With the release of Rubinstein’s praised WarGames, it was time for me to go back to the roots and rediscover the score I knew his name off. Popular eighties director John Badham had a knack for the synthesized action score. No wonder he searched for the composers who could get the job done. Arthur B. Rubinstein and Hans Zimmer are the two most common used composers by the director. Yet it is weird to discover that in the same year the orchestral WarGames and the synthesized Blue Thunder were created.
Instrumental, electronic synthesized action music can all work in a movie about a modern helicopter, on disc though it doesn’t always do the trick. Blue Thunder has a very good (read very fitting and cool) main theme and occasionally some bright spots. But we must be honest, this score sounds really cheap. It sometimes even drives me nuts. The first track “Main Title / Crook Dusting” perhaps explains it all. The rise of the main theme, and the continuation of the action droning that works wonderfully well in the movie, but on disc it ain’t that pretty.
Further think of Stakeout as you listen to “Nam Flashback” because it carries the same beat and dreary tone. I sometimes wonder if it’s not exactly the same. “Sanity Check” uses a more rhythmic (with added bells) version of the main theme while “Kate’s Theme” is carrying a somber piano note. All you need to hear are “Night Search”, “Sunrise at Pinkville” and “Pinkville Strafing Run” to realize that this score works inside the movie (offering a certain nostalgic look of the movie) but doesn’t give you a truly satisfying feeling on disc. The only thing to remember is the great main theme representing the chopper passing by for the first time.
The more playful (yet that doesn’t make it pretty) “Follow my Leader” and the droning of track 2 in “Murphy’s Nightmare” all lead to “Blue Thunder Ballet”, a track that has the most obnoxious sounds circling around the main theