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 film.
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.
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...
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
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** This is the student film, made by George Lucas (during his days at the UCLA film school), that his first feature film 'THX 1138' was based on. I believe 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 read 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 you 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 available, 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!
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.
. . . or is there more here than meets the ear? A careful analysis of ELECTRONIC LABYRINTH's plethora of on-screen numbers provides an answer to this query. When you painstakingly add together ALL the numbers presented here (be sure to include the ones in the binary computer printout), the sum is 11,142,017. Some folks may dismiss this total as "eleven million something." But those of us trained to think outside the Cube will immediately see a date: Nov. 14, 2017. The big news happening that day, of course, was the release of EPIC-MAR's poll indicating that 54% of 2,102 leading American political scientists believe that the USA will be forced to "French" American Czar Vlad "Mad Dog" Putin's mouthpiece--Sean Hannity--and lop off his noggin via a Public Guillotining to restore some semblance of Poetic Justice to the Annals of Our News. (However, 37% of those surveyed opined that Hannity would emulate Adolf "Fartso" Hitler in offing himself before his date with the Chopping Block, while 9% were Undecided--Margin of Error, 3.1%.) ELECTRONIC LABYRINTH will make a lot more sense if you view THX 1138 as a fleeing but doomed Hannity, slimmed down by his two-year Solitary Confinement diet of baked beans and gutter water.
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.
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.
After seeing the theatrical THX 1138 and enjoying its feel very much, I was hyped to be able to see this student project. Let me say that, first and foremost, most of the shots in this film are of absolutely nothing happening. Shots of mainframe computers and other such gadgetry probably lent this film quite an alien feel in 1967, but now it merely fills time waiting for the plot to advance. For 15 minutes, you watch as the story of THX slowly unfolds, how he runs to escape his sterile surroundings and finally reaches his goal.
Probably the most remarkable thing I noticed about this movie is how things changed and how they stayed the same for Lucas in his later pictures. He still treats his actors like action figures. However, I noticed the utter lack of 'cute ideas' that spiced up even the theatrical release of this film. Very monochromatic in emotion and execution, but still gripping in a very real way.
Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB is the precursor to the cult film THX 1138, made by George Lucas in 1971. This student film is the basis for that film. It is relatively interesting for a film made by a university student. It has a lot of very interesting shots, it's visual design is pretty cool, and it provides a very interesting look into the origins of the 1971 film if you happen to enjoy it (like me).
The film follows a man's attempt to escape from a dystopian society the sometime in the far future. For viewers of the remake, the beginnings of ideas from the more famous version can be seen in this film, such as the portrait of Jesus Christ that becomes the societies deity, OMM, can be briefly seen during this film. While this is pretty cool, it also emphasizes that this film is almost nothing without the later version. If you were to see this without seeing the original first, I doubt you would be able to follow this one very easily, as it is rather confusing and a lot of the dialogue is heavily altered and difficult to understand.
Overall, an interesting little curiosity piece, but only for fans of the original.
While monitored and pursued, a man races to escape through a futuristic labyrinth.
Lucas had had an idea for a long time "based on the concept that we live in the future and that you could make a futuristic film using existing stuff". Fellow USC students Matthew Robbins and Walter Murch had a similar idea which Robbins developed into a short treatment, but Robbins and Murch lost interest in the idea, whereas Lucas was keen to persist.
Because of the USC's Navy connection, Lucas was able to access filming locations which would not otherwise have been available to him: the USC computer center, a parking lot at UCLA, the Los Angeles International Airport, and the Van Nuys Airport. Much of the filming was done at night, with some at weekends.
This film's value is in the fact it is a root. By itself, it is a very good student film, but still just that: a short student film. But we know what came of this. It turned into a feature-length film, it caught the attention of Steven Spielberg, and soon we had "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones". Without this, we would have none of that, and Harrison Ford would be unemployed.
Having seen the feature length version first, it's hard not to see this short in light of it. The connection between the two is strong and obvious. Both have style over story, and the style is intentionally confusing/busy, dystopian and impressive. In my review of the feature length movie, I especially focused on how well picked the locations were, and the same has to be said (though in an understandably lesser degree) for the short.
I'm more forgiving for a weak story in a short movie like this, as it is in no way in focus. You're only meant to put together what few details you are given, and not expected to become (that) emotionally involved in the world it is set in.
Consdering it is a (cheaply made) student film, Lucas does a remarkable job showing of his visual chops, and using the sci-fi genre to point out negative aspects of his own time.
During the transitional period between the Studio system period of filmmaking and the New Hollywood period of filmmaking, the modern greats were still film students breaking out of their box of creativity. One of the brightest was George Lucas. Based on a script by both himself and friends, Lucas created a film that drew attention to film students from major studios. THX 1138 4EB is one of the milestones by how student films are measured.
