51 Shades of Geek

WarGames – music by Arthur B. Rubenstein

I’ve always been a big fan of WarGames, so I was more than happy to hear that the imminent reissue of the original movie – which is resurfacing to help promote a direct-to-video sequel – had lit a fire under someone to release the original soundtrack on CD. Selections from the WarGames score were made available about ten years ago on a composer promo CD, The Film Music Of Arthur B. Rubenstein, but that selection amounted to barely half an hour of music. The fine folks at soundtrack specialty label Intrada have dug up the complete original score, remastered it, and made it available at last.

My first thought upon listening to it, however, was that as fond as I was of the movie, I didn’t remember its music being this good. Rubenstein’s score is just sheer genius in how it establishes and then uses motifs and themes for the movie’s characters and ideas. WarGames truly is one of the best film scores of the 1980s. And it’s definitely a creature of the ’80s too, with a couple of new-wave-esque songs anchoring the early themes in the movie. Done in a style slightly reminiscent of Lene Lovich, “Video Fever” and “History Lesson” roll out themes for Matthew Broderick’s character and his playful attempts to hack into the system. The melodies and other elements from those songs are then picked up by the orchestral score and used to great effect. And for source music pieces that are only ever fleetingly heard in the background, the songs are good listening in their own right.

Early in the score, light-hearted bubbly synths pick up the “Video Fever” theme, but as the story’s dramatic tension is ratcheted up, the synths disappear – until they re-emerge in an extremely sinister theme (actually an ominously minor-key variation on “History Lesson”) for the WOPR computer’s attempts to do some hacking of its own to find a launch code enabling it to launch America’s nuclear arsenal.

Perhaps the best-known piece of the score is one that was only heard at two points in the movie, on of them being the end credits. Rubenstein co-authored a third song, “Edge Of The World”, and tried recording it in a number of different format, including a female soloist and a female choir, before it finally all but vanished from the film, becoming the wistful harmonica-led end credit theme. The various tries at a definitive version of “Edge” with vocals are presented here at the end of the disc, offering an interesting look at music that didn’t make it into the movie. I have to say, though, that the end credit music is still my favorite iteration of “Edge”, and has stuck with me since I originally saw the movie in the theater.

4 out of 4Quite a few people have fond memories of this movie, but I’m not sure if it’s ever really sunk into the public consciousness how great the music from the movie is. Perhaps this long overdue soundtrack release will help to redress that balance.

Order this CD

  1. WarGames (3:41)
  2. Video Fever (2:23)
  3. Principal’s Office (1:51)
  4. A New Grade (2:09)
  5. The Game Begins (2:44)
  6. History Lesson (1:46)
  7. Home Movie (1:28)
  8. A Game Of Chess? (3:04)
  9. Nuclear Alert (2:59)
  10. Walk Thru NORAD (2:18)
  11. David Captured (3:55)
  12. David Searches (1:34)
  13. The Sneak (2:21)
  14. NORAD (0:58)
  15. It Could Be War (0:43)
  16. Confidence Is High (1:11)
  17. Off To See Faulken (1:09)
  18. WOPR (2:15)
  19. Maneuvers (1:38)
  20. Faulken’s House (1:55)
  21. Time’s Up (0:19)
  22. I Can’t Swim (1:31)
  23. David’s Concern (2:23)
  24. Helicopter Pursuit / Launch Detected (2:48)
  25. Closing The Mountain (1:52)
  26. Who’s First (2:08)
  27. Joshua! (2:38)
  28. It Might Be Real (0:59)
  29. Tic Tac Toe (1:35)
  30. Winner: None (1:47)
  31. End Credits (3:22)
  32. Edge Of The World – choral version (2:08)
  33. Winner: None – original version (1:47)
  34. Edge Of The World – vocals by Yvonne Ellman (1:52)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2008
Total running time: 69:11

Amazing Stories: Anthology Two

Amazing Stories: Anthology TwoThe second volume of music from Steven Spielberg’s short-lived TV anthology series Amazing Stories presents the complete scores from another dozen episodes, boasting the most diverse musical talent gathered on any of Intrada’s three volumes of music from the show.

