THE WIZARD OF FORCE:
meditations on Oz and the TWILIGHT ZONE disaster
in the allegorical film art of George Lucas
by Gary W. Wright
For Renee Chen, Myca Le and Vic Morrow
All things are different though nothin’ has changed
from ‘Hollywood Hills’
lyrics by Paul Kamanski
performed by the Beat Farmers
from their allegorical recording, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINES (1987)
He was suddenly sure all this was illusion, that the man in black had spun a spell and was trying to tell him something in a maddeningly obtuse, symbolic way.
from p. 19 of The Dark Tower I: the gunslinger (1982)
by Screamin’ Stephen King
But if you share something with people, they teach you to keep your eyes open, and when your eyes open, you can see a lot of things, visible and invisible.
quoted in ‘On a Morality of Filming: a conversation between Rithy Panh
and Deirdre Boyle
p. 43 of issue 97, 2016 of cineaction
You ask me why I’m weary, why I can’t speak to you
You blame me for my silence
Say it’s time I changed and grew
But the war’s still going on dear
And there’s no end that I know
And I can’t say if we’re ever…
I can’t say if we’re ever going to be free
from ‘Veteran of the Psychic Wars’
lyrics by Eric Bloom and Michael Moorcock
performed by Blue Oyster Cult
from the allegorical and anti-blockbuster animated Gerald Potterton directed film,
HEAVY METAL: THE MOVIE (1981)
Thanks to Mrs. Featherstone and Mrs. Olsen and the other helpful, encouraging and indomitable staff of George Mackie Library in Delta, BC, Ms. Bonner, the Teacher Librarian at Hellings Elementary school, and the equally indomitable and long suffering Mr. Murphy, Librarian extraordinaire at Delview Secondary School in Delta, BC. Thanks also to the equally longer suffering and sympathetic staff at the Guildford, Ocean Park and White Rock branches of the Fraser Valley Regional Library system; the Central Branch of the Vancouver Library system; the Kwantlen College, University of British Columbia and Vancouver Community College libraries; and my fellow Library Technicians and Teacher Librarian colleagues in the Secondary Schools of the Peel District School Board, particularly the lion hearted and indomitable Mr. Brian Gillam, LibTech extraordinaire.
Thanks as well to the owners, managers and staff of such bookstores as North Delta New and Used Books, Black Bond Books, the Book Bin/Bookaneer, Coles, White Dwarf Books, Granville Mall Book Company, Macleod’s, the Haunted Bookstore, Munro’s, Jane Ross Books, Read and Green Books, J & B Books and Chapters for their help and support over the years. In addition, thanks to Andrew at Refried Beats for all of the great CDs and DVDs over the years. Thanks also to the owners, managers and staff of the North Delta Mac’s, 7-11 and Silver Moon in the Seventies and Eighties, and of Golden Age Collectibles, the Comic Wizard, and Image Collections for their superheroic inspiration. Special thanks to the Stanley Theatre, my favourite cinema in the Greater Vancouver area when I was growing up, and to the Suzuki Theatre, my other favourite cinema, where I suddenly realized one babysitting night in 1981 that films were as allegorical as all other art.
Thanks also to Miss Tyson, Visual Arts teacher, and my high school English teachers, Mr. and Mrs. Hillman, Commander ‘Buck’ Parsons, and Mr. Alexander at Delview Secondary School; Mr. Macdonald at Huron Heights Secondary School in Newmarket, Ontario; and Mr. Miley and my English 12 Creative Writing teacher whose name I have unfortunately forgotten at North Delta Secondary School. You watched over, nurtured, criticized and praised my ‘writing’ and taught me the secrets of the allegory, turning me into the shrewd, knowing, quasi-literate and righteously ranting Gardevil-and always crazy Canuck-that I am today.
Chapter One: !Wizard!
No other New Hollywood film artist was more synonymous with Ozian themed film art than George Lucas. Indeed, Ozian linked characters and healing Ozian storylines played a prominent part in his allegorical films from THX 1138 (1971) to REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005). However, in spite of this healing Ozian structure, the film art of Lucas prior to 1982 also showed implicitly ominous ‘memory of the future’ forebodings of the fatal UH-1B ‘Huey’ helicopter crash that killed actor/director/writer Vic Morrow and child extras Renee Chen and Myca Le at 2:20 am in the morning of July 23, 1982 on the Vietnam War village set of the John Landis episode of the Landis and Steven Spielberg produced, Kathleen Kennedy associate produced and Frank Marshall executive produced and Landis, Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller directed film, TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983). Not surprisingly, as he was just as shattered by the TZ disaster as most film artists and audiences at the time, the post-1982 films of Lucas also implicitly confirmed that he was meditating glumly on the TZ disaster. These sombre twilit meditations were fused uneasily with the healing Ozian structure of his films, a structure inspired by the allegorical and Wicked Wallace Simpson bashing Victor Fleming classic, THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939).
George Walton ‘Georgie’ Lucas jr. was born on May 14, 1944-fittingly, a day before the May 15th birthday of L. Frank Baum, author of the allegorical and Wicked Queen Victoria bashing children of all ages classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900). His birth gave George and Dorothy Lucas-a fitting name for a mother given junior’s later interest in Ozian themed film-a third child and only big eared son in a brood of three daughters. The modest future film artist fittingly grew up in a small town called Modesto, located several hours southeast of San Francisco. Back then it was a quiet place with little to do, home to several walnut farms and the Gallo winery. The lonely nature of life in Modesto was enhanced by the Lucas family life, for Mrs. Lucas was often ill and bedridden and the stern and uncompromisingly religious and Republican Mr. Lucas was usually away working long hours as owner/manager of the local stationery store. This left Lucas to his own devices, usually in the company of his younger sister, Wendy.
The quiet boy became an introverted young fellow, devoted to comic books and fantastic shows on television like Adventure Theatre’s Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, and no doubt healing feature films like THE WIZARD OF OZ-where it became a huge hit with boomer audiences on its appearance in the mid-Fifites-and to feature films at the local cinema. He also developed an interest in drawing, modelmaking, photography and, as he got older, cars. Cars led Lucas away from good marks at Thomas Downey High School and to stock car racing. Cars also led Lucas to a pivotal and life changing car accident shortly before the end of his final year of high school in the spring of 1962. On his way home from studying at the local library for his final exams, Lucas forgot to check his rear view mirror while turning left into his parent’s driveway and hit his friend Frank Ferreira as Ferreira passed Lucas in his Chevy Impala. The impact of the collision rolled his souped up Fiat Bianchina racer end over end and wrapped the car around a nearby walnut tree. Luckily, Lucas was thrown from the car to injured safety when his regulation steel plated stock car racing seat belt miraculously snapped, against all odds. Fittingly given his interest in Ozian themed film, this Great Crash of 1962 was his own Kansas gale that threw Lucas grievously injured from his car and out of his underachieving teenage dreamworld forever.
Indeed, the sudden and unexpected crash left him in the local hospital’s emergency room fighting for his life in an inner Ozian spiritworld midway between life and death like that experienced by the injured Dorothy in THE WIZARD OF OZ. When he finally and successfully emerged from his spiritworld journey after weeks of recuperation in hospital, this sobering and unanticipated brush with mortality left him determined to do something with the gift of life that had been returned to him. Indeed, Lucas surprised everyone-particularly himself!-by turning his back on his stock car speed racer dreams and heading to a local community college on the strength of the High School Diploma given him by a sympathetic Thomas Downey High School while he was still recuperating in the hospital. Two years of majoring in Social Sciences at Modesto Junior College led Lucas to the University of Southern California film school program. Here Lucas showcased his drawing and photography skills in a number of short films, particularly his award winning and eerily twilit allegorical effort, ELECTRONIC LABYRINTH THX 1138 4EB (1967). Eerily twilit, as it was noticeable that the desperate and ultimately successful escape of Don Natchsheim’s THX 1138 from an underground society was linked throughout the short film to the July 23, 1982 date of the TZ disaster via dates, time and numbers like 05/14/2187, 2:43:38 and level 7932. These ominous numerical links implied that Lucas was already subconsciously trying to escape from the TZ disaster in an allegorical cinematic memory of the future, as much as trying to escape the society of underground student film artists at USC where he made ELECTRONIC LABYRINTH THX 1138 4EB.
Significantly, it was also noticeable that THX 1138 resembled Stanley Kubrick, implying that Lucas was also using the short film to send an allegorical message to Kubrick that he should break his film art free from the underground world that he consigned humanity to at the end of his allegorical, and satirical roast of blockbuster film, DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1962). Indeed, the desperate attempt by the underground establishment of ELECTRONIC LABYRINTH THX 1138 4EB to track and stop the fleeing THX 1138 evoked the desperate attempt of the American and Russian establishments to stop the wayward American bomber from dropping its nuclear payload in an open nod to DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB. Significantly, this implication that Lucas was sending a concerned and displeased message to Kubrick to liberate humanity from the underground labyrinth was implicitly interpreted that way by Kubrick. For the futuristic sets, lighting, costumes and computer graphics of ELECTRONIC LABYRINTH THX 1138 4EB returned on a bigger and more expensive scale in the futuristic sets, lighting, costumes, and computer graphics in the spaceship cockpits and the hallways and rooms of the Tin Man linked spinning space station and the Cowardly Lion linked Mission to Jupiter segments of the allegorical and Ozian themed Kubrick film, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968).
