(Robert Duvall) would be a happy worker drone, if the pills he takes let him feel anything. He "lives" in a windowless industrial/commercial/dormitory along with other shaved-head people in a chemically induced haze until the day his roommate, LUH (Maggie McOmie), sabotages his daily dose of pills in order to make him feel. They both fall madly in love, but their bliss is short lived since the pills gave THX a vaunted steady hand in his industrial job, and without it they may be discovered.
Which, sadly, they are. Once arrested THX is sent to a strange White Void Room
to receive "treatment" for his deviance. He recruits fellow inmates SRT (Don Pedro Colley) and SEN (Donald Pleasence
) in an attempt to escape and rescue LUH. However, the escape won't be easy, and in their strange world, nothing is guaranteed.
This is George Lucas
' first feature film, which started his rapid ascent in Hollywood. You may be more familiar with this film from the sound system company Lucas named in its honor, or from the fact that the number 1138 shows up everywhere
in Star Wars
and related products
in reference to it. It is also a remake of his USC student film project, "Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB".
This film contains examples of the following tropes:
- Affably Evil: The mechanical police apparently are programmed to be remarkably polite at all times. Even when arresting people and jabbing them with electric prods, they're always calmly insisting they're just there to help. In one scene, one of them even lets a group of curious kids handle his baton while warning them to be careful with it because it's heavy.
- Ascetic Aesthetic: Extending even to the characters' scalps.
- Bittersweet Ending: THX makes it out of the confines, only to find a desert world and with no idea where to go next. Also, LUH 3417 was apparently terminated according to information presented on one of the terminals.
- The same terminal indicates that apparently she had a baby with THX, to which her name/number has now been transferred; which may or may not be a good thing, considering how children are raised in the city.
- Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: Implied with the arrangement of "roommates" although the drug-enforced platonic nature of these arrangements calls into question whether "marriage" is quite the proper word for it.
- Confessional: The robotic confession booth, also known as a unichapel, is played on a tape. When THX-1138 later sees the same picture in a room, he starts confessing to it as if it were in a booth.
- Dystopia: Let's see... we have an antiseptic future that seems to have combined the most self-destructive tendencies of both socialism and capitalism. Religion is illegal except for worship of the Almighty State, and the residents all work for the government, in one capacity or another, and are expected to inform on their neighbors for crimes such as computer hacking or refusing to take their medication; at the same time, though, they are encouraged to work long hours, make money, and buy as much material property as they can. (We see THX himself buying a red thing at a store that sells nothing but different-colored things; he takes it home and promptly throws it down the garbage disposal, which is what you're apparently supposed to do with them.)
- Early-Installment Weirdness: For George Lucas movies; contrasted to his more well known Star Wars films, THX is a very bleak, down to earth, slow paced film.
- Epiphanic Prison: There are no guards, nor is there any lock on the one door THX and his allies find. The prison depends entirely on the prisoners being too crazy or too afraid to leave.
- The Evils of Free Will: Permeating the film, and considering THX had better work performance without all those pesky emotions...
- Fascist, but Inefficient: Enforcement is actually pretty lax, and every operation that involves apprehending law-breakers comes with a budget and has to be shut down if that budget is greatly exceeded.
- First Time in the Sun: A somewhat dark version in the ending.
- George Lucas Altered Version: Released in the wake of the original Star Wars trilogy being remastered with added CGI. Some of the alterations are understandable, like making some rooms bigger, or adding more people, or generally giving the story a larger sense of scale. Others scenes are augmented with far less defensible uses of CGI, such as the car chase which now looks like it came from an actual animated movie, or most of the strange men on the outskirts of civilization being changed to primates
- The Guards Must Be Crazy: The robotic police are not crazy, they just break down too easily.
- The humans in charge of overall security end their chase of THX when it becomes too costly.
- Hologram: SRT, maybe. Considering he was in the White Void Room, he may just think he is.
- Also, the TV shows THX watches are projected holographicaly in the room.
- Meaningful Name
- Platonic Cave: The cave is the entire underground city, and the final scene where THX climbs the ladder and escapes into the sun is a clear reference to the "rough ascent" and transcendence as described in the allegory.
- Pinball Gag: "TILT//" is seen right after the wipe-out of a mounted police officer that was pursuing THX.
- Shout-Out: Chewbacca's species name is first heard here. Doubles as Hilarious in Hindsight.
- Stock Shout Out: This film is the source of the "number 1138" Easter Egg seen in later George Lucas productions.
- Vocal Dissonance: The big, scary looking robot policemen wearing leather and helmets have kindly, old man voices.
- We Have Reserves: People aren't considered people, but economic commodities to create wealth.
- White Void Room: The place where "defectives" are taken for "treatment" of some unspecified kind.
- X Days Since: The sign in THX's workplace noting the time since the last accident.
- You Are Number Six: Everyone has a license plate name.