There was a time when George Lucas made some pretty great films. There was also a time when you could watch those films without weird revisionist alterations. Sadly those times are long gone, but for years, fans have sought to preserve those original masterpieces in their theatrical forms. THX 1138 is among those lost, great works. What started as a film school short was later expanded in George Lucas’ feature length directorial debut—and again expanded and altered in the typical George Lucas style…
The last time the theatrical version was commercially available was on laserdisc, and since then Mr. Lucas has only offered a Director’s Cut via DVD and Blu-ray. The Director’s Cut features new shots and many CGI alterations, as well as a new, “modern,” color-grade. Over the years a number of laserdisc preservation projects have been undertaken, and many of these are discussed at length over at originaltrilogy.com, a website initially created as a petition to bring about the release of the theatrical version of another set of Lucas’ films—the original Star Wars trilogy. Unless a well-preserved film print is digitized, laserdisc is probably the best quality we’ll ever see THX 1138 in it’s purest form. Unfortunately, this is not as enjoyable on modern high definition screens.
In hopes of giving us the “best of both worlds,” prolific faneditor TM2YC has created a hybrid cut, using the Blu-ray as the main source, heavily color-corrected and supplemented with carefully upscaled and graded laserdisc footage. While some purists may turn their nose, the result of this effort is a beautiful high-definition version of THX 1138 that is incredibly close to the theatrical cut. Perhaps one day, the studios will re-release the original version of the film, or an adventurous fan will do a high-def scan of an film print, but until that time we can now enjoy a beautiful version of the film.
Here are some screen comparisons from TM2YC’s work:
Not enough to convince you? How about this trailer: