Film review – THX 1138 (George Lucas, 1971) – Asian Dub Foundation Re-score

A long time ago, precisely ten years before Star Wars hit the big screen in 1977, George Lucas was a young and experimental college student at film school at The University of Southern California. Packed with rich ideas and concepts of science fiction and Orwellian futures, he set about making the short film that would first bring him to the attention of Stephen Spielberg – Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB. This short won prizes and accolades, including first prize at the National Student Film Festival in 1968.
Soon after Lucas left college, production began on a feature length adaptation of the story, using the short film as a basis of the climax to the film and providing a backstory and richer background to the concept.
The film stars Robert Duvall as THX 1138, a worker at a factory that manufactures android police officers. His roommate LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie, in her only major film role) is a CCTV operative. After she switches their mind-controlling pills, they disobey strict rules and have sexual intercourse, which is a punishable crime. Imprisoned with SEN 5241 (Donald Pleasance), LUH’s co-worker, and fuelled by the fear of being trapped for the rest of his life, THX launches an attempt to escape from this underground dystopian prison.

At times overwhelming

At times overwhelming

I have to confess that this live scoring event was the first time I’d seen THX 1138. This is a film that is itself much less immediate than the Lucasfilms pictures we are now more familiar of, and one that requires a level of concentration to follow the plot. Unfortunately, Asian Dub Foundation’s live scoring was somewhat relentless and unforgiving. On several occasions it simply drowned out the limited dialogue, making understanding the film almost impossible. Not only that, but the music didn’t really match up with what was happening on the screen. It felt like an Asian Dub Foundation gig for which they’d decided to use the film as a backdrop for their performance.

Sadly for the film and the musicians, a large portion of the crowd decided they weren’t on board with either element and left before the end. Perhaps it was a victim of clashing with the opening night of the latest Bond film Spectre, and maybe some of the attendees decided to catch a late showing instead of seeing how THX’s escape plan player out.

Where it did work, it was very impressive. The car chase in the final act of the film was excellent and the music added a lot to the scene. This is one of the most exhilarating car chases I’ve ever seen and is a worthy pay-off the often times slow paced story development in the preceding hour of film.

I’ll be seeking out the original version of the film to see if I enjoy it more without the distracting score.

THX 1138 is available on Blu Ray and DVD now. Of course, this is a George Lucas release so it is impossible to see the original film in its originally planned state. It has been tampered with. Since most probably never saw it in its original form, however, there shouldn’t be many issues here.

Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (John Korty, 1984)

Revisiting the familiar forest moon of Endor but set prior to the events portrayed in Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi, Ewok Adventures: Caravan of Courage brings back the popular Ewok characters from the third film in the original trilogy, including fan-favourite Wicket (reprised by Warwick Davis) in a family-oriented fun adventure. The plot revolves around the children of the Towani family – Mace and Cindel – who are marooned on Endor when their civilian craft crash lands and their parents are kidnapped by the evil giant Gorax. Teaming up with the Ewoks, they go on an adventure to rescue their parents and escape to safety.

The first thing that jumps out at you when you start watching this film is the low production costs. It retains a lot of the production team that were involved in the original trilogy, but the budget and time constraints meant it feels a lot more cinematic than we’d expect. Indeed, it was a made-for-TV movie and the resolution available in 1984 meant they didn’t need to worry about spectacular visuals. Crucially, George Lucas was on board as a scriptwriter and a producer, meaning the film doesn’t escape from the canon in ways that the Star Wars Holiday Special was unfortunately allowed to.

The main human characters Mace and Cindel are interesting. The former, played by a young Eric Walker, was clearly chosen for his similar appearance to Mark Hamill. This is a bit of a cheap shot and his character is a little whiny, meaning he’s never very likeable. His younger sister is portrayed by Aubree Miller, in one of only two films she ever made (the other being this film’s sequel, 1985’s Battle For Endor). She is far easier to like and the fact she is a young girl in a leading role was probably a decision based on widening the male-centric fanbase of the Star Wars universe.

There has been much debate over whether or not this film should be classed as part of the official canon. It’s a tough one to call. In my opinion, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be, though it is more complicated than you’d think. The sequel, in which the Ewoks begin to speak English, plants it after the events of Return of the Jedi. This one, however, is set prior to that film, meaning the timeline of events over the three films is pretty tight if they are canon. To be honest though, if they’re happy for Episodes I-III to be included then these should be. They’re better films.

Neither of the Ewok Adventure films are currently available on Blu-ray, though they did enjoy a double DVD release around ten years ago. They’re still freely available online to purchase, though occasionally the entire films are put up on YouTube and stay there until the rights holders realise and remove the video. I think they should be embraced with a full re-release, with proper restoration, commentary and extras. It’s a no brainer. It would be a popular release and would widen the popularity of two films that really aren’t bad enough to want to hide from the public.

These are nice options to watch on Star Wars Day this coming Monday. I’ve embedded the YouTube video below for ease of watching as a sample in case you wish to purchase.

Film review – Star Wars Episodes I-III (George Lucas, 1999-2005)

I have a special guest reviewer for the Star Wars prequels, which were released to much fanfare and equal amounts of dismay from 1999 onwards. It’s my fabulous wife, a week after our wedding day!

I say review. It’s more of a quote. Here goes…

“The prequels are to Star Wars what Crocs are to shoes. An abomination.”

If you wish to remind yourselves of said abominations, they are available as a complete box set with butchered versions of the original trilogy now from here.