For a Limited Time, Watch the 1967 Student Short That Launched George Lucas Into Scifi History

A young George Lucas on the set of his student film. Image: Dust
A young George Lucas on the set of his student film. Image: Dust

A long-ish time ago (1967) in a galaxy not so far away (the University of Southern California), a student named George Lucas was hard at work on a short film with a long title: Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB. This landmark early work is online for the first time, thanks to scifi channel Dust.

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The trippy Electronic Labyrinth will only be up for the next three days, ahead of a little something called The Last Jedi. So don’t delay if you want a glimpse into the mind and method of a 23-year-old George Lucas—four years before he’d expand on the imagery seen here and add more of a narrative for THX 1138, and a decade before he changed the world of scifi forever with Star Wars.

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DISCUSSION

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There’s this really uncomfortable thing that’s cropped up over the years: Trying to take as much credit from Lucas as possible for the success of the Original Trilogy.

It’s really an extension of some old memes (like how everyone notes that the best of the OT is the one he didn’t direct), and is definitely based in some facts, like how this film was greatly improved in editing such as trimming the Trench Runs from 3 to 2.

But it gets to the point that none of the things that make it good could possibly be Lucas. It was clearly just the actors, or the effects team, or the editing, or advice he got from outside, or help he got with the writing, because the man that made the drek of the prequel trilogy couldn’t possibly be any good at making films ever in his life!

I mean, Lucas never really had a talent for writing dialog, but the important thing to remember is that the George Lucas who created A New Hope, with an amazingly talented group of people behind him, just as Orson Wells had when he made Citizen Kane, was not the same George Lucas who made the prequels.

Lucas of the 70's had a few successes under his belt, was still figuring out his craft but had no illusions about his abilities. He knew that 95% of his ideas were crap, he needed time to figure out which 5% were gold.

Lucas of the 90's? One of the most famous writer/directors of all times, unimaginably wealthy, beloved by his fans, a legend in the industry. Clearly there was nothing he could do that could go wrong!

So, it’s good to look back on his earlier work, and see that... well, no, he couldn’t do everything. But there was clearly a potential to the man that could turn into something greater.