A 19-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis makes her film debut as Laurie Strode, a bookish, anti-social highschooler unaware that while she babysits on Halloween night, a psychotic maniac lurks in the neighborhood. The strong, silent type, this hulking being quietly walks the town in which he killed his sister 15 years earlier, back for more after a hospital escape. Meanwhile, his horrified doctor (the ominous Donald Pleasance) waits, as single-mindedly obsessed as the killer he's chasing.
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A shockingly lithe Robert De Niro stars as Monroe Stahr, a 1930s studio executive based on Irving Thalberg (a prolific producer who died at the age of 37, presumably from overwork). Stahr has lost loves in the past and a crushing chip on his shoulder in the present. He's a workhorse, but he wants something more out of life.
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Based on a true story, The Great Escape is set during the tail end of World War II, when a variety of officers from different countries were sent to Stalag Luft III, a prison camp designed to handle the most diligent escape attempts. Both fearless and duty-bound, the men spend no time with long prologues or chit-chat about what to do; they, along with the movie, immediately set to work, using the skills they know best. There's Anthony Hendley, the "scrounger" skilled at digging up needed provisions; James Garner, at his best when he's being charmingly unctuous to his Nazi captors; Charles Bronson, as the "tunnel king" Danny Velinski, offering a nice combination of two-fisted bravado and sensitive-guy neurosis; and Donald Pleasance, the British document forger, who brings a steely, proud stoicism to his role that sets the movie's emotional feel. His is the most convincing performance, which makes sense given that really did time in a German P.O.W. camp.
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An angry, idealistic film that draws more from the Huxley/Orwell side of science-fiction than the Buck Rogers-style space operas that Lucas would later be associated with, THX 1138 is an impassioned howl against the dehumanization of modern society. The film presents a futuristic scenario in which all humans are tagged, numbered and drugged, shuffling along down corridors in a labyrinthine underground city, shaven-headed automatons who exist only to work and consume. Robert Duvall plays the eponymous hero, a worker who, like all protagonists in such tales, is starting to feel as though something is wrong in this putatively perfect world. He can't concentrate at his job and is starting to feel a strange attraction to his roommate, LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie), even though all nonregulated sexual activity appears to be illegal. The pressure of the state is brought to bear after THX stops his mandatory pill-popping (resulting in "prosecution for criminal drug evasion") and another worker, SEN 5241 (Donald Pleasence) tries to come between THX and LUH, he has to make a break for freedom.
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