The minimal story is the escape of a drone, named THX 1138 4EB, from his dystopian labyrinth of a society, in which everything is white and sterile. "Authority," which is equivalent to "Big Brother" in this universe, always has security cameras and eyes watching THX's every move as he sprints his way figuring out how to escape Authority to the color world above his own.
This film isn't deep, this film has no character to really attach to. However, the artistry and storytelling approach is what make this short film quite unique. Lucas really knows how to present sets, characters, and sound in such a precise detail that one becomes enthralled by the sights and sounds before we even know whats happening. The theme of THX breaking free of an oppressive society where everything is controlled to the last chromosome is very familiar, and one we can all connect to on a visceral level.
This is a very impressive short film. It's not perfect, but its still has effort both in front of the camera, and had a future genius stretching his wings behind the camera.
Mind you this can be a strange viewing for some people. But if you have worked on a student film yourself, even if it is just one from a High School Film and TV Class you will appreciate this movie and all the work George Lucas put into it quite a lot more than as an average movie watcher.
The plot of this movie is basically that a man by the name of THX 1138 4EB is running away from the society he was a part of.
So it might be a thin plot. You might not like it but if you've worked on a student film then this will be appreciated a whole lot more. And even on it's own unusual merits this is a decent watch, at least in my opinion.
When this film was realised I was in my seventeenth I have seen a part of it in 1975 on TV, there were some scenes that marked me. & to tell the truth I did not know the title neither who realised it at this time, I have discovered by pure hazard on DVD this year of 2006. Personally, after "Metropolis 1927" from Fritz Lang, this film will be completely a part of all other films in this dimension; the concept of the story is intelligent. There is no pass, no future, no present. Earth born constructing androids, to control human, it is a underground world, it is a dream to be a perfect world, where everything is under control, but sometimes it happens that in this perfect world, there are sometimes failures, as we call "emotions" which is totally forbidden because the human couldn't bring yet to a machine. & if he could like in "Blade Runner" where human creating "replicants" "Hate, Anger, Love, Fear"= Memories. THX 1138 EB4 has shattered the whole system of this old Hollywood machine, & brought us this vision, how far our imaginations can go, but how far can we go in our imaginations?? Stephen King mentioned once, "Imagination is the most powerful thing you can possess"
In the late 1960's, Hollywood was starting to go downhill. Movies were being made to please an older audience and not branch out towards a younger audience and just get more people. It was in California that the revolution would take place. This student film was one of the starting points in the right direction.
A young man attending USC by the name of George Lucas made a little film that would change his life and others around him. He called it Elecrtic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB. It is only 15 minutes long but it gets across a message that was just right for the time. That rebel yell that the people were waiting to scream out. To rise up against authority. This film was the launch pad for Lucas and his career as a film maker.
Electric Labyrinth is about one man's escape from the grip of oppression in a futuristic society. He and everyone else it seems is under surveillance and the only way to get out is to run. THX 1138 is the name or title of the man on the run. Although the movie is short, it seems like we connect to the person. We all feel like just running away sometimes. Although we don't know much about the man, we feel for him. All attempts at stopping his man seem futile. They can dish out anything, but little can stop the determination of someone.
This is what would spawn a feature length production of the film starring Robert Duvall as THX 1138 and also would help Lucas on his way to directing bigger things like American Graffiti and what would make him a house hold name...Star Wars. In 15 minutes Lucas was able to shock the cinema world and help change the industry to what we see it as today. This little project would lead to advances in movie making, editing, and overall appeal of a movie. Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorcese, and many more were part of the revolution in cinema that would bring people back to the theaters.
The soundtrack seems to feature two works from the "Virgil Fox plays the John Wanamaker Grand Court Organ Philadelphia" LP, released on Command Classics in 1964 (and available today from the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ, the Organ Historical Society and other pipe-organ organizations and various commercial sites). The pieces are "Fanfare from Parsifal" by Wagner and Fox's arrangement of Bach's "Come Sweet Death." The Wanamaker Organ is the largest playing pipe organ in the world and is noted for the incredible richness of its tone. For the short film, Lucas seems to have slowed down the playing of the pieces by about a half or a fourth, giving the eerie effect.
"THX 1138" is still George Lucas' best feature-length film (and honestly, I don't see that position changing, like, ever). This earlier short film, his student work, is equally as interesting and a lot more so for fans of experimental cinema. The title is apt: Lucas crafts a labyrinth out of electronic imagery and sound effects (sound effects that are previews of the type of stuff he'd develop later for Star Wars), while a man runs through it, trying to escape. The camera itself is a part of the labyrinth, and the viewer is watching just as closely as the various people tracking his progress, trying to stop him. At times when it seems the man is more likely to fail, everything gets more static and distorted, but at times when he manages to pull through, the electronic fogginess clears and one has a better look at his face, features, and surroundings.
For once it's nice to see an experimental feature that actually lead to a more commercially successful reworking and lent experience towards development of effects that eventually changed the nature of movies. In this way, Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB is a very important document in the history of film.