George Lucas's most grown-up piece of work is, oddly enough, his first feature from 1971, the instant classic of dystopic angst, THX 1138, inaugurating a steady reversal of artistic maturity that would culminate in the cartoonish Star Wars sequels; which is maybe where he wanted to end up all along.

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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