Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Action > Soundtrack > THX 1138 (1971 version/Limited CD)

THX 1138   (Limited Edition CD Soundtrack)


Sound: B     Music: A-



As George Lucas finishes directing the last Star Wars film, that will leave only six films in his career that he has helmed.  Four of them are from that franchise, plus American Graffiti and THX 1138.  In many ways, however, THX 1138, a 1970/71-feature length version of his remarkable student film THX 1138:4EB may be his most remarkable.  It was made for $777,777 (an in joke figure for luck), cast a then-unknown Robert Duvall in the title role, and is one of the few films ever made about a futuristic police state that works.  Recently, Warner Bros. issued a double DVD set of an upgraded version of the film, including a 5.1 remix and new visual effects by Lucas.  However, even more collectible is the limited edition soundtrack Film Score Monthly Magazine’s FSM label still has copies left for sale of.


One of the key reasons the film endures over thirty years later is the stunning score by Lalo Schifrin, and the way Lucas choose to use it.  The composer was on a roll at the time, with everything from TV’s Mission: Impossible, to Bullitt and Dirty Harry, but this score has not received as much notice.  The music, it turns out, was always stereophonic.  The film had always been issued in its original theatrical monophonic sound wherever it has surfaced until the new DVD set.  As Francis Ford Coppola had done with the DVD version of his masterwork The Conversation, sound designer and editing genius Walter Murch was allowed to do an impressive 5.1 remix.  Lucas got Murch to do the same with THX 1138, but the new DVD set has no DTS, so that is another reasons to get this CD still.


The score is a very strong collection of music on its own, even in the most dated cuts.  Ironically, those most dated tracks are the ones that try to be upbeat, the kind Lucas declined to use to keep the dark mood of the film going.  That makes the picture all the more real and intense.  Such tracks all cut from the film include tracks 1 (intended for a cool-but-abandoned American Zoetrope logo as a sort of joke; that logo would not resurface until Roman Coppola’s 2002 feature film debut, CQ), 5 (“Be Happy Again (Jingle of the Future)”, which sounds not-unlike “Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are Grown?” from John Barry’s James Bond score for 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), 6 (“Source #1”, and the “Source #4” opening section of track 15.  Track 13 is the closet anything like this shows up in the film, but even it is used in the distance and minimized.  Compare to “Source #2”, used in the film, but much more mellow and more like the kind of Muzak one would expect from a conformist working environment.


The best tracks are the ones that create the trapped mood in layers of sound that even make the love theme between THX (Robert Duvall) and LUX (Maggie McOmie) seem tainted and ironic.  There is also the contrast of Africanized rhythms that are first introduced on their own in “Primitive Dance”, the latter half of track 3, which is the audio accompanying a supposedly erotic dance show on hologram TV.  The sounds come back later in a more for-real fashion when as a signature of THX’s vulnerable-but-primal, human nature against The State who identifies him as a threat, goes after him, imprisons him, and tortures him.  That can be found on track 10’s “Torture Sequence”, and track 15’s third section, the “Morgue Sequence”.  It is also perverted in the “Monks” on track 8 and its “Temple” corollary during track 15, and finally comes back in a clever way in the middle of the final track 18 of the set in the “Foot Chase” section.


The booklet explains that three-track 35mm magnetic recordings were used, but half-inch tapes were done as backups and preservation, which pays off for this CD.  This sounds really good, and we will listen to that new 5.1 remix in a later review.  This material is chilling in mono sound, so you can just imagine the impact of the better fidelity of the PCM CD stereo here.  The tracks show some limits from their age, but that is minimal.


The liner notes, which are nicely illustrated with stills and promo stills, are co-written by Jeff Bond and Lukas Kendall before the upgraded version was issued.  They are interesting and informative, but I think they get into trouble when they misinterpret the film too literally, missing socio-political points the film makes.  That will be addressed in the DVD review.  In the meantime, you can order this limited edition soundtrack at www.filmscoremonthly.com while it lasts.  Only 3,000 copies were made, so get one now before it’s too late.  The DVD set is bound to cause new interest and this is one of the rare collectibles from the film to begin with.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com