Indeed, one of the opening images of the film was of a sunrise that recalled a closing image of a sunrise at the end of ELECTRONIC LABYRINTH THX 1138 4EB, immediately and implicitly confirming that Kubrick was allegorically addressing the award winning student film of Lucas in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. This link also implied that the opening, Earth and Scarecrow linked Dawn of Man segment symbolized the dawn of film art, as the speechless early humans and the silent Sentinel monolith that they discovered reminded us that the age of film art began with the silent era. Curiously, the bone weapon thrown into the sky by Daniel Richter’s Moonwatcher-a weapon as powerful as a pencil, pen, paintbrush, camera, film camera or even just the scissors necessary to cut film and splice them in the rapid montage of cuts that accompanied Moonwatcher’s discovery of the power of his bone weapon-that merged into an orbiting weapons satellite linked the two parts of the opening segment together. This link mplied that they were two halves of one segment and that the wondrous world of the future and its spinning satellite community was still quite primitive in the estimation of Kubrick and legendary sly fi co-writer, Arthur C. Clarke. A hi-tech and silvery-grey world that was implicitly linked to Old Hollywood as well as the Tin Man, as the name of William Sylvester’s resigned moon explorer, Dr. Heywood Floyd, looked and sounded like ‘Hollywood Old’-that is to say, Old Hollywood. Indeed, the vidphone call that Floyd had with Kubrick’s young daughter, Vivian-playing Floyd’s daughter, affectionately nicknamed Squirt-openly linked Floyd to Kubrick, confirming his link to Old Hollywood.
Significantly, the vidphone call also linked the satellite segment to the talkie era of film, and to Lucas. For soon after Floyd stepped into the vidphone booth, an astronaut extra strolled by the camera who looked like the twin brother of Lucas at the time. This Lucas lookalike changed the tone of the following Mission to Jupiter segment on board the Discovery I, implying that this thoughtful, television screen filled and artsy segment-with its orange spacesuits to confirm its link to the Cowardly Lion-symbolized not just the thoughtful and mise-en-scene art cinema that dominated the film world after the Second World War and the television screens the big screen competed with, but the young American film artists like Lucas who had taken up the cause of thoughtful art cinema. Indeed, Keir Dullea’s Captain David Bowman and Gary Lockwood’s Frank Poole evoked Francis Coppola and Lucas, a dynamic duo Kubrick would have been aware of by 1967 as a result of interviews with them concerning their early film art. A mostly cheaper and twilit black and white art film era that competed with the increasingly colour Hollywood film art era, an allegorical colour film art era on graphic display in the final Jupiter and Beyond segment of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY after Floyd and his scientific colleagues explored the monolith found in Tycho crater on the moon.
Significantly, before climaxing this voyage to Jupiter, Commander Bowman had to defeat the Douglas Rain voiced Heuristic 9000 (HAL 9000) onboard computer, which implicitly symbolized the blockbuster machinations of Hallywood, in a literal David versus Goliath battle that saw a fully formed humanity triumph over the blockbuster machine. A segment linked to the Great Oz, implicitly affirmed by the sight of Captain Bowman drifting away from the Discovery I in a tiny pod that evoked the sight of Henry Morgan’s Great Oz drifting away in a hot air balloon at the end of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Only to be caught up in a rocketing and psychedelic tornado of a hyperspace journey across the cosmos, a psychedelic cosmic journey set off by the final Sentinel monolith, like the rest as rectangular in shape as the door to the Twilight Zone unlocked by the key to the imagination at the beginning of every original episode of the TWILIGHT ZONE telefilm series. A cosmic journey that transformed and evolved and returned Bowman home to Earth like a Starchild Dorothy to inspire a new era of artbuster film that would combine thoughtful art film with blockbuster budgets, sets, costume and effects to lure audiences away from their infernal television sets and back to the Temple Theatres to the year 2001-and beyond.
Curiously, ELECTRONIC LABYRINTH THX 1138 4EB did not only prick Kubrick and eerily anticipate the TZ disaster. The successful escape of THX 1138 also broke him free from a mate named YYO 7117-played by Joy Carmichael-curiously anticipating the Great Divorce of George and Marcia Lucas in 1983. For during this USC period, Lucas met and later married an attractive brunette named Marcia Griffin in another memory of the future. Soon another significant player in the life of Lucas would appear, as during a post-USC internship at Warner Brothers, Lucas also met Coppola, who was directing the exuberant, high spirited, hopeful and optimistic allegorical musical, FINIAN’S RAINBOW (1968). Significantly, as FINIAN’S RAINBOW saw a small but exuberant community of young black and white men and women in mythical Rainbow Valley work peacefully, naturally and easily together to thwart and overthrow the old and gold obsessed establishment white men-particularly Keenan Wynn’s tragicomically greedy Senator ‘Billboard’ Rawkins-who tried to end their dreams and control their lives with a cynical cry of ‘…forward, to yesterday’, Coppola clearly gave notice in FINIAN’S RAINBOW that he was still just as eager to defeat Old Hollywood and triumph with a New ethnically, racially, sexually and spiritually harmonious Hollywood interested in making film art for higher goals than money as he had been in his equally allegorical and anti-establishment docufeature film, YOU’RE A BIG BOY NOW (1966).
With the big difference that the failure to do so at the end of YOU’RE A BIG BOY NOW was replaced with the triumph over Rawkins and the sight of Fred Astaire’s eternally dreaming Finian McLonergan leaving the young community of Rainbow Valley at the end of FINIAN’S RAINBOW, implicitly making it clear how much Coppola wanted New Hollywood to triumph over Old Hollywood. The return of Ronald Colby and Dolph Sweet as Buzz Collins and the Sheriff, respectively, in FINIAN’S RAINBOW, implicitly affirmed that Coppola continued his New Hollywood promoting goals in the hopeful musical, as Colby and Sweet had played an actor and police officer Francis Graf, respectively, in YOU’RE A BIG BOY NOW. This latter film, incidentally, was his final superlative student film that had impressed everyone and been picked up and distributed by Warners, and led to his being chosen to helm FINIAN’S RAINBOW for Warners, as well-ominously linking Coppola to the studio that would oversee TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE and the TZ disaster right from the beginning. Thus, Coppola made clear his intentions in FINIAN’S RAINBOW, and also made clear that he was eager for equally exuberant and talented recruits like Lucas to join him in New Hollywood and take on Old Hollywood.
Indeed, Coppola was impressed enough with Lucas and his sour outlook on life and film art that he not only promptly dubbed him the Stinky Kid, but soon convinced the Stinky Kid to become co-head of their own San Francisco based independent film production company-American Zoetrope-and work with him on American Zoetrope’s first film, the allegorical indie, THE RAIN PEOPLE (1969)-this despite Coppola being a gregarious and extroverted Oscar personality to the finicky and introverted Felix of Lucas. Not surprisingly, given the big step Coppola and Lucas had taken, THE RAIN PEOPLE was kind of a more quiet, gentle, pensive, sad and wistful remake of YOU’RE A BIG BOY NOW and the allegorical Alfred Hitchcock film, PSYCHO (1961), which implicitly likened the apprehensive determination of American Zoetrope to break free from Old Hollywood and go it alone to the equally apprehensive determination Shirley Knight’s Natalie Ravenna-noticably resembling, but less confident than, Barbara Darling-to break free from her marriage and family and go it alone. Significantly, in the fighting between the older motorcycle cop, Gordon-played by Robert Duvall-and the young ex-college football player, Kilgannon-played by James Caan-over Natalie, THE RAIN PEOPLE also anticipated the increasing acrimony between the older Coppola and the younger Lucas over American Zoetrope that would lead the two to part ways in 1973. Ominously, THE RAIN PEOPLE also brought Coppola and Lucas closer to a collision with the Twilight Zone. For Duvall also played lonely Charley Parkes in the allegorical Walter E. Grauman directed telefilm, ‘Miniature’ (1963), in the fourth season of the original TWILIGHT ZONE television series.
Curiously, the San Francisco location of American Zoetrope was doubly fitting, for the city not only had the same syllable cadence as Rainbow Valley in FINIAN’S RAINBOW-linking the two locations-it had been the site of the first triumph of the love and exuberance of a young, hopeful, daring and racially integrated New Hollywood-symbolized by the triumph of the mixed race couple of John Prentice and Joanna Drayton, ably played by Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton, respectively-over their older and Old Hollywood linked parents, Matt and Christina Drayton and Mr. and Mrs. Prentice-played by Old Hollywood legends Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn to make the allegory clear, and Roy E. Glenn sr. and Beah Richards, respectively-in Stanley Kramer’s shot in San Francisco allegorical film, GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER (1967). Significantly, it was quite possible that GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER was inspired by interviews Coppola and Lucas gave in 1967. For the cinematic Odd Couple of Lucas and Coppola and the implicit allusions to them in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY did not go unnoticed, with George Roy Hill quickly helming a film devoted to the subject.
Indeed, Frank Coppola and the Stinky Kid were implicitly linked to Butch Cassidy and the Sunshine Kid-played by Paul Newman and Robert Redford, respectively-throughout his allegorical film, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNSHINE KID (1969). As Cassidy and the Kid were gunned down by the Bolivian army at the end of the film, Hill was clearly warning Coppola and Lucas to be careful and not get too out of control and obsessed with fame and fortune, lest their dreams to succeed as young and independent San Francisco film artists be also shot down by audiences, critics and the studios. The fact that Cassidy and the Kid embarked at San Francisco for their fateful voyage to Bolivia made that implication clear. Curiously, the choice of Redford to play the Kid brought him closer to his lengthy sojourn in the Twilight Zone. For Redford played the personification of Death in the allegorical Lamont Johnson directed episode ‘Nothing in the Dark’ (1962) from the third season of the original TWILIGHT ZONE television series. Significantly, this was the first but not the last of the links of many of the main players of New Hollywood and the Zone Wars to the original TWILIGHT ZONE series, as many got their first big break working on the storied series.
The tragicomic attempt of the small town Texas boy, Joe Buck-played by Jon Voigt-to make it in New York City with his newfound pickpocket/pimp friend, Rizzo-played by Dustin Hoffman-in John Schlesinger’s allegorical film, MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969), also evoked the attempt of the small town Lucas to make it in San Francisco at American Zoetrope with his newfound New York City friend, Coppola. Indeed, one of the failed attempts by the two ‘entrepreneurs’ to hustle up some money at the Hotel Berkeley linked Buck and Rizzo to the Bay area in an implicit affirmation of the allegorical intent of the film. It was also possible that Captain American and Billy the Kid-played by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, respectively-also symbolized Frank Coppola and the Stinky Kid in the allegorical Hopper film, EASY RIDER (1969), that same year. For the presence of Karen Black as Karen linked the film to YOU’RE A BIG BOY NOW via her character Amy Partlett in that film. The implication that EASY RIDER was an allegorical meditation on Coppola and Lucas was increased by the presence of Jack Nicholson in the film as George Hanson, for he linked all three main male characters to film artists, as Nicholson had-like Coppola-already directed a low budget quickie for Roger Corman, the allegorical film, THE TERROR (1963). The presence of Hopper definitely brought New Hollywood closer to a fateful rendezvous with the Twilight Zone via his appearance as the troubled and Hitler haunted youth Peter Vollmer in the Stuart Rosenberg directed allegorical season four episode, ‘He’s Alive’ (1963), of the original TWILIGHT ZONE series.
Given the resemblance of Pete and Joey-played by Doug McGrath and Paul Bradley, respectively-to Coppola and Lucas in Don Shebib’s allegorical film, GOIN’ DOWN THE ROAD (1970), there was an implicit possibility that Shebib was also roasting Coppola-his old UCLA film school classmate-and Lucas in his first feature film, and warning them that if they were not careful they would crash and burn in Hollywood as fast as Pete and Joey crashed and burned in Toronto. Indeed, GOIN’ DOWN THE ROAD was shot in the same neonlit docufeature style of YOU’RE A BIG BOY NOW, implicitly affirming the allegorical intent of Shebib. Given that David Lean’s allegorical film, RYAN’S DAUGHTER (1970), was set in a small Hollywood linked Irish town that evoked Hollywood linked Rainbow Valley in FINIAN’S RAINBOW, the implication was that Lean also addressed Coppola and Lucas in RYAN’S DAUGHTER. No doubt in the symbolic form of Barry Foster’s young Irish revolutionary leader, Tim O’Leary, and his second in command, Paddy-played by Philip O’Flynn-whose tragicomic and failed attempt to lead a group of eager and frustrated young men to a triumph over the English Imperial occupying forces in Ireland after the Great War evoked Coppola’s equally doomed attempt to lead the eager and frustrated young men of New Hollywood linked American Zoetrope to triumph over Old Hollywood. And Kubrick and his film art, as well, as pub owner Thomas Ryan and his attractive young daughter, Rose-played by Leo McKern and Sarah Miles, respectively-were linked to Kubrick and Sue Lyons’ blonde and L.A. haze linked teen Dolores ‘Lolita’ Haze of the Hitchcock roasting allegorical Kubrick film, LOLITA (1962), throughout the film. Clearly, the American Zoetrope Odd Couple were making an impression.
Unfortunately for Lucas, however, Coppola did not start off his film artist career with YOU’RE A BIG BOY NOW, FINIAN’S RAINBOW and THE RAIN PEOPLE. Instead, he started off his film career writing and directing an allegorical low budget black and white horror film for Corman’s New World Pictures called DEMENTIA 13 (1963). Significantly, Coppola implied that the film began as an allegorical nod of support to Hitchcock and Kubrick that urged the two original, idiosyncratic and independent film artists to put aside their differences and support each other in their commitment to true film art triumphing over commercial film art and over the even more commercial and banal television. For the film saw Ethne Dunn’s imposing, matronly and Hitchcock and Hollywood evoking Lady Haloran unite with her eldest child and son, the Kubrick evoking Richard-played by William Campbell-in a triumph over her obsessive and psychotic younger son, Billy-played by Bart Patton-and the murderous and gold digging blonde, Louise-played by Luana Anders-a duplicitous blonde who clearly evoked the Dark and blockbuster profit lusting side of Hollywood, at creepy Castle Haloran in Ireland. Indeed, a likely interpretation of the film, given that DEMENTIA 13 alluded to LOLITA-creepy Castle Haloran evoked the castle home of Quilty that opened and closed LOLITA-and to the allegorical and television bashing Hitchcock film, PSYCHO (1961). And that Kubrick had also roasted Hitchcock and himself in the tragicomically doomed duo of James Mason’s Humbert Humbert and Peter Sellers’ Clare Quilty throughout LOLITA, and worried that both were as in danger of being swept aside by a younger generation as obsessed with comic books, junk food, MAD magazines, rock and roll and television and as uninterested in serious film art as Lolita. Indeed, Humbert was as stuffy and as feverishly obsessed with young blondes as Hitchcock, while Quilty resembled Kubrick, implicitly affirming the allegorical intent of LOLITA.
However, if Kubrick understood Coppola’s allegorical message, he certainly ignored it. For he roasted Hitchcock again in the form of Peter Bull’s openly Hitchcock evoking Russian ambassador, Alexej de Sadesky, and himself in the form of Sellers’ RAF Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, in his next allegorical film, DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB, his gleefully demented roast of blockbuster film and the Cold War American military philosophy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), a gleeful roast that evoked the equally gleeful film roasts in an equally MAD magazine. Indeed, the fact that Lolita had already ran off in the end with a young fellow named Richard P. Schuler-played by Gary Cockrell-who looked like MAD spokesperson Alfred E. Neuman affirmed that Kubrick already had MAD themes on his mind when he directed DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB-as well as implied that Kubrick thought that the popular MAD magazine would influence the style of young film artists. The presence of aging Western singer Slim Pickens as the cowboy hat wearing Major ‘King’ Kong-a character who evoked the aging and cowboy hat wearing Western director, John Ford-also implied that the film was meditating as much on the obsessions of the major film studios and film artists with releasing blockbuster hits-like Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s cautioning allegorical film, KING KONG (1933)-that would appeal to rebellious young audiences, as it was with the possibility an indie bomber inadvertently releasing a blockbuster payload that would set off a nuclear war. Coppola implied a return of the snub, for he used Wynn-who played the John Huston linked Colonel ‘Bat’ Guano-as Rawkins in FINIAN’S RAINBOW, linking Rawkins to Kubrick. However, unbeknownst to Coppola, DEMENTIA 13 was also one of the most eerily and ominously prescient feature films to appear before the TZ disaster. Indeed, while some pre-TZ disaster feature films had scenes or characters that seemed like ominous and premonitory memories of the future TZ disaster and the raging Zone Wars that the disaster would set off, DEMENTIA 13 was one long, non-stop, and twilit memory of the future TZ disaster.
