THX 1138 Police Android Research Thread

Baruopa

Active Member
Watched THX 1138 for the first time recently and was surprised at the lack of information about it out there. Suppose I've been spoiled by Star Wars. I thought I'd start a thread for this, as I've been driving myself crazy trying to figure out the brand of helmet the police wear. If anyone can help out I'd greatly appreciate it.

Firstly, we know that;
● THX 1138 was filmed in late 1969 in San Francisco
● The masks were formed in two pieces, front and back (you can see the seam in the movie, there's a brief clip of an android with no helmet). They were done in a clear plastic, the interior of which was layed with silver leaf (or so I've read).

I've searched for auctions or collections but unfortunately it doesn't look like anything from THX has ever been put up, or if it has, I couldn't find it. I'm assuming the mask was a custom sculpt that was vacuum formed. I don't have any evidence for that, other than it seems the simplest process and it's the same method the stormtroopers would be constructed in in Star Wars. Unless someone comes out with a production cast or buck, we can kiss lineage goodbye. I don't think it'd be too difficult to model the mask though, as far as fan sculpts go, but reference photos aren't very plentiful, and the chrome effect makes it hard to discern a definitive form.

The helmet has been troubling me.
I'm disregarding the paint in my effort to ID it, as the decals are clearly custom, so I see no reason why the paint couldn't be as well. What couldn't change is the form of it. Ive been combing through lots of 1960s motorcycle and police helmets, and the details that appear unique/distinguishing on the THX helmets are the following:
● The brim/visor is a separate piece. There's a visible bead on the edge of it that makes it look, to me at least, like leather. It is not a molded part of the helmet.
● There is a band that runs across the top of the visor with two buttons, one at either end of the band. Presumably this is how the visor attaches to the helmet.
● There are rivets on the side of the helmet (presumably for attaching the liner). From the side you can see three of them, with the first one very close to the brim, sitting just above the point where the helmet slopes down.
● There is an over-ear liner that also appears to have a beaded edge, suggesting its leather. It has a metal buckle on one side and a button clasp on the other, but in photos it seems inconsistent which side they're on. The over-ear sections cover completely and wrap around the back of the head, and appear featureless.

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The most similar helmet I've found so far is the Bell Toptex. It's the only helmet I've been able to find that has the rivets in the same position, but it seems inconsistent across different helmets.

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Here you can see the closest I've found. It has the separate visor and the band with two buttons on either end (the design on them even seems to be similar to those on the THX helmets), as well as the three rivets on the side, the first two close together and riding against the slope towards the visor.

Unfortunately there are also several "Bell Toptex" helmets that do not meet these criteria. There are several that have the visor as a molded part of the helmet. And I've only been able to find one with the over-ear liner, but it's some radio operation equipment, and doesn't match the featureless THX piece.

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There are other similar helmets, but so far the Bell Toptex is the only one I've found where the rivets match. Super Seer and Buco have been crossed off my list.

I think it's also worth mentioning that Bell was based out of Long Beach, California, and seems to have supplied the helmets to both the Los Angeles and San Francisco PDs. If Lucas needed police helmets, Bell Toptex certainly seem to have been familiar and available to him. Unfortunately I just can't seem to find enough information about them to identify it conclusively. I suppose it's possible the liner was added to it by production, perhaps to cover the seam between the two parts of the mask? But surely a police/motorcycle helmet would come with a chinstrap.

I haven't yet started looking into the uniform, but they appear to be a kind of leather jumpsuit, I'd assume some kind of racing suit, but I'll see if I can find anything there.

I'd love to be able to identify some of the parts from this movie. It's criminal how overlooked and underrated George Lucas' first feature film is. If anyone could join in or point me in the right direction it'd be much appreciated. Thanks!
 

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Apollo

Legendary Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Better late than never, THX had back in the day a fervent following by those who got it, and today has been recognized as the Classic it is.

A member here researched the Mask and helmet years ago but that info has probably been lost over the years.

iirc the helmet was based off of a Ca. state troopers helmet.

Hopefully more will chime in…
 

Baruopa

Active Member
Better late than never, THX had back in the day a fervent following by those who got it, and today has been recognized as the Classic it is.

A member here researched the Mask and helmet years ago but that info has probably been lost over the years.

iirc the helmet was based off of a Ca. state troopers helmet.

Hopefully more will chime in…
I think you're right! Looking into CHP helmets (thank God for the CHiPs show apparently for getting people to actually document this), it looks like the leather visor was done for the California Highway Patrol, and the rivet discrepancy is related to the date, with late 60s CHP helmets having the correct close rivets! Also helps that they were manufactured by Bell. I'll do some more digging but that seems spot on!

It also looks like this old thread mentions one of the masks going up for auction, but it doesn't seem like it was archived :/
 

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Baruopa

Active Member
Okay, a few updates.

