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