For the film saw the young, dapper and clean cut Billy Haloran slowly and finally revealed in the end through flashbacks to have never confessed to having accidentally drowned his younger sister, Kathleen-her name anticipating Kathleen Kennedy, and played by Barbara Dowling, her name anticipating Elizabeth Hartman’s beautiful, beguiling and unobtainable symbol of art Barbara Darling in YOU’RE A BIG BOY NOW in a way that implied that Kathleen symbolized art, as well. Kathleen was accidentally drowned in a pond behind the family’s Old Hollywood linked creepy Castle Haloran in Ireland-a creepy castle later evoked by the equally grey stone walls and labyrinthine halls of the Central Branch of the New York Public Library in YOU’RE A BIG BOY NOW-when Billy was a boy. This death of Kathleen anticipated that child extras Chen and Le would also die in water-the water of the Santa Clara River in Indian Dunes Park just outside Los Angeles-in the TZ disaster. Indeed, as with the deaths of Chen and Le, which haunted film artists and some audience members forever, the death of Kathleen haunted and destroyed the Hollywood linked Haloran clan. This link between Kathleen and Chen, Kennedy and Le was increased by the fact that, like Psycho Billy, Landis would affect a clean cut and well dressed appearance after the TZ disaster, in an effort to persuade people into believing that he was not Psycho Johnny.
The fact that three other characters would die over the course of the film-older brother John Haloran, his name anticipating John Landis and played by Peter Read; the evil, gold digging and murderous L.A. linked blonde, Louise; and Karl Schanzer’s decapitated poacher Simon, his decapitation all too accurately anticipating the decapitation of Morrow-creating a twilit trio of two male and one female victims as in the TZ disaster, added to the eerie and ominous feature length memory of the future quality of DEMENTIA 13. The fact that the film was shot in the same ‘twilight for twilight’ black and white film as LOLITA and PSYCHO was also eerily fitting, as it all too fittingly placed the film in the Twilight Zone between colour and darkness-a link increased by the TWILGHT ZONE-like Main Theme by Ronald Stein. The only hopeful aspect of the ominous and eerily prescient film was that it also saw the good young side of the Haloran clan-led by the redoubtable and Woody Mahony anticipating Richard Haloran-defeat its Psycho Billy side, in the end, leaving out hope that New Hollywood would also finally defeat its Psycho Johnny Dark Side, bring harmony back to Castle Hollywood, and end the dread allegorical Zone Wars in the end. Significantly, Richard Haloran did this with the help of the older and blunt Dr. Justin Caleb-played by Patrick Magee, an actor who looked eerily like American fantastic fiction author Philip K. Dick, who would die in early March of 1982 and whose literary art became an important piece of the Zone War puzzle. This reminded us that Finian inadvertently helped Mahony triumph at the Ireland linked end of FINIAN’S RAINBOW, implying that Coppola was hoping that he could succeed as a film artist with the help of an older mentor-perhaps his composer father, Carmine, who did in fact show up in the credits for THE RAIN PEOPLE as a Music Associate-as early as 1963. Thus, it was a very unknowingly significant, ominous and twilit decision indeed for Lucas to team up with Coppola as co-head of American Zoetrope, and, on the strength of Coppola’s success, persuade Warner Brothers to sign a five picture deal with them, a deal that started with the Coppola executive produced first allegorical feature film of Lucas, THX 1138 (Maxford 12-22, Pollock xiii-xvii and 1-106 and Baxter 1-46).
THX 1138 was a more elaborate feature length recreation and update of ELECTRONIC LABYRINTH THX 1138 4EB that openly addressed 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY to make it implicitly clear that Lucas was not impressed with the clean and shiny vision of the future in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and now wanted to free himself from the influence of Kubrick and from his underground student film art daze and succeed as an independent and idiosyncratic mainstream film artist. This dual desire to break free from Kubrick and the student underground was implicitly affirmed by the return of another film length battle to escape the underground as in ELECTRONIC LABYRINTH THX 1138 4EB, albeit this time an underground linked to Kubrick as well as USC film school. However, the film’s many underground film characteristics, such as off centre and unbalanced frame compositions, lack of plot, lifeless acting and mysterious dialogue also made clear that Lucas intended to bring the scruffy and bearded rebel Sixties angel film philosophy with him when he escaped the underground and joined the mainstream on his own terms. Significantly, THX 1138 also made clear that Lucas was continuing the long established tradition of using multi-allusive fantastic fiction or film as an ambiguous allegory to satirize contemporary society, a melange style perfected by Frank Herbert in his Dune novels and J.R.R. Tolkien his Lord of the Rings trilogy in the post-WWII era. This allowed Lucas to also lash out at his rebellious generation without appearing to do so, so as to avoid being seen as supporting the anti-Boomer mindset of all those evil establishment types over thirty, and the anti-establishment mentality of all those rebel angel youth types under thirty, thus following in the pragmatic and level headed footsteps of Roger Vadim in his gleefully satirical and Ozian themed allegorical romp of Sixties society, BARBARELLA (1968)-a film whose title evoked Barbara Darling as much as Cinderella, suggesting that Vadim was also using the film to reply to YOU’RE A BIG BOY NOW. Lucas underlined this satirical nature of THX 1138 and that he intended to continue the multi-allusive tradition common to fantastic fiction and films like BARBARELLA by including many allusions to THE WIZARD OF OZ and other fantastic fiction and films in THX 1138.
In fact, the unisexually bald men and women with their alphanumerical designations and identical clothing seen in the film first appeared in Yevgeny Zamyatin’s caustic allegorical blast of the Russian Revolution in We (1924). The test tube people, hierarchical society and government sponsored drug abuse designed to keep everyone in line returned to the world of THX 1138 via Aldous Huxley’s equally caustic and Hollywood roasting allegorical novel, Brave New World (1932). The battle against two way telescreens, constant supervision and enforced sexual abstinence of George Orwell’s allegorical and self-flagellating novel, Nineteen Eighty-four (1949), and the television linked telescreens of the allegorical Michael Anderson film, “1984” (1956), also returned in THX 1138. Indeed, to implicitly affirm that Lucas was eager to break audiences free of being chained to the Hell of television-the box populi-and back to the higher minded Temple Theatre, allusions to the unthinking, unimaginative, unemotional and out of touch pod people and their podovisions of Don Siegel’s allegorical and television bashing classic, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956), also resurfaced in the crowded subterranean hallways filled with equally listless and television watching pod people of THX 1138. THX 1138 also took the absurdist humour and real life sterile buildings, labyrinthine hallways and rebuilt streets of post-war Paris and the visual surrealism of Jean-Luc Godard’s mordantly allegorical film, ALPHAVILLE (1965), and recreated these elements with the equally absurdist humour and the surreal and sterile real life landscape of post-war San Francisco seen in THX 1138.
Lucas also incorporated the French nouvelle vague emphasis on realistic docufeature cinema verite in allegorical film, seen already in fantastic films like Franklin J. Schaffner’s Old Hollywood roasting allegorical film, PLANET OF THE APES (1967). The vaguely Ozian structure, embrace of artistic independence and rejection of the counterculture’s dissipated drug use, as well as the labyrinth under the City of Night of the Wicked Witch of the West linked Tyrant-played by Anita Pallenberg-of BARBARELLA also returned in THX 1138. These many allusions to previous allegorical classics gave the odd and baffling film a sense of continuity in spite of its unusual nature, and also underlined the meaning of THX 1138. In addition, by portraying an individual’s struggle to break free from an asexual and robotic underground society rendered somnambulistic and impotent by state enforced drug addiction, THX 1138 often seemed like the story of a frustrated underground Odysseus struggling to continue his journey by escaping a dystopia that was a mixture of the drugged up land of the Lotus Eaters and the ghostly underworld of Hades. However, despite incorporating and alluding to all of these previous films and legends, Lucas proceeded to head off in his own idiosyncratic and Ozian tinged direction in THX 1138. Indeed, Lucas gave ample indication of the sexually diseased but elementally healing Ozian shape of things to come in THX 1138-even including an Associate Producer named Ed Folger in the opening credits whose named evoked that of Scarecrow actor Ray Bolger in THE WIZARD OF OZ.
Significantly, the clean, shiny sweet, innocent and exuberant black and white BUCK ROGERS IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY trailer that kicked off THX 1138 implicitly affirmed the interest of Lucas in Kubrick. For not only did the Buck Rogers trailer present a vision of the future that resembled the wondrous world of the future of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, the trailer would have been seen in theatres by Kubrick as a kid in the Thirties. The ironic contrast between the incredible world of the future of Buster Crabbe’s handsome and healthy Buck and the bleak and diseased dystopia of THX 1138 that followed was obvious and enormous, making it clear how much Lucas disliked 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and how eager he was to sarcastically and satirically roast the film and Kubrick in THX 1138. Indeed, the unusual retro Warner Brothers logo that evoked the unusual retro MGM logo that 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY reaffirmed that Kubrick and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY were the satirical target of Lucas in THX 1138. Kubrick used for Lucas underlined this cynical direction when THX 1138 began, for the film immediately established a low and despondent mood with sickly green opening credits that drifted quickly and inexorably downwards into the abyss, sickly green like the Wicked Witch of the West. These sinking credits reminded the viewer of the first quick sinking credits of ALPHAVILLE, and were in complete contrast to the upbeat and cheery world of Buck Rogers. These credits were also mixed with a montage of strange and unexplained images set on futuristic and often white sets that evoked similar sets in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. This mysterious montage reiterated that Lucas was targeting Kubrick, indicating from the outset that the new director liked a film to be a fusion of the montage and mise-en-scene methods, an approach to film that might best be called mise-en-montage.
