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George Lucas developed this film during his days in film school. It
impressed his teachers and eventually gave him the courage to make "THX
1138," a full-length spin-off which was his theatrical debut and
featured the talents of Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasence.
This was the basis for that spin-off, which is much shorter and doesn't feature any of the complicated themes of the semi-remake. Personally I feel the remake is far superior because of its advanced storytelling, visuals, acting, and love story, but that's just me (and I have a feeling most people probably like the remake better, too, but...).
The point remains that without this, George Lucas might never have impressed anyone. He might never have made "THX 1138." He might never have made "American Graffiti," and there would be no "Star Wars" because he wouldn't have convinced anyone to lend him the money.
There would be no THX sound on DVDs. There would be no ILM. There would be no Indiana Jones, no Luke Skywalker, nothing.
Hard to imagine, isn't it? All because of one small 15-minute, cheaply-produced short film...
Sure it may be no-budget, sure it may be using film equipment and film
stock that's not to the 'studio' standard. But, as someone who has come
out of being a film student, I look at George Lucas's award-winning
student short film with a good deal of awe. And Lucas, who has
described himself as being a filmmaker who is split between the
avant-garde and the more 'mainstream' films (the latter personified
film-wise in Star Wars and Indiana Jones), goes to the extreme of his
powers with his visual prowess. It is surreal in that it tries to
express an idea through an unconventional means, with a story but
without being stuck to it by any means. And because it's so short
there's only so much time to get the message across with such little
Electronic Labyrinth takes just a slice- the more action packed and suspenseful slice- from what would become the feature film of THX 1138, using absolutely no dialog. That to me is a phenomenal, but very dangerous, step to take. There's always the chance, especially with young, experimental filmmakers, to go into the over-indulgent, or rather just to go in over your head with abstract concepts that just don't connect out of likely just not being well made. Here the quasi-beating over-the-head of image and sound works, because it's a film about technology, about the control of it over people, and it makes a very basic kind of statement of going against the overwhelming power of it. The hero of the film for almost all of the film does a lot of running, down corridors, down spacious, domineering spaces, leading up to a sort of bleak ending.
It may not get enough thematic ground like the feature-version does, and the lack of dialog sets a kind of gap between a viewer not ready for the combination of twistingly sci-fi visuals of the screens and numbers and videos and such. But it's got guts, and that's what I like to see in student films; the cliché that this is a "sign of things to come" is not far from the truth (ironically, after the feature-film of this, it would go more towards the mainstream for Lucas, but you never know).
The film departments of UCLA and Southern California University had an annual film competition for students from both schools at a time when they and New York University were about the only schools in the country offering a degree in cinema. In 1967, I attended the showing at UCLA's Royce Hall, and George Lucas's THX-1138 was a standout work among many very good ones. Not only was it the audience's favorite, but the judges awarded it best picture. Lucas was called to the podium to accept his award. He seemed nervous and shy at the microphone, but then startled as he was interrupted at the microphone, apparently a surprise to all on stage, by a lawyer from Warner Brothers who announced that Warners was offering whoever won the competition the opportunity to turn it into a feature. That was of course George. It seemed an eternity while he stood speechless, mouth open. Warners already had the young Francis Ford Coppola under contract, so they assigned him as producer to George. I then saw the resulting feature "THX 1138" in 1971 at a theater in Hollywood. It was not great commercial success, but as we all know, the success of the George Lucas career is legendary.
This is found on the 2-Disc George Lucas Director's Cut release of THX 1138 that came out in 2004. His student film. You're probably more familiar with the remake that he made(and everyone who's watched any of his work may have seen the four numbers appear somewhere, and he used the prefix as the title of his sound-system). This and especially the theatrical version of '71 had an ambivalent effect on his career in the field; the studio had no idea how to sell the latter, and it led to the downfall of the original dream of what American Zoetrope was. It also proved that he could make something otherworldly and unique, and he might not have made Star Wars(or it could have been less than it was) if not. This is very experimental, and its visual side is compelling and interesting. The sound is creative(given the constraints), and editing is skillful. In 15 short minutes, this manages to convey many of the themes he would explore to a greater extent in the feature-length quite subtly and without anything feeling staged. The acting is satisfactory. There is a bit of disturbing content in this. I recommend it to any fan of cinema that takes chances. 7/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is the student film, made by George Lucas (during his days at the
film school), that his first feature film 'THX 1138' was based on. I
the complete title for the student film was 'THX 1138: 4EB (The Electronic
Labyrinth)'. If you have not seen this film, you may or may not want to
this review, because I will be explaining the film in detail... and the
movie is only about 15 minutes long. So read at your own risk. Also, If
have not seen the feature film version of 'THX', you may want to see the
student film first.(note: I am not sure where this film would be
it seems to be rare)
OK, on to the movie! This student film encapsulates the main ideas presented in the last half of the feature film version, in particular the final chase scene. When the film opens, we are introduced to THX's mate, who gives about the only piece of dialog in the whole film and sets up the action to come. We then watch THX run through various obstacles and places that seem to be mysteriously monitored and booby trapped by technicians that are never given a location as to where they are. they are just there, somewhere, watching THX. THX escapes, just as the technicians close in to capture him (which is not explained either), running away into the outside sunlight. I think it's safe to say that the student film and the feature film are both very different and very much alike at the same time. The feature film gives us an antiseptic landscape who's population sports clean shaven heads and seemingly doped up and programmed minds. This is not the case in the student film, where people not only have hair (that idea probably came later), but the people in the student film seem very coherent as to what is going on around them. Also, in the feature film, robotic police officers are the ones responsible for tracking down THX (though some mysterious technicians are shown working with the robots).The student film touches briefly on the theme that THX is unhappy with his mate, who claims to not be interested in a relationship that involves love. In the feature film, THX's mate is the one who encourages THX to love her, and ultimately to run away from his life. However, even though there are these differences, the one thing that remains constant and really ties the two films together is the use of environment. Disembodied sounds, unexplained animations that appear on screen like some targeting scope, and the use of stark corridors and rooms are all elements that appear as part of the environment of both films. Lucas uses very vague (or hardly any) suggestions as to what is all happening on screen. This can be seen in the feature film as well, but much more apparent in the student film. The student film is almost at an experimental level in it's vagueness. We see things that pop out of nowhere, but somehow make sense in a 'far off future' sort of way. It actually helps not to know certain things, as to suggest that what is happening is so far removed from our own experience in the present, that this has to be taking place in the future (maybe even in another dimension). This same vagueness can be seen in all of the Star Wars films, where not everything is explained in 'Star Trek technical Manual' style. Some things are better left to the imagination.
