phone number from the apartment where he lived as a college student.
According to an interview of George Lucas on the DVD "Short 10 Chaos", the "X" in the sound system name THX stands for "Crossover," a piece of audio processing equipment. In either case, it is not named for THX 1138. In this same interview, Lucas states that it is just a coincidence. However, according to Tomlinson Holman, the duality of references in the technology name — to himself and to Lucas's film — was intentional from the start.
San Francisco locations
An automotive chase scene involved the use of two San Francisco Bay Area automotive tunnels, the Caldecot Tunnel between Oakland and Orinda, and the underwater Posey Tube between Oakland and Alameda. The final climb out to the daylight was actually filmed, with the camera rotated 90 degrees, in the incomplete (and decidedly horizontal) BART underwater tube before installation of the track supports, with the character using exposed reinforcing bars as a ladder.
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