After one of John Williams’ alternate takes on the show’s main theme, the late Jerry Goldsmith’s single contribution to the show – at the behest of director (and Gremlins collaborator) Joe Dante – kicks things off. Boo! starred Robert Picardo in one of his most obnoxious roles (and that’s saying something), and it seems like whenever I happen to catch a rerun of Amazing Stories, this is the episode I’m most likely to see for some reason. Goldsmith’s music here isn’t quite up to Gremlins standards, though – it’s very much a novelty piece, and – at least in this listener (and Goldsmith fan)’s opinion – not one of his better ones.

Billy Goldenberg’s score for What If…? is a bit more serious, but lovely, pleasant stuff – though it’s associated with an episode that I always felt was more heartbreaking than anything else. Dorothy And Ben, an episode I don’t recall ever having seen, certainly sounds heartbreaking; Georges Delerue was one of Amazing Stories’ most prolific composers and certainly seemed to be the go-to guy for those installments that wore their hearts on their sleeves. The Main Attraction embraces its setting by combining marching band music with occasional moments of tension and synthesizer musical effects-as-sound effects. David Newman (Galaxy Quest, Serenity) contributes the music for Such Interesting Neighbors (which stands next only to Boo! as the episode of which I’m most likely to see a rerun), and as one his earlier works it succumbs to a film scoring cliche or two, but he uses his orchestra well and comes up with what I’d describe as a fond homage to the John Williams style.

Thanksgiving, scored by Bruce Broughton (another musical frequent flyer on this series), goes down as my favorite episode of Amazing Stories, simply because it’s the one installment that reminded me, more than any other episode, of the great anthologies that started it all – The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits – complete with a macabre but poetically just sting in its tail. It’s probably my favorite suite on this anthology as well, with Broughton pouring on bravado (for David Carradine’s belligerently macho character) and wonder in just the right places.

David Shire is back for Hell Toupee on the second CD, a big, brassy homage to the way movies used to be scored, while Johnny Mandel (M*A*S*H, Being There) gives us almost cartoon-esque music for One For The Road. Arthur B. Rubenstein (Blue Thunder, WarGames) tackles the all-star Remote Control Man, an episode – predating the John Ritter movie Stay Tuned – about a guy whose new remote has some magical properties, and in this case it seems to bring characters to life who hail almost exclusively from the Universal Studios/NBC stable circa 1985/86. Rubenstein thus gets to hint at a number of theme tunes from that era, after an opening act of decent mysterioso music.

John Addison is up next with The Greibble, which darts madly between mystery and comedy every time the titular critter makes an appearance. Leonard Rosenman (Star Trek IV) cranks up the tension with the WWII-themed No Day At The Beach, which combines typical war movie action sequences with more somber passages. Another member of the Newman family gets in on the Amazing Stories action, with Thomas Newman lending a humorous, Christmas-carol-inspired score to Santa ’85.

4 out of 4Again, the packaging and liner notes detailing each episode and its music are almost worth the price of admission alone. Though there are plenty of familiar faces here, this second 2-CD set is also packed with composers who only did a single score for Amazing Stories, making it a completely different experience from the first volume, but still very worthwhile.

Order this CD

    Disc one

  1. Amazing Stories Main Title, Alternate #1 (1:03)

    Boo! – music by Jerry Goldsmith

  2. The House / Sheena (0:36)
  3. Those People / Practice / Strange Feelings (2:57)
  4. Sharp Teeth / Let’s Scare ‘Em (1:50)
  5. What Fun / It’s OK / Jungle Zombie (1:57)
  6. Zombie Attack / Each Other (1:21)
  7. The Bike (0:26)
  8. The Jewelry (1:12)
  9. Catch Us / No Fall (1:35)

    What If…? – music by Billy Goldenberg

  10. Bubbles / Nails / Kitchen Odyssey (4:34)
  11. Obnoxious (1:47)
  12. Pregnant Lady (0:57)
  13. Crossing Guard / Steve / Born (5:04)

