“THX 1138” is a psychedelic science fiction horror story about some future civilization regimented into computer-programmed slavery. Likely not to be an artistic or commercial success in its own time, the American Zoetrope (Francis Ford Coppola group) production just might in time become a classic of stylistic, abstract cinema. Story has some disturbingly plausible overtones, but only a portion of the esoteric audience may turn onto the Warner Bros. release at this time. Heavy exploitation may yield mixed results.
Film is a feature-length expansion of George Lucas’ student film which won kudos some three years ago. In that brief form, the story of one man’s determination to crash out of his worldly prison was exciting; the expansion by director-editor Lucas with Walter Murch succeeds in fleshing out the environment, but falls behind in constructing a plot line to sustain interest. Robert Duvall heads cast as the defector after his mate Maggie McOmie is programmed into the cell of Donald Pleasence, a corrupt computer technician. Don Pedro Colley is another fugitive, who helps Duvall reach his freedom.
Dave Meyers and Albert Kihn photographed superbly the extremely handsome futuristic physical values designed by Michael Haller. Lalo Schifrin’s score is outstanding. Murch is credited with the excellent sound montages which blend some familiar recorded-announcement cliches with the low-key terror of an Orwellian “Alice in Wonderland,” where drug use and sexual suppression are mandatory, and the major crimes are drug evasion and sex relations. With political paternalism rampant at both extremes of the spectrum, Lucas is onto something. In any case, we’ll know for sure in about a generation.