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15 Dystopian Facts About THX 1138

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Work hard, increase production, prevent accidents, and be happy. It’s the 45th anniversary of George Lucas’ first film. No, not Star Wars. No, not American Graffiti either. It’s THX 1138, the dystopian sci-fi cult classic that introduced Lucas to the world before he made it to a galaxy far, far away. Here are 15 facts about his big-screen debut.

1. IT’S BASED ON A LEGENDARY STUDENT FILM BY GEORGE LUCAS.

George Lucas expanded THX 1138 from Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB, a student film he made as a grad student in the film department of the University of Southern California. The film was completed in unofficial cooperation with the U.S. Navy: USC worked in collaboration with the Navy to help military filmmakers earn college credits via student-taught classes. Lucas agreed to teach the class in order to gain unlimited access to the camera equipment, film stock, and processing facilities that the school had reserved for the Navy. He also employed his students as the film’s cast and crew.

2. LUCAS INCLUDED AN HOMAGE TO SATURDAY MORNING SERIALS.

The first-time filmmaker included the trailer to Tragedy on Saturn, Chapter Two of Buck Rogers,  a 1939 Saturday morning serial, before THX 1138. Lucas attempted to draw an ironic contrast between the swashbuckling Rogers and the titular character in his bleak sci-fi debut because each was “just an ordinary, normal human being who keeps his wits about him.” But he also saw it as an homage to the kinds of sci-fi stories he loved growing up. The serialized space adventures of Buck Rogers were also a fundamental influence on Lucas’ Star Wars.     

3. THE STORY WASN’T ORIGINALLY LUCAS’ IDEA.

Lucas adapted the idea for the original short—and eventually the feature film itself—from a 1.5-page outline called “Breakout,” which was written by fellow USC student Matthew Robbins, about a man escaping an underground dystopian society. Besides collaborating on both the short and the feature, Robbins would go on to have a long career in the movie business. Robbins is perhaps best known for directing such films as The Legend of Billie Jean and *batteries not included, and most recently co-wrote the screenplay for Guillermo del Toro’s 2015 film, Crimson Peak.

4. THX 1138 ONLY EXISTS BECAUSE OF THE RAIN PEOPLE.

After Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB won first prize at the 1967/1968 National Student Film Festival, Lucas was recruited out of USC by filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, first working behind the scenes on his 1968 film Finian’s Rainbow and then as an assistant on his 1969 film The Rain People. Based on his work, Coppola offered Lucas the chance to make a feature film through his production company, American Zoetrope, which had a multi-film development deal through Warner Bros. Lucas eventually cast Robert Duvall, one of the stars of The Rain People, as the titular character in the feature film version of THX 1138.

5. LUCAS PUT HIDDEN MEANINGS IN THE ABBREVIATED LETTER NAMES OF THE CHARACTERS.

At first, the three-letter names of the characters in THX 1138 seem like random sequences ascribed to the dehumanized people that populate Lucas’ dystopian creation. But most of the names of the characters are thematically intentional to the movie itself. THX stands for “sex” and his companion LUH stands for “love,” because both become connected via sex and love after refusing to take their government-mandated, mind-altering drugs. SEN, the ostensible villain of the movie, stands for “sin.”

Other characters SRT, NCH, and PTO stand for “Sartre,” “Nietzsche,” and “Plato” respectively because of their philosophical ramblings while THX is imprisoned.  

6. OMM IS ACTUALLY A 15TH-CENTURY DUTCH PAINTING.

The face of the deity worshipped by the dystopian masses in THX 1138 is actually “Christ Giving His Blessing,” a 1478 oil painting by German painter Hans Memling. It is currently in the collection of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California. 

7. THE BALD DYSTOPIAN MASSES WERE RECRUITED FROM A LOCAL REHAB FACILITY.

Lucas required hundreds of bald extras to represent the uniform citizens of his future society. Instead of having regular movie extras shave their heads, he had casting supervisor Ronald Colby recruit members of the San Francisco chapter of a drug rehabilitation program called Synanon, which required all of its members to shave their heads to complete the program. Each extra was paid $15 for one day’s work.  

8. LUCAS ORIGINALLY WANTED TO SHOOT THE MOVIE IN JAPAN.

During film school, Lucas’ favorite movies were from Japanese filmmakers—namely Akira Kurosawa (Lucas would go on to base the framework of Star Wars on Kurosawa’s film The Hidden Fortress, and eventually executive produced Kurosawa’s 1980 film Kagemusha). Because he wanted the tone of his film to be stately, intentionally slow, and somehow alien, Lucas attempted to shoot the film in Japan. He even went so far as to scout locations for the movie before budgetary restraints forced him to shoot the movie on sets and at various locations in San Francisco.