    Dorothy And Ben – music by Georges Delerue

  14. Twenty Three Thousand Dollars (0:47)
  15. Wrinkles (0:38)
  16. Be Quiet / Ben Leaves (2:45)
  17. Face Changes (0:59)
  18. Dorothy (4:49)

    The Main Attraction – music by Craig Safan

  19. Brad’s March / Brad’s Parking Space (1:58)
  20. Shirley (1:42)
  21. Meteor / Brad’s Fear / Attracting / Attractions (4:10)
  22. Brad Runs / Locker Room / Brad’s Honor (2:07)
  23. Magnetic Love (2:01)

    Such Interesting Neighbors – music by David Newman

  24. Al Driving Home (1:30)
  25. Water Vibrates (0:51)
  26. Through The Window / Off To Meet The Neighbors / Glad To Know You / Rose Eater (5:20)
  27. May Have Something (0:41)
  28. Microwave And Meatloaf / Off Kilter (2:54)
  29. Heat Seeker On Al (0:43)
  30. Emotional (2:31)
  31. Wide-Eyed Reaction (2:23)

    Thanksgiving – music by Bruce Broughton

  32. Momma’s Breath / The Package (2:39)
  33. Dora’s Message (2:12)
  34. Dora’s Gifts / Calvin Returns (2:33)
  35. Chicken Preferred / Turkey (4:42)
    Disc Two

  1. Amazing Stories Bumper #2 (0:04)

    Hell Toupee – music by David Shire

  2. I’m Harry Valentine (0:30)
  3. Can’t Remember / …As A Woman (2:47)
  4. Hell Toupee (0:17)
  5. Scratched Head / The Escape (2:00)
  6. Toupee Shop / Change Your Life (1:49)
  7. What Is It? / The Chase (5:10)
  8. Finale (0:53)

    One For The Road – music by Johnny Mandel

  9. Brainstorm (0:42)
  10. Free Drinks All Around (0:30)
  11. The Cupboard Was Bare / Pass The Oil (1:58)
  12. To Your Health (2:06)
  13. The Banquet (1:36)
  14. The Bridge (1:02)
  15. Reincarnation (0:30)

    Remote Control Man – music by Arthur B. Rubenstein

  16. Walter (1:47)
  17. From The Forties (0:34)
  18. Right Away (0:51)
  19. Super Over Source (0:50)
  20. Neon Signs And Fog (1:15)
  21. Something Just For You / Queen And Mrs. Cleaver (4:00)
  22. Simmons (0:45)
  23. Enjoying Yourself? (0:24)
  24. No Mice (0:35)
  25. To Bed (0:58)
  26. Pop Off (0:28)

    The Greibble – music by John Addison

  27. Off To Work / Tidying Up (1:40)
  28. Daily Soap (1:00)
  29. First Encounter / Is It Dangerous? (3:44)
  30. Lamp Eater (1:08)
  31. Nummy, Nummy (1:36)
  32. Hardware Dump (2:10)
  33. Gun Threat (0:58)
  34. Friends (1:10)
  35. Revelation (1:54)

    No Day At The Beach – music by Leonard Rosenman

  36. No Day At The Beach / Picking Up Cards / Turkey In The Face (2:06)
  37. Hey Casey / Get Some Sleep (1:32)
  38. Battle Stations (0:25)
  39. Gun Fire (0:22)
  40. Charging Pill Box (1:54)
  41. Dead Arnold (0:16)
  42. He Never Got Off The Boat (4:11)

    Santa ’85 – music by Thomas Newman

  43. From The Sky Above The House / From The House To The Within / From The Chimney And In Through The Window (5:42)
  44. Caught By The Law (1:42)
  45. The Reindeer / No Fingerprints / From The Jail To The Chase To Left Off (5:18)
  46. The Ray Gun (0:50)
  47. By Candlelight (0:28)
  48. Amazing Stories End Credits (0:29)
  49. Amblin Logo – Christmas Version (0:15)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2006
Disc one total running time: 78:03
Disc two total running time: 76:28