Firstly, I can now confirm beyond a doubt that the helmet is indeed a late 60s Bell Toptex. It seems that this was the model of helmet supplied to multiple police divisions in California at the time, including the CHP. It should be noted though that there seems to be a variation in the buttons on the visor band. The ones in the photo from the previous post are difficult to make out, but it's a far more elaborate design than visible on the THX helmets. The THX buttons appear to be a fancy "P" with a vertical line through it.

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I can't find any information on the significance of these buttons designs or what they represent, but I thought it bore mentioning just to further complicate the exact identity of the screen-used props. With that said, I belive I've found a helmet practically identical to the THX helmet, confirming -for me at least- its identity (the buttons even match up!!!).
[From an eBay listing]

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Provided this was the model of helmet used by production, the only necessary changes would be the addition of the decals, and painting the silver visor band black (a detail clearly seen in the movie as the black paint wore off, revealing the silver beneath).

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The over-ear liner is still missing, but period photos of California police show that the helmet was almost exclusively issued with that liner.

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I also must note that I had previously said the liner was "featureless," I was wrong. These period photos clearly show the issued liner was perforated, and under closer inspection you can see that the ones in the film are as well.

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Baruopa

Active Member
I was also able to track down the auction listing for the mask. It doesn't show up under any searches on liveauctioneers, but miraculously I happened to find one of the photos on Flickr, and a reverse image search did bring me to the listing. For anyone interested, the link is here.

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The listing notes the helmet as vintage, but does not make the claim that it was screen used, so I'll stave off from using it as direct reference.

It also confirms that the helmet was created using clear molded plastic and inset with silver leaf.

The mask, however, is in remarkable shape and quite clearly shows many aspects not ad easily discernable on film.

You can clearly see that the mask was indeed made in two halves, in fact, the back seems to be missing from the auction. At the base of the neck the corner rounds off. An interesting detail otherwise missed as it is covered by the costume throughout the film

There is a scene in the film where we see a police android without his helmet, and there is a prominent weld mark across the seam.

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The mask in the listing lacks any such detail entirely. In fact, looking at the side profiles of other, helmeted androids throughout the film, it seems that detail was unique to this shot. Or perhaps a trick of the light? Regardless, it seem that for most of the androids, the two halves of the mask simply sat together under the helmet, as the seam between them is clearly visible ans straight. Perhaps they were joined by some kind of reflective tape?

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It also appears as though a section of the eyes was removed, and then foiled back over to hide the gap? I don't know if this was done during production, or after, for display, but there are several shots in the movie -usually when the camera is far away and when movement is required- where you can see small slits or holes in the eyes. Obviously, I think canonically they're meant to be solid, but it does seem that some of the original props were cut to actually allow the actors to see.

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Unfortunately, this listing seems to have ended more than a decade ago, so it's not something that is going to be available to the community in the same way that lineage castings of stormtroopers or Boba Fett are for Star Wars, but in terms of a fan sculpt, these listing photos are the best references I have. For those interested in more, I'm putting together a Google Photos album avaliable here.
 

Baruopa

Active Member
It was suggested that much of the gear could also be from CHP issue, it looks like that is very much the case. While the uniform is entirely different (and I'm beginning to suspect custom made), the belt, boots, and possibly gloves?, all seem to fall in line with late 60s CHP kit.

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THX's police androids wear a thick belt with a vertical buckle with two latches. This is of the same style as the late 60s duty belt, known as a "Sam Browne" belt, although it seems that CHP belts were typically braided and adorned with a brass buckle. The belts in THX appear plain and with the standard nickle buckle.

I've never seen CHiPs, so I don't know the significance or the historical accuracy of this, as I can't find much information on the regulation of gloves in the CHP uniform, but this character Poncho is apparently known for wearing these black riding gloves. The rest of his uniform is quite accurate, so its possible that the androids' gloves were also a part of police kit. Unfortunately, there aren't many detail shots of the THX gloves. This still shows that they appear to be leather and have a seam running between the thumb and index finger, and up the side of the index finger.

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CHP issue boots are called Dehner boots, made by the Dehner company. Some of the modern boots seem to have a curve to the top of them, but the vintage ones, as well as those seen in THX appear straight.

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The soles appear to be smooth, and the boots seem relatively plain. The CHP boots pictured have laces, but it's hard to tell from what little we see of them in the movie whether THX's do as well. I think they do, it looks to me like there's some detail in the photo above where the laces would be, but it's hard to tell for certain. Regardless, Dehner makes both laced (patrol), and laceless (dress) boots.

Apart from that, the THX uniform is relatively simple. In a few scenes, androids can be seen carrying a baton in a holster attached to their belt. In the images above you can see that a similar gear was worn by the CHP, but all photos I've found of period police baton holsters are much thinner. The "sleeve" part of the THX holster is several inches long. It appears to be made out of plain black leather, as the rest of the uniform. I've yet to find an exact match, but plenty similar, and it's a relatively plain design, so I can't imagine it'd be too difficult to fabricate if one were so inclined. Of course, it is also only present in a few select scenes, so it doesn't necessarily have to be included at all.

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