THX 1138 - Special Edition
George Lucas' rarely seen, experimental, bald-headed first journey into the world of science fiction, THX 1138 finally arrives on DVD in the form a digitally enhanced two-disc "George Lucas Director's Cut." Just as he has done with every release of his Star Wars series, Lucas has tweaked his film with a new edit and several new digital special effects. The film's bleak, claustrophobic cityscapes have been transformed into vast, sprawling, claustrophobic cityscapes that slightly resemble the cloud city of Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back. Other additions include a bizarre, yet exciting new moment in the film's final jet-car sequence, and an odd moment where THX (Robert Duvall) is attacked by digital monkey-like "shell dwellers." As no original version of the film is made available on this edition, this new version may upset long-time fans, yet anyone familiar with the quirks of George Lucas should be used to "special editions" of his films. The DVD manages to capture the sterile, white look of the film brilliantly with outstanding clarity and picture quality. It is difficult to believe the footage shot in the late '60s is not brand new. THX 1138 has been given a gorgeous letterboxed transfer to disc one in the widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Rounding out the disc are the film's special features which include a thought-provoking and in- depth commentary track by Lucas and the film's co-screenwriter, editor, and sound designer Walter Murch. Murch returns once again on the disc for a series of branching video segments accessible throughout the film where he explains the methods he used for creating the complex sounds used in the film. The film's absorbing soundtrack has been mastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 and can be listened to in an isolated audio track of just score and sound effects. Alternate dubbed tracks and subtitles are available in English, French, and Spanish. The second disc is a treasure chest of wonderful material not only for fans of the film but for any fan of the filmmaking process. Starting out the disc is a fascinating hour-long documentary, A Legacy of Filmmakers: The Early Years of American Zoetrope. Directed by Gary Leva and narrated by Richard Dreyfuss, the documentary shows how young film school grads Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas worked to form a late- '60s artistic alternative to the Hollywood system only to have that same system nearly destroy their dreams. Next on the disc is an equally amazing documentary titled "Artifact From the Future: The Making of THX 1138," which goes into detail on the making of the film from concept to script to head-shaving to filming, as well as its eventual box-office failure. Along the way we hear from some of the film's many fans, such as Frank Darbount and Steven Spielberg, on how the film has influenced and affected their careers. A vintage making-of documentary titled "Bald" also sheds more light on the film's head-shaving antics and features a wonderful, priceless moment where a very young Francis Coppola interviews an even younger George Lucas long before the two of them took over the film world with The Godfather and Star Wars films. Also included is a holy grail for George Lucas fans, his original film-school version of THX 1138, titled Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB. Dark, grainy, and unsettling, the short gives a clear hint of what was to come in Lucas' career. Rounding out disc two is an original trailer and five trailers for the film's 2004 rerelease. The obvious care in the overall presentation of THX 1138 on DVD adds up to an outstanding release for an influential and stunning science-fiction film classic.