As a student film, and especially for one made in 1967, this is a fairly good film. It wont come across to most folk as entertaining, maybe not even understandable, but that is because of the level at which the film works. The film also shows a bit of rough new comer film making. There are moments of forced acting, where it looks like Lucas told the participants to do certain things and they just went through the motions. There are locations that THX runs through that are very obviously parking lots. Lucas even uses an elevator car as a sort of sonic torture chamber. But somehow all of these things come together for an interesting sci-fi debut from the guy who would later bring us Star Wars.
This early student film by George Lucas is an unique one. The visual
style and the style itself are what makes this movie very watchable,
although not for everyone.
This movie is interesting to say the least. Interesting because it was made by George Lucas, the man behind the Star Wars saga and the Indiana Jones trilogy. But also on its own this movie is a interesting one to watch. The movie is filled with some very typically strange student film camera positions and scene's. No, there is not much story but the directing make this movie a good and watchable movie although some people, if not most, will probably not like it very much, the whole movie might seem just strange to them but for the real movie and science-fiction buffs this is a real must see along with "THX 1138" which is the remake of this movie, made by George Lucas as well.
Dan Natchsheim is acting terribly bad, even though he hasn't got any lines at all. It's really quite laughable at times. Thank God the acting is not the most important thing of the movie. It really is the style that makes the movie, the sets and the sound are also pluses.
Recommendable to all movie and science-fictions buffs, for everyone else, just skip it!
This was the student film that George Lucas did way before he became
successful in cinema.
4 years before he made the THX 1138 film. He created this short film which is very well written.
The whole short has to do with THX, an individual trap in a sick twisted world. Which he tries escape throughout the whole short.
It's very different from the full length film. But those who are curious to know what the earlier version is. This one's definitely an early version.
All great director start somewhere in their careers. And this is a fine example of a student film.
It's available on the THX Director's Cut DVD.
Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB (1967)
*** (out of 4)
This short film from writer-director George Lucas was certainly the most important one he ever made for a number of reasons. For one, it got some national attention, which also meant critics were aware of his name. For two, it led to him meeting Steven Spielberg and we know what happened from there. And thirdly, the film would eventually be turned into a feature.
The story is pretty simple as it takes place in a futuristic world where a man (Dan Natchsheim) is trying to escape but no matter where he runs someone is monitoring him.
As of me writing this, I actually haven't seen the feature so I have no idea of knowing what Lucas changed or whatever but for the most part this here was pretty interesting. I thought the highlight was clearly the visuals since Lucas didn't have too much money to work with yet you still got the impression that you were watching something set in the future. The "story" was a bit all over the map but I guess that was to be somewhat expected and I'm sure it was expanded for the feature.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
George Lucas was in his early 20s when he shot "Electronic Labyrinth
THX 1138 4EB". This must be taken into consideration when evaluating
this 15-minute short film. He has worked on a couple other films before
already, but unfortunately this seemingly was not a great help in
improving this short film, maybe his most famous early work.
It's the year 2187 and we see a man running through a futuristic labyrinth, in which he is under constant surveillance by a higher authority. From start to finish, the audience is confronted with scary choir voices, undefined blinding light effects and radio voices. Sometimes less can be more and I wish Lucas would have taken that approach. The torture scenes and depicting the protagonist equal to a lab rat made for quite some shock value, but there was not a single point in this short film, where I really felt the character's helplessness and claustrophobic scare, which would have been necessary to really experience his delight when he finally manages to break free.
I've watched quite a few very early short films from notable directors and this is one of the weaker examples. Hard to believe that only 10 years later, Lucas brought to life the probably most renowned movie franchise of all time.
I have watched this film on the DVD Short Cinema Journal - 1:10 - Chaos (Short 10: Chaos). It's nice that this is available, and it is incredible to think this was the director who went on to such bigger and better things. Even THX 1138 is better than THX 1138:4EB! Sound (appropriately enough) is the most interesting thing about it.
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