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THX-Huh? What? 38

Old 04-17-03, 09:40 AM
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THX-Huh? What? 38

Here's a question about an issue that has always bothered me, and now that I've just picked up the limited edition soundtrack CD to the film, I'm reminded of it all over again...

Very early in the film THX-1138, one of the disembodied voices of the Orwellian surveillance mechanisms (perhaps it is "OMM", I'm fuzzy on this), asks a question that sounds like this: "Are you now, or have you ever been, [unintelligible]?" No matter how many times I replay this sequence, I simply cannot make out what this final word is (and let's be fair, Walter Murch's atmospheric sound design doesn't exactly help for issues of sonic clarity! ), and my letterboxed LaserDisc doesn't have closed-captioning encoded on it. I have also consulted the original screenplay, which does not make any reference to this dialogue, so apparently, it was a post-production addition on the part of Murch. The aforementioned CD I purchased has a rear insert cover filled with a collage of varied lines from the film but, perplexingly, they list the line as simply, "Are you now, or have you ever been?", which doesn't follow for me since a) you can distinctly make out another spoken word after "been", even if you can't distinctly make out what that word is, he he (though perhaps this mystery word is part of a seperate, one-word sentence, and not the end of the previous line?), and b) this makes for a non-sequitur sentence. Admittedly, many people might argue that the entire film of THX-1138 is a non-sequitur, but I'd still argue such a line would seem superfluous, since it is utterly without meaning or sense. So, to keep a long question short (too late, I know), does anyone have a closed-captioned VHS tape of this film that might shed some light on this mystery? Thanks to anyone who takes pity on me and at least tries...
Old 04-17-03, 02:32 PM
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I'll see if my VHS is CC. Since you seem to be so knowledgable about this film, why are there those excerpts from Flash Gordon at the beginning?
Old 04-17-03, 02:52 PM
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Lucus was asked this in an interview recently. The line is:


Are you now or have you ever been a fan of the movie Good Burger?"
Old 04-17-03, 03:36 PM
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Originally posted by Pants:
Since you seem to be so knowledgable about this film, why are there those excerpts from Flash Gordon at the beginning?

Though I have no insight from anyone officially affiliated with the prodcution of THX-1138, least of all Lucas himself, I find that my theory of the opening BUCK ROGERS reel (which, as a trivia note, was a clip of THINGS TO COME during THX's original theatrical run, and was only altered to BUCK ROGERS--not FLASH GORDON--upon entering the TV and home video markets) aligns with the following excerpt from an essay by a gentleman named Scott Bukatman:

[THX-1138] is a film which often seems as bleak and as forbidding as the future it portrays. While one cannot fault the work on a technical level, with its handsome production values, innovative visual techniques, and stunningly constructed sound track, its liabilities as a work of mass entertainment are evident.

As if to underscore the point, the film begins with a trailer for an upcoming Buck Rogers serial, complete with rocket ships, ray guns, futuristic cities, and Buck himself, described as an ordinary human being who is noteworthy for keeping his wits about him. The bright optimism of the 1930ís version of life in the twenty-fifth century is immediately undercut following the main titles. This 1971 vision of the future presents a world of conformity and repressed individuality; workers function in a hivelike underground city of blank whiteness and are kept heavily sedated, the better to perform their repetitive and closely monitored functions.


In simpler language, it was Lucas's visual way of saying, "this ain't your grandma's sci-fi!"...
Old 04-17-03, 08:54 PM
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Originally posted by Filmmaker
This 1971 vision of the future presents a world of conformity and repressed individuality; workers function in a hivelike underground city of blank whiteness and are kept heavily sedated, the better to perform their repetitive and closely monitored functions.
Now I've never seen or read much about this film, but this sounds an awful lot like the world presented in the classic Huxley novel Brave New World. Was that Lucas' inspiration? Is that essay you quoted online anywhere?
Old 04-18-03, 09:27 AM
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angryyoungman, yes, Lucas takes strong and direct inspiration from both Brave New World and Orwell's 1984, but gives THX-1138 it's own unique stamp with an astounding, wholly original approach to set design, special effects and opticals and, most critically, sound design. The story is rather unoriginal--the technique by which it is told, on the other hand, is peerless.

And yes, you can find the essay I quoted here:

http://www.geocities.com/pleasence/thx/THX-BUK.HTML

Oh, and if you don't mind a fresh take on someone else's old idea, and the trippy, surreal, completely left-of-center type of storytelling normally associated with, say, a David Lynch appeals to you, I highly, highly recommend a viewing of THX-1138...

Anyone happen to have any help on my question yet...?
Old 04-18-03, 10:08 PM
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funny, the first time I saw this in the early 70's, I thought the question was just that, "are you now..or have you ever been." then I thought it said..."move slowly."

...then after that I always found myself straining to hear what was really said. I'm curoius to know as well.
Old 04-18-03, 10:25 PM
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The line is a reference to the battle cry of Senator McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee: Are you now or have you ever been a member of the communist party? I always assumed that in THX the line is deliberately unintelligible, that the conclusion is irrelevant---the question, itself, is damning; i.e. communist = terrorist = pedophile = drug dealer = _______. Every government needs a monster to fight. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see what the sub-titles turn up.

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