THX 1138 (1971)
No, this is not a Lubitsch film.
It's a Lucasfilm. George's first feature in fact. Watched it tonight (Monday) on Netflix's Instant Viewer. Best video quality so far.
To sum up the plot: It's the future; a massive bureaucracy runs a society underground. Citizens are kept under heavy drug sedation. THX and LUH are a couple that skip their meds and mate. They are then punished and THX tries to escape.
Since this one feels like a student film, I'll try to review it as such.
Pro: One has to admire Lucas sticking to his vision and style.
Cons: This movie serves a good how-to-not-make-a-SciFi-film lesson. Though the constant voices spouting numbers and codes serve to embody the depressing, dystopian, dismal universe of the film, it becomes meaningless which then becomes annoying and distracting, largely taking away from whatever is trying to be achieved on screen. It's also easy to see the Lucas of Star Wars, as the action, plot, and themes are all in a single key. Few surprises, little depth. A film that's 100% straight-forward depressing is as shallow as a film that's 100% straight-forward happy. Nowhere within this film can the Lucas of American Graffiti be found.
Pro: LUH is an interesting female human character.
Con: Possibly the only one I've seen amongst his films.
Pro: Effectively displays not only the suffocating nature of a soulless state-run universe, but also it's ultimate inability to stop its sharpest criminals/revolutionaries. Done in by the bureaucratic need to stay under budget, the state gives up the chase at the end and lets THX escape.
Con: Seems awfully like a way to end your film when you don't know how else to end your film. As for the above themes, Lucas seems to be trying to update Orwell's "1984". The problem is that Orwell's story was more involving and ultimately more affecting because human desires and contradictions powered the actions and consequences.
And lastly, (I have no "Pro" here) in this special edition of THX 1138, Industrial Light and Magic added a ton of CG special effects. And they're all obvious and jarring. Like the "young" Jabba added to "A New Hope", newer flashier effects don't necessarily mean better effects. The low budget tunnels, hallways, masks, and giant white prisons from the actual production are organic and immediate. Little monsters and teeming garages filled with futuristic cars are not.
Despite all of this criticism, I would certainly look forward to Lucas exploring these themes as an older wealthier man, if he chooses to direct an film that doesn't have "Star Wars" in the title.