9. MUCH OF SEN’S DIALOGUE AND PRISON SPEECH ARE TAKEN FROM A PARTICULAR PRESIDENT.

In THX 1138 , Lucas attempted to tell a story that critiqued how the particular political atmosphere of consumerism and conformity of the era in which the movie was made could lead to a dystopian future. As such, SEN—the member of society who attempts to pressure THX to conform—was given dialogue culled from speeches by then-President Richard Nixon, including his “We need dissent, but creative dissent!” ramblings. 

10. YOU HAVE THX 1138 TO THANK FOR THE WORD “WOOKIEE.”

Lucas wanted to create a subconsciously disorienting mood for the film, so he tasked sound designer, co-screenwriter, and fellow USC alum Walter Murch to put together improvised soundscapes of ambient noise and chopped-up dialogue. During a sound montage session Murch supervised with voice actor Terry McGovern, the actor spontaneously blurted out the line, “I think I just ran over a Wookiee” on one of the tracks of improvised voice chatter. When Murch asked McGovern what it meant, he told Murch it was the last name of a friend of his named Ralph Wookie, and he said it because “I always want to stick it to him and thought he’d get a kick out of hearing his name in a film.”

11. THX WORKS AT A NUCLEAR POWER PLANT (KIND OF).

Though it’s obvious that THX works at a factory that makes his society’s android police officers, the strange levers and thickly sealed glass screen he stands in front of at his job should be familiar to those who work in nuclear engineering facilities. Lucas shot the scenes of THX at work in front of an actual functioning radiation containment chamber, also known as a “hot cell,” which was used by those who must handle radioactive materials like isotopes.   

12. THE FUTURE IS MADE OF OBSOLETE PHONE TECHNOLOGY.

The seemingly endless Control Room where the android police try to corner THX and SRT, who find out LUH has been consumed for organ reclamation, was actually the circuit switch room of the San Francisco location of the Pacific Bell Telephone Company. PacBell allowed Lucas to shoot the film there because the entire room and the hardware found there were about to be dismantled as the phone company was switching to touchtone phone technology.

13. THE FUTURE IS ALSO MADE OF UNFINISHED BART STATIONS.

Another lucky break for Lucas in his attempt to use existing locations for his stark futuristic vision was his ability to shoot in the then-unfinished San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system. The final shot of THX climbing to freedom in a vertical shaft was actually the unfinished horizontal BART Transbay Tube. Duvall crawled on his stomach while Lucas turned the camera on its side to make the angles look like the character was climbing upwards.

The chase sequences between THX and the android police were shot in various mass transit tunnels during the middle of the night, including the Alameda tunnel in Oakland, California and the then-unfinished Broadway tunnel in San Francisco.

14. THE ICONIC FINAL SHOT WAS 100 PERCENT REAL.

The end shot of THX escaping and seeing the setting sun for the first time wasn’t a special effect or timelapse shot. Uncredited cameraman Caleb Deschanel (father of Zooey and Emily) and Matthew Robbins scouted a location for Lucas and found a perfectly clear horizon for the shot in Port Hueneme, California. Robbins and Deschanel tried to get the shot four times but the weather made it impossible until it was captured on the fifth attempt. Robbins played THX in the final shot. 

15. “1138” HAS BECOME A GOOD LUCK CHARM FOR LUCAS.

References to the number “1138” have been scattered as Easter eggs throughout Lucas’ subsequent films. In American Graffiti, it is the license plate number on John Milner’s car. In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo transfer Chewbacca to cell block 1138 while disguised as Stormtroopers. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, a Nazi loudspeaker in the submarine dock scene announces "ein, ein, drei, acht," which in English translates to “one,” “one,” “three,” “eight.” The list goes on.

Additional sources: THX 1138 Blu-ray 

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Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
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Central Press/Getty Images

Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 119th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."


Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."


Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."


By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

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11 of the Most Extreme Junk Foods Ever Created
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iStock

It should come as no surprise that National Junk Food Day is traditionally celebrated on July 21—smack dab in the middle of the dog days of summer, when the streets run thick with ice cream trucks and county fairs boast the kind of fried treats that can only be described as “awesome” (both in the modern sense and the more dated, whoa, we are in awe of that usage). But National Junk Food Day shouldn’t be celebrated with commonplace junk food; oh, no, it deserves something far bigger and better. So save your potato chips and chocolate bars for another day, and get ready to try some truly wild treats.

1. THE KFC DOUBLE DOWN


KFC

Perhaps the most unexpectedly clever way to create a new extreme junk food item is to turn a non-junky foodstuff into something that just oozes calories and decadence. Fried chicken giant KFC knew that—and played it up to major effect—when they introduced the KFC Double Down to America back in 2010. The sandwich foregoes the most traditional aspect of any sandwich (the bread!) and substitutes two fried chicken filets. In between the two pieces of chicken? Bacon, two different kinds of cheese, and the Colonel’s “secret sauce.” There’s no room for a bun here, folks.