These disjointed images set the stage for the fractured and non-linear style of THX 1138, with its off centre and unbalanced frame compositions and claustrophobic atmosphere which underlined the disharmonious and diseased nature of the film. These sinking credits also reminded us that after Judy Garland’s Dorothy Gale was knocked out by flying debris and her farmhouse, Toto and herself were symbolically carried up and away by the tornado, Toto and herself then fell down in her house into the inner Ozian dreamworld. The descent brought the viewer down with her and Toto, down into the healing dreamworld like these inexorably descending credits. Indeed, on one level these falling credits were an interesting and effective visual variation on the falling house of Dorothy, and the first Ozian and hence television linked imagery in the allegorical film art of Lucas. In fact, these descending credits were so effective at pulling the viewer down into the diseased and Ozian television dreamworld, they were later transformed into the falling green alphanumeric imagery seen at the beginning of the Wachowski Siblings’ embattled, THX 1138-like, and James Cameron film art infused allegorical reflection on the dread Zone Wars, THE MATRIX (1999). After touchdown in the new Oz, visual slices of a maze-like, subterranean asylum Munchkinland full of bald and drugged citizen inmates straight out of Brave New World and We, and robot police officers-literal robocops-were presented to the viewer.
This strange asylum world was like a vast bomb shelter labyrinth, full of cowering people afraid to return to the real world above for fear of the Cold War planetary apocalypse or for fear of having their film aspirations mocked. This bomb shelter asylum world was also part sterile underground shopping mall, complete with escalators, muzak and a public address system spouting inane mantras to ‘…buy more now’. Humourously, the citizens of this strange subterranean world worshipped the Kubrick resembling great OMM-a tragicomic worship that reminded us that everyone worshipped Kubrick at the time THX 1138 was made as a result of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY-a great and powerful OMMRICK whose picture was seen in unichapel confessional cubicles that evoked the vidphone booths of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. High priests in hooded black and grey robes that anticipated David Prowse’ huge and intimidating Darth Vader and Ian McDiarmid’s gleefully insidious Emperor of the STAR WARS films ruled over this world on behalf of OMMRICK with the help of the robocops. These disjointed images gradually centred on one drugged, robotic and shaven headed citizen inmate Robocop assembly worker named THX 1138. THX 1138 was played by Duvall, who was fittingly last seen on film prior to descending into the subterranean asylum being driven to an asylum in Robert Altman’s acerbic and allegorical Vietnam War roasting film, M.A.S.H. (1970).
An equally bald man and woman who we came to know as SEN 5241 and LUH 3417-played by Donald Pleasance and Maggie McOmie, respectively-were also gradually picked out for special attention. Ominously, on top of affirming the film’s interest in “1984" via his role as Parsons in that film, Pleasance also linked Lucas and his films to the Twilight Zone again via his role as Professor Ellis Fowler in the Buck Houghton directed allegorical telefilm, ‘The Changing of the Guard’ (1962), a season three episode of the original TWILGHT ZONE. Fittingly, LUH 3417 and SEN 5241 underlined the link of the underground labyrinth to television by working in the computer and television monitor control room that oversaw all of the citizen inmates of this underground asylum world. This all seeing and all knowing television and computer monitoring centre reminded us of the watchful and distant eyes of Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West in THE WIZARD OF OZ, linking LUH 3417 and SEN 5241 to the two witches. The control room also anticipated the computer and television command rooms of the evil Empire in the Classic Trilogy. The monitoring centre also evoked the security cameras linked to the office telescreen of Alfred Abel’s Joh Fredersen, the upper world master of Fritz Lang’s allegorical and sound film bashing film, METROPOLIS (1927). SEN 5241’s alphabetic prefix underlined the link, evoking the ‘-sen’ at the end of Fredersen.
A fitting link to METROPOLIS, for a number of anonymous human robot workers in Red Section L-14 were soon killed in an industrial explosion. This fatal accident evoked a similar subterranean industrial accident at the beginning of METROPOLIS that led to a revolt of the underground workers of the city of the future against Joh Fredersen. Curiously, one of those underground workers was Erwin Biswanger’s Georgy, otherwise known as worker # 11811, a name and number that fittingly linked METROPOLIS to Georgie Lucas and THX 1138. Significantly, the underground workers’ communist-like popular revolt against fascist and enslaving capitalism was ended by the sympathetic and understanding intervention of the upper world master’s son, Freder, and his girlfriend Maria-played by Gustav Froehlich and Brigitte Helm, respectively. This intervention saw the heart mediate between the head and the hands, allowing a happy ending that had capitalist but philanthropic European silent film artists triumphing over eagerly capitalistic American sound film artists in a way that did not happen in reality. Or did the end of METROPOLIS see reality triumph over the out of control hubris of Directors, as Freder defeated Joh’s mad scientist mentor Rotwang and saved Maria prior to the triumphant ending reconciliation, preparing us for the many battles against the symbolic and twilit and out of control Directos in the twilit post-TZ disaster films of the Zone Wars? An intriguing possibility, as Rotwang actor Rudolf Klein-Rogge played the master criminal Dr. Mabuse in Lang’s allegorical film DR. MABUSE, THE GAMBLER (1922), a film that openly linked criminal direction to film direction.
Allusions to METROPOLIS also reminded us that shaven headed men were forced to build an insidious Tower of Babel for a demon called Molech, a task that led to God destroying the tower and forcing all humanity to speak different languages in punishment and so be cursed to not understand each other. Of course, this demonic tower and the multi-lingual punishment implicitly symbolized the arrival of talking pictures, for prior to 1927 the verbally silent and visual status of film had allowed viewers all over the world to understand film regardless of their language. At any rate, the legions of shaven headed men that built the infamous Tower of Babel in METROPOLIS clearly returned full Force throttle in THX 1138. At any rate, this allusion to the uprising of METROPOLIS prepared us for another revolt against overlord authority by THX 1138 in THX 1138, and for more heartfelt struggles between a father and son in the Classic Trilogy. The death of these male workers here in THX 1138 also reminded us of the early death of the Wicked Witch of the East in THE WIZARD OF OZ. A significant reminder, for as in THE WIZARD OF OZ. the deaths of these human robots-robomen-unlocked the gates to the spiritworld dream, allowing THX 1138’s healing adventures to truly begin.
Indeed, soon after these deaths, THX 1138 received a ruby red polygon. This red polygon reminded us of the ruby red high heels Dorothy received after the death of the Wicked Witch of the East, implicitly linking the deaths of the workers to the death of the Wicked Witch of the East and opening the gates of the healing spiritworld dream. This also implied that the ruby red polygon was the film’s physically, psychologically and even sexually invigorating power object. Ironically, however, the drugged up THX 1138 took the red polygon home after another robotic shift at work, and unwittingly allowed it to be sucked up a vacuum trash chute back at his apartment. This banished the ruby red power object, preventing THX 1138 from using its emboldening power to aid his liberation. While humourous, this incident was also the first reference to garbage and garbage chutes in the film art of Lucas. Indeed, garbage and garbage chutes would be a popular and recurring theme in his movies, climaxing in the liberating toss of the evil Emperor down the garbage chute at the end of the twilit, Spielberg bashing, Lucas executive produced and Richard Marquand directed allegorical film, STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983). After unknowingly getting rid of this ruby red power object, THX 1138 then met his lovely shaven headed roommate, LUH 3417, who we had already become familiar with from seeing her in the all seeing monitoring centre with SEN 5421.
LUH 3417 was a mysterious female character, for the viewer never found out if she was THX 1138’s cousin, girlfriend, sister, or wife. Girlfriend seemed likely, for LUH 3417 soon introduced the listless and doped up Adam to the forbidden knowledge of love and sexuality like a bald Eve. Indeed, to increase THX 1138’s libido, LUH 3417 changed his medication, substituting a virile ruby red pill for a blue pill that apparently had laid THX 1138 low with a bad case of the listless and impotent blues. This red pill substitution evoked the ruby red slippers of the Wicked Witch of the East again and the ruby red polygon. The pill substitution also evoked Glinda and the help she provided the heroes throughout their healing Ozian journey, linking LUH 3417 to Glinda rather than Dorothy. The pill substitution had the desired effect, increasing THX 1138’s virility like Dorothy’s ruby red high heels and negating the earlier loss of the ruby red polygon. Significantly, the pill change also occurred while THX 1138 was watching naked male and female Afro-American dancers gyrate erotically to primal rhythms on holocast television. These two dancers introduced Afro-American virility into the film art of Lucas for the first time, an important infusion that prepared us for the arrival of an Afro-American Cowardly Lion later in THX 1138 and for more Afro-American mojo in all of the later film art of Lucas.
The afrodisiac infusion and pill change worked. Indeed, the two combined to free THX 1138’s mind and awaken his virility, leading to illegal sex between the two roommates, sex that exoked the illegal sex of Winston Smith and Julia in Nineteen Eighty-Four and perhaps also symbolized the sexual solace George and Marcia found in each other’s arms. This love scene was strange, intensifying the mystery surrounding the staus of LUH 3417. Indeed, with the shaven heads of the two lovers, the scene was curiously androgynous, making it hard to tell if THX 1138 and LUH 3417 were of the same sex, were of the opposite sex, or were twin Jedi siblings. However, despite this ambiguous sexual awakening, THX 1138 left behind the mind control of the priests of OMMRICK and his impotent and roboman state and moved into a more aware, assertive, fully human and sexually potent stage. This effectively transformed him from an old, frozen and impotent Tin Man into a virile young Scarecrow, despite later attempts by the subterranean state to refreeze him with mind blocks and electro staffs. This transformation was important, for it was the first time that an intellectual, physical, psychological and spiritual transformation from one Ozian elemental character to another occurred in the same character in a Lucas film. Indeed, this transformation became the idiosyncratic hallmark of the early film art of Lucas, and the major innovation Lucas brought to the static characters of THE WIZARD OF OZ. In fact, this transformation anticipated the virile transformations of psychologically frozen Tin Men Luke and Anakin Skywalker, and the carbon frozen Han Solo-played by Mark Hamill, Sebastian Shaw and Harrison Ford, respectively-in STAR WAR EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI. Little wonder that Keanu Reeves’ similarly frozen and impotent young X gang member Thomas A. Anderson preferred the ruby red pill over the TZ disaster blues pill when offered up both at his first meeting with Laurence Fishburne’s mysterious and Great Oz linked Morpheus in THE MATRIX-clearly, Anderson had seen THX 1138 and knew the transformative power of the ruby red pill, turning THE MATRIX into THE MATRHX.
With his ruby red virility regained, his emotional heart fired up, his inquiring mind reawakened and his spirit eager for flight, THX 1138 suddenly realized that he was not living in the pristine Emerald City but in an underworld similar to Sogo, the drugged out subterranean labyrinth beneath the Black Castle of the Wicked Tyrant of the West on planet 16 of the Tau Ceti system in BARBARELLA. A timely reminder, reiterating that Lucas was satirizing his drug obsessed and underground counter-cultural generation in darker but still absurdist fashion in THX 1138 like Vadim had done in BARBARELLA. Indeed, for the crimes of drug evasion, monogamous sexuality and breaking free from the control of OMMRICK, THX 1138 and LUH 3417 were soon solemnly branded enemies of the state at a mock trial that underlined that the film’s subterranean future state actually symbolized the youthful, drug obsessed and free loving underground of the counter-cultural rebels of the Sixties, a mock trial that ironically reversed the absurd grilling Charlton Heston’s bearded and New Hollywood evoking Taylor received from the clean shaven and Old Hollywood evoking orangutans of PLANET OF THE APES. After being found guilty, the tall robocops-their black uniforms with silver faces making them look like kind of a cross between Vader, the Imperial Stormtroopers (most commonly referred to as Imps), the Black Guards of the Wicked Tyrant and the Castle Soldiers of THE WIZARD OF OZ-took THX 1138 away for reprogramming and conditioning in detention. These robot officers initially carried white batons on hip loops. Later these batons were exchanged for long black humming electro-shock staffs-early lightsabers that recalled the samurai swords of the films of Akira Kurosawa and that linked well with the lonely and haunting notes of a Japanese-like flute that were heard intermittently in the soundtrack by Lalo Schifrin, an organic flute that contrasted hopefully with the inorganic, sterile and hi-tech environment of THX 1138-that were used by an eerily twilit trio of robocops to stun THX 1138 into submission for reprogramming.
Significantly, prior to reprogramming, THX 1138 was probed by impersonal machines in a way that anticipated the robotic medical treatment Luke Skywalker received on Hoth after escaping the blockbuster wampa beast in the Spielberg bashing, Lucas executive produced and Irv Kershner directed film, STAR WARS EPISODE V:THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980), and the later and machine aided dark transformation of Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader at the end of the equally Spielberg bashing, twilit and allegorical film, STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH. This impersonal medical machine attention reminded us of the thorough medical treatment Lucas received after his near fatal car accident in 1962. In fact, this link to the real life hospital treatment of Lucas was underlined when THX 1138 was taken afterwards to the detention area, a surreal and ghostly white sensory deprived lunar landscape. For with its eerie white surreality and its white smocked inmates debating the cosmic order, the detention area evoked a hospital lounge full of quietly recuperating and commiserating patients. This hospital lounge quality was underlined by the fact that THX 1138 realized here how much he wanted to live and be with LUH 3417 and do something more with his life than be a roboman. For this realization reminded us of the teenaged Lucas, and how he decided to leave stock car racing behind and do something more with his life after recovering in hospital from his near fatal car crash. The lunar detention area also suggested a student lounge full of commiserating film students at USC. Significantly, one of its members, a bearded dwarf called a shell dweller and played by Mark Lawhead, resembled Kubrick enough to make it clear that Lucas thought he was not a major film artist but a tiny little fellow lost in sentimental reveries of his Buck Rogers loving childhood in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. The little fellow also looked like and anticipated the mysterious DJ Wolfman Jack-played by Robert Smith-in the implicitly Don Shebib bashing allegorical Lucas film, AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973). This lunar Twilight Zone also anticipated the post-apocalyptic, Cold War desert wastes of Tatooine and the equally white lunar snowscape of Hoth in the STAR WARS films. And, while ominous, this lunar area was also a positive omen for THX 1138, for it reminded us that the Wicked Witch of the West melted like the Winter snow at the end of THE WIZARD OF OZ, leading to the whole and harmonious Springing escape of Dorothy from Oz and back to health in harmony in Kansas.
In this detention area THX 1138 renewed his acquaintance with SEN 5241-which was somehow appropriate, given that Pleasance’s character Parsons joined Edmond O’Brien’s Winston Smith in a similar detention/reprogramming area in “1984”. Significantly, SEN 5241 was a sentient and crazed character who was part grandiose Great Oz and part ludicrously sinister Vader. In Vader mode, he tried to convince THX 1138 to join him on a break for freedom where they could form a New Republic-style ‘…new alignment’, recalling Coppola’s success in persuading Lucas to join him in San Francisco at American Zoetrope, and anticipating Vader’s efforts to persuade Luke to join him at the end of STAR WARS EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. There was also a vague implication that SEN 5241 was a symbolic father of THX 1138 in this scene, a vague implication reinforced by the fact that SEN 5241’s name had already evoked Fredersen and his conflict with his son, the idealistic Freder, in METROPOLIS. A significant reinforcement, as SEN 5241 had revealed an insen plot to have his onanistic roommate ONA replaced with THX 1138 earlier in the film. This strange revelation suggested that SEN 5241 was eager to leave onanism behind and begin a sexual relationship with his symbolic son, THX 1138, a bizarre plot that linked SEN to incestuous sin. While not treated as significant in THX 1138, this incestuous theme returned and assumed greater importance in each new Lucas directed or produced film, climaxing in STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI. Indeed, this revelation raised the spectre of incest and even homosexuality for the first time in the film art of Lucas, leading to the dire and sodomistic evoking threats of Darth Vader and the Emperor to turn Leia and Luke to the Dark Side in the Classic Trilogy. In fact, a sexual assault by an older male on a sleeping younger male in the detention area openly underlined that dark and diseased sexual forces were at work in the films of Lucas starting with THX 1138.
Curiously, a thoughtful and philosophic old man who looked like Clarke, co-writer of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY-and was played by Ian Wolfe, who like Duval and Pleasance also ominously linked Lucas and THX 1138 to television and the Twilight Zone again via a small role as Schwimmer in the allegorical Siegel directed telefilm, ‘Uncle Simon’ (1963), from season five of the original TWILIGHT ZONE series, in a twilit trio of links for Lucas-who was also imprisoned in the surreal lunar emptiness with SEN 5241 and THX 1138 could be seen as the true frozen and impotent Tin Man of THX 1138. Luckily for THX 1138, despite Wolfe’s link to the Twilight Zone, an emboldening and elemental Ozian conjunction seemed to take place with the arrival and the reassuring and thoughtful advice of this old Tin Man. A harmonizing Ozian conjunction that inspired the Great SEN and the THX Crow to flee the eerie and directionless detention area whiteout and its creepy Kubrick evoking little man, and find and rescue LUH 3417 from her cell in the underground Black Castle, anticipating the desperate attempt of Peter Mayhew’s Chebacca, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker to try to find, free and rescue Princess Leia during their time on the Death Star in STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE. This rescue mission was provoked by an unexpected and dreamy meeting THX 1138 had with LUH 3417 in the detention area. At this meeting LUH 3417 quickly revealed that she was pregnant, and then the two eerily similar lovers made forbidden love again. Afterwards, and while still wrapped in each other’s arms, robocops surprised the two lovers and led them both away to their separate fates. This dreamy encounter with LUH 3417 led to the electro-staff reprogramming for THX 1138 by the twilit trio of robocops, and finally to his escape with SEN 5241 and their attempted rescue of LUH 3417 from the Wicked OMMRICK. They fled into the white emptiness, anticipating Luke Skywalker’s flight from the beastly blockbuster wampa’s cave in STAR WARS EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. However, the surreal and directionless lunar landscape did not change no matter how far they walked, neither receding nor advancing. This was the ultimate impotent moment in this impotent underworld dream, as disorienting and frustrating for viewer as escaper-an eerie experience straight out of the Twilight Zone.
After some time, a mysterious figure slowly emerged in front of SEN 5241 and THX 1138, anticipating the emergence of the figure of Han Solo on tauntaun in front of the frozen figure of Luke in the equally surreal and lunar white snowscape of Hoth in STAR WARS EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. This unusual figure was a huge Afro-American man named SRT-played by Don Pedro Colley-who recalled the Afro-American holo-television dancers who had earlier injected THX 1138 with their Afro mojo. SRT was an odd, virile and jocular character, sort of a cross between the Cowardly Lion and Chewbacca who anticipated the arrival of Billy Dee Williams’ Lando Calrissian in STAR WARS EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, Ahmed Best’s Jar Jar Binks and Samuel L. Jackson’s Mace Windu in the twilit, allegorical and Spielberg roasting film, STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE-and the arrival of Morpheus in the Matrix Trilogy. And like Lando rescuing Luke at the end of STAR WARS EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, SRT casually and jovially led SEN 5241 and THX 1138 to freedom and safety. Thus, another Ozian conjunction of sorts occurred at last in THX 1138, as the Airy and garrulous Great SEN, the Earthy and virile THX-Crow, and the Fiery and imposing Cowardly SRT united to escape the lunar void and complete the healing quest by rescuing LUH 3417 and saving her and the film art of Lucas from Wicked OMMRICKs, Old Hollywood, labyrinthine underworlds, and banal television in classic Ozian fashion. The heroic threesome also evoked all of the other great heroic threesomes in the history of fantastic literature-from Bounding Elk, Great Serpent and Hawkeye tracking the lost Munro sisters and their Mingo captors in James F. Cooper’s allegorical novel, The Last of the Mohicans (1826) and Aramis, Athos and Porthos coming to the aid of D’Artagnan in Alexandre Dumas’s allegorical reply to Cooper, The Three Musketeers (1844), to Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas tracking Merry and Pippin and their Orc captors in Tolkien’s allegorical novel, The Two Towers (1954). And the Cowardly SRT led the way like a dreamworld frontier scout, pointing to a door behind the Great SEN and the THX-Crow that was in the whiteout wall of this surreal and lunar womb. The door led to rebirth from the white womb into the maddening and crushing castle inmate crowds in the corridors of the subterranean labyrinth.
Tragicomically, the Great SEN was quickly carried away by the relentless press and flow of the anonymous shaven headed inmate throngs of the underground labyrinth in the first narrative split in the films of Lucas. A fitting sight, reminding us that the Great Oz drifted away in his phallic hot air balloon before Dorothy and Toto could ride with him in his basket at the end of THE WIZARD OF OZ. To add to his tragicomic plight, the Great SEN soon got into trouble while lost on his solo odyssey. In fact, the Great SEN attacked a blue and black robed holo-tv priest of OMMRICK from behind when this priest tried to contact the robocops after catching him in OMMRICK’s holocast television studio. The wild and grandiose SEN 5241 then knocked out or even killed the priest by throwing him to the ground from behind. Significantly, this knockout not only anticipated a similar knockout of a pesky and inquiring Nazi by Ford’s Dr. Henry ‘Indiana’ Jones jr. in the Lucas executive produced and Spielberg directed allegorical film, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), but also exactly anticipated the end of STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI. For Darth Vader would also pick up the similarly black robed and quasi-religious Emperor from behind and throw him down the pentultimate garbage chute at the conclusion of the Classic Trilogy. Significantly, Vader was also initially a dutiful and obedient servant of the subterranean machineworld like the Great SEN before he rebelled and joined the ‘New Alignment’ of the Rebellion, underlining the link between the two spiritually emancipated heroes.
The Great SEN’s quick exit also ended the triumphant Ozian trio, taking the healing and airy energy of the Great Oz away from viewers and characters. This disappearance in a way briefly transformed the THX-Crow and the Cowardly SRT into a Dorothy and guardian Toto pair. At one point after the disappearance of the Great SEN, THX 1138 also briefly went through a Cowardly Lion phase, lying on a morgue stretcher and pretending he was dead to avoid being captured at one point by two pursuing robovcops. Thus, THX 1138 went through another Ozian phase, a transformative journey that came full elemental circle when he came across a computer terminal in his frantic underground odyssey with SRT. This terminal allowed THX 1138 to make like the Great SEN in his underworld monitoring centre job. Thus, THX 1138 completed a full circle transformative journey in the film that carried him through each Ozian elemental personification in turn, making him a whole and holy man. This was an extremely important innovation in the film art of Lucas, underlining the healing nature of his films and anticipating a similar holy journey completed by the priest-like Jedi Knight, Luke Skywalker, in the Classic Trilogy.
However, this healing and holy transformation was a bittersweet victory for the newly emancipated THX 1138. For the terminal allowed the whole and harmonious THX 1138 to determine that LUH 3417 had been terminated, and that her alphanumeric code had been reassigned to another Brave New World-style test tube foetus, a sight that prepared us for the Clone troopers of the Tragic Trilogy. Curiously, while no doubt simply symbolizing the fear of Lucas that THX 1138 would not be successful, this disappointing revelation again anticipated Lucas’ real life divorce, and the departure of his wife Marcia from his life forever after the TZ disaster and the critical and popular failure of STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI. This revelation also ended the healing Ozian cadence of the film, as there was now no need to find, liberate and heal Dorothy in the form of LUH 3417. However, despite the death of LUH 3417, the now harmonious THX 1138 and the virile and healthy SRT still stood in complete contrast to the drugged up and sickly inmates of the uncritically OMMRICK worshipping underground society, and quickly decided to escape the underworld. Ironically, however, while a symbol of virile life Force, SRT was not actually alive. In fact, he insisted in his jovial, Jar Jar Binks-like fashion that he was actually just a hologram. This definitely linked him to the male and female Afro-American holocast television dancers seen earlier in the movie. Thus, it was not surprising that SRT did not succeed in escaping the television linked underground labyrinth. Indeed, after leaping free of the endless underground hallway maze and from Robocop pursuit and out into an underground parking lot, SRT and THX 1138 broke into separate rocket cars and attempted to blast away to freedom. However, the rocket car of SRT was a wicked black car to the sinister left of the virtuous white rocket car of THX 1138, a colour and position that spelled doom for the jovial hologram. Not surprisingly, the naïve and literally unworldly hologram proved to be too non-human and unknowledgeable to successfully operate his phallic car. He promptly lost control and crashed prematurely into a pillar, trapping him in the TWILIGHT ZONE linked underworld…forever.
This was a pivotal and seminal car crash and death that evoked the pivotal and seminal teen car crash of Lucas. And like the real Great Crash of ’62, this car crash both ended a way of life and began a liberating new way of life. For robocops stopped to examine the wreck, allowing THX 1138 to escape the labyrinth and blast out of the subterranean underworld in his virtuous white rocket car and down a long and winding escape tunnel that anticipated the Death Star trench at the end of STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE. Ominously, one of the pursuing robocops was numbered 23, linking Lucas to the July 23, 1982 date of the TZ disaster in another twilit memory of the future. However, despite this ominous and twilit link, the rocketing white car of THX 1138 was an important symbol, like the ruby red polygon, the ruby red pill and the three Afro-American holograms. For the car represented virility, harmonious and healthy life Force, and the side of Good, like the white horse of a Western hero. Of course, these qualities anticipated the arrival of the equally harmonious, naturally flowing and powerful J.D.s, Jedettes, Jedi and Western heroes in AMERICAN GRAFFITI, the Classic Trilogy and the Tragic Trilogy. The white rocket car also clearly represented liberation from underground youth society and all of its somnambulistic and unimaginative pod people, from draconian and sterile overlord establishment authority and its prying and banal television, and from the influence and worship of Kubrick.
Of course, linking cars to freedom came naturally to a filmmaker who spent so much time as a teenage speed racer Indeed, a powerful and liberating yellow brick road coloured race car had already appeared in his allegorical student film, 1:42:08 (1966), and rocket cars or spaceships would also appear in most of the subsequent films and telefilms of Lucas, from the rocketing hot rods of AMERICAN GRAFFITI, to the land speeders, Deathpod racers and rocketing spaceships of the STAR WARS films. In fact, wholey THX 1138 even suffered from an engine temperature overheat problem that temporarily stopped his rocket car at one point in his desperate escape, anticipating a similar overheating problem that temporarily halted Jake Lloyd’s Spielberg linked Anakin Skywalker in his Death pod race against the insidious and Landis linked Sebulba-voiced by Lewis MacLeod-in STAR WARS EPISODE 1: THE PHANTOM MENACE. After solving his heating problem, the wholey Ozian Force was clearly now with the harmonious THX 1138 as he made his liberating escape in his rocketing car. However, racing down the winding and Yellow Lined Road of the escape tunnel-a Yellow Lined Road that returned in AMERICAN GRAFFITI-THX 1138 was pursued by two of the tall, black clad, robocops. Ominously, one of the pursuing robocops was 23 again, implicitly and ominously reaffirming that Lucas and THX 1138 were already trying to escape from the shadow of the TZ disaster.
These two robocops rode two white jetcycles in a tight tandem, hunched over their bikes in relentlessly roaring pursuit of THX 1138 like two hellbent flying monkeys trying to take him back to the Black Castle, or like two Wicked Witch sisters on horsey broomsticks. The sight of the two officers was ironic, reminding us that Duval played a pursuing highway patrol motorcyclist named Gordon in THE RAIN PEOPLE. They also darkly foreboded the two TIE fighters that accompanied Darth Vader on his relentless pursuit of Luke Skywalker down the Death Star trench at the end of STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE. This link to the climatic end of STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE was reinforced by the radio chatter and the scenes of the underground control room that were intercut with the rocketing cars and bikes throughout the relentless chase, elements that anticipated similar intercut Imperial and Rebel control room activity throughout the Classic Trilogy, scenes that were inspired in turn by the intercutting of the frantic War Room with the final attack run of the wayward bomber at the end of DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB, in another allusion to Kubrick. Indeed, in one snippet of control room chatter heard earlier in the movie we heard a male voice say, ‘…OK start your descent’ to THX 1138 when he was at work making robocops, a voice and phrase that was repeated in the Rebel cockpit chatter at the end of STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE. Of course, this time the control room scenes and chatter were linked to the evil underworld Empire that was trying to capture instead of aid the rocketing hero. And the first Empire monitored the progress of THX 1138 down the trench tunnel with amusingly detached and drugged incomprehension, abruptly calling off the chase when a computer impersonally signalled that expenditure for the chase had exceeded the allotted budget, implying the conviction of Lucas that film art should be made for higher goals than the simple making of money. Ironically, this ending anticipated the ending of STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE, where success was also achieved when a computer was shut down, and a man was left to his own intuitive devices.
And left alone he was, as THX 1138 crashed his rocket car at an ominous and almost TZ disaster date predicting 235 mph into some unavoidable construction crew obstacles, before leaping from the freedom machine to faithfully continue his race for life and freedom. Humourously, he was quickly swarmed by a group of dwarven-and, in the 2004 CGI Special Edition, simian-‘shell dwellers’. In the original version of the film, these shell dwellers were mostly alienated Munchkin dwarves like the Kubrick linked shell dweller previously met in the detention area, who attacked and attempted to capture THX 1138, as if in bitter reminder of the miserable fate that befell people who refused to leave behind childhood and adolescence. Fortunately, THX 1138’s transformative Ozian journey had left him a whole and harmonious adult who was easily able to fend off these warped Munchkins and CGIians and leave Oz behind forever. Indeed, THX 1138 soon found a tunnel ladder that allowed him to climb up, up and out of the subterranean labyrinth, looking with his bald head like a determinedly rising and irrepressible human erection. The steadily climbing figure of THX 1138 also evoked the determinedly climbing heroic duo of Freder and his friend Josaphat-played by Theodor Loos-who climbed resolutely up two ladders and out of the subterranean worker underworld to unite the underworld and upperworld populations-the conscious and the subconscious-at the end of METROPOLIS. Significantly, the two men united the two populations in part by rescuing Maria and the children of the underworld workers before they were drowned by the rising waters of a burst underground reservoir, ominously linking Lucas and his first film again to accidents involving children years before the TZ disaster. Freder also united the two populations of METROPOLIS by using his big heart to triumph over mad scientist Rotwang and his evil and enslaving machine man, and to mediate between the cold mind of his father and the hot hands of Heinrich George’s Grot, the foreman leader of the underworld workers. However, this time Freder was leaving his possible father SEN behind, rather than heading towards a reconciliation with him as in METROPOLIS or STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI.
Eerily, the tenaciously pursuing robocop 23 followed him up the ladder in dogged and despairing twilit pursuit, its Tin Man figure reminding us that THX 1138 began the film as a robotic human Tin Man before the start of his invigorating and transformative journey. Amusingly, this Tin Officer taunted the steadily climbing hero like an insipid Darth Vader, inanely telling THX 1138 to ‘…please turn back…this is your last chance’. But THX 1138 had clearly defeated his impotent Tin Man Side. Indeed, he simply ignored the robot monkey, who soon stopped and turned back when the control room called off the overly expensive chase. This was an unnoticed but significant milestone in the films of Lucas, marking the first time that the Forces of Evil were defeated not by an hero, but by their own dimwitted greed and incomprehension, in the end. In fact, this distinctive and idiosyncratic ending prepared the viewer for the self destruction of Ford’s Bob Falfa, Paul Freeman’s Rene Belloq, McDiarmid’s Emperor and Christensen’s Skyfaller at the end of AMERICAN GRAFFITI, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI and STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH.
Then swelling symphonic 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY evoking music played as THX 1138 scrambled up the last few rungs of the tunnel ladder to freedom from box populi and Kubrick worshipping masses and from drugged up student underground worlds. Finally, the embattled and wholey hero escaped the diseased and drugged underworld labyrinth with its hints of incest, and stood harmonious and free of the suffocating influence of Kubrick in the fresh air of a sunlit day. And here in the healthy open air and blazing sunlight of Kansas reality, THX 1138 stood triumphantly erect and reborn in front of an huge, apocalyptic and mushroom cloud-like setting sun like a true silhouetted Scarecrow. A Scarecrow still cheekily linked to deliberately idiosyncratic, offkilter and Old Hollywood mocking composition, for the silhouetted THX 1138 and the setting sun were located on the sinister left of the screen. Clearly, the age of Old Hollywood as well as his subterranean life were setting and a skyrocking and cheekily idiosyncratic new day was rising for THX 1138 as well. This sunset vista anticipated the setting sun that began AMERICAN GRAFFITI, and the twin setting suns of Tatooine at the beginning of STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE and at the end of STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH. Unfortunately, the setting sun also brought with it twilight, bringing Lucas closer to his own journey through the Twilight Zone, an ominous journey affirmed by the presence of Duval. However, the sunlit vista also hinted of a real world rendezvous with the African queen of his holo-tv dreams, like Dorothy’s real world rendezvous with Hunk Andrews, a rendezvous that came true in the new millennium when Lucas began to be seen with Mellody Hobson. An intriguing possibility, for at the moment THX 1138 had triumphed in the end but had not got the girl, linking him to D’Artagnan and Hawkeye and anticipating other triumphant but single heroes like John Milner, Luke Skywalker, Obi Wan Kenobi and Indiana Jones at the end of AMERICAN GRAFFITI, STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI, STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH, and the Lucas executive produced and Spielberg directed allegorical film, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989).
And so, like Barbarella and Pygar, THX 1138 was at last free from Kubrick worship, television and the disaffected, drugged, frustrated and impotent youthful underground labyrinth mentality and the Establishment and its exuberantly gloomy planetary nuclear apocalypse. At last Lucas left behind Establishment and film school pessimism and his generation’s wild underground rebellion and openly embraced a harmonious world free of disease and drugs. This evoked the daylit and harmonious ending of THE WIZARD OF OZ and prepared the viewer for similar daylit endings at the end of AMERICAN GRAFFITI and STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE. This healing ending also broke the viewer away from the pessimistic and sterile post-apocalyptic Cold War mentality for the first time in the film art of Lucas, anticipating the triumphant endings of the Classic Trilogy to come. Ironically, in fact, like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, THX 1138 was one of the first post-World War II allegorical films to escape from the Cold War in the end, making THX 1138 one of the first true post-Cold War films. Clearly, this was an important new beginning and not an ending for THX 1138, Lucas and film art. Indeed, the ending of THX 1138 was a perfect and prescient metaphor for the life and films of Lucas. For the ending presaged Lucas’ own embattled and ultimately successful escape from his father, the boring, unimaginative and pod people filled small town labyrinth of Modesto and his defeatist fellow film students and the MAD establishment, and eventual triumph as an independent and imaginative J.D. Jedi film artist. This triumphant ending also anticipated his liberation from the benevolent but constricting influence of his mentor Coppola and his separation from his wife, Marcia. A significant farewell to hippy flower power impotence that anticipated the rise of the disciplined and determined ranks of the militant film Rebellion and its unswerving dream of restoring a bold New Hollywood Republic policed by wise but tough and unyielding and triumphant Jedi Director Knights in the Classic Trilogy. Unfortunately, however, with its three actors from the original Twilight Zone series and its desperate flight from a robocop numbered 23, Lucas also unknowingly anticipated his fight to escape the shadow of the TZ disaster in THX 1138 in the end, as well.