2. PIZZA HUT'S HOT DOG STUFFED CRUST PIZZA

We may associate items like fast food pizza and hot dog-stuffed anything with all-American palates, but cheesy juggernaut Pizza Hut saw things a bit differently. In 2012, the chain introduced a pizza with a hot dog-stuffed crust to our neighbors across the pond, treating their UK customers to the kind of taste sensation some people might have had literal nightmares about. Is it a pizza? Is it a hot dog? Somehow, it’s both—and yet something much more.

3. FRIENDLY'S GRILLED CHEESE BURGERMELT


Friendly's

Once again, a wily restaurant chain took a normal food item—in this case, a hamburger—and amped up its junk factor by doing away with something as commonplace as buns, in favor of an entirely different (and, yes, very junky) item. In 2010, Friendly’s rolled out its very own spin on the Double Down, slamming a regular old burger between not one, but two grilled cheese sandwiches. Who needs buns when you can have four pieces of bread, gooey cheese, and unfathomable amounts of butter?

4. GUY FIERI'S CHEESECAKE CHALLENGE

Whiz-bang chef Guy Fieri has long drawn ire for his more wild culinary creations, but what sets his cuisine apart from that of other junk food aficionados is his steadfast dedication to the key elements of any extreme item: size and odd combinations. Fieri’s “Guy's Cheesecake Challenge” is currently on the menu of his Vegas Kitchen and Bar, but it’s easy enough to replicate at home: Just halve a cheesecake, throw it on a plate, and douse liberally with hot fudge, pretzels, and potato chips. (What, no bacon?)

5. DENNY'S FRIED CHEESE MELT


Denny's

In August 2010, Denny’s introduced the Fried Cheese Melt, a grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with fried mozzarella sticks. Yes, it was served with both French fries and a side of marinara sauce, because it’s important to eat vegetables with every meal.

6. DUNKIN' DONUTS'S GLAZED DONUT BREAKFAST SANDWICH


Dunkin' Donuts

If you’ve ever hit up your local Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast and found yourself stumped when it came time to decide if you wanted a donut or a breakfast sandwich to get your morning motor revving, Dunkin' Donuts came up with a brilliant culinary brainstorm in 2013: the fast food favorite unveiled a breakfast sandwich that used glazed donuts as “bread,” wrapped around bacon and peppered egg.

7. JACK IN THE BOX MUNCHIE MEAL

What Jack’s Munchie Meals lack in creativity, they more than make up for in pure, unadulterated size and content. Each Munchie Meal—there are four total—features a massive sandwich (from the Stacked Grilled Cheese Burger to the Spicy Nacho Chicken Sandwich, and all sorts of wild fried things in between) accompanied with two beef tacos, “Halfsies” (a combo of fries and curly fries), and a 20-ounce fountain drink. These intense snack boxes are still available at most Jack in the Box locations, but you’ll have to wait until after 9 p.m. to procure your very own.

8. PIZZA HUT CHEESY BITES REMIX PIZZA

Apparently, there’s nothing that Pizza Hut loves more than using its crust as a delivery system for other junk food items. The hut that pizza built may have crammed hot dogs and hamburgers on to their pie sides, but there was something special about the Cheesy Bites Remix pizza. It featured fried cheese pockets stuffed with three different varieties of extra junk, from spicy seasoning to cream cheese and sesame to mozzarella and parmesan.

9. DEEP FRIED BUTTER

County and state fairs have long been hotbeds (sizzling, oily hotbeds) of wild, deep-frying invention. Dunking things in batter and then tossing them into a vat of oil is a nifty way to turn almost anything into a delicious crisp pocket of junky decadence, perfect for utensil-free eating—but that doesn’t mean that everything needs to get the deep-fried treatment. While deep-fried Oreos may be a stroke of brilliance, deep fried butter is just plain madness. Here’s a quick test: If you wouldn’t eat something if it weren’t deep-fried, don’t eat it if it is deep-fried. When was the last time you ate an entire stick of butter? See? Point proven.

10. THE BACON BUN BURGER

Not content to have a bacon sandwich between two chicken filets? Is a grilled cheese bun replacement not for you? Then try making your very own hamburger buns out of bacon. Carbs are bad for you, right?

11. FRIED ICE CREAM SANDWICH

The Florida State Fair is the proud home of the first fried ice cream sandwich, a junky treat that bears a name that doesn’t even begin to explain what it holds between its buns. It’s not a fried ice cream sandwich so much as a bacon cheeseburger (technically a sandwich) topped with a ball of fried ice cream. It might be a good meal for multi-taskers—no need to worry about dessert—but it doesn’t sound like the kind of thing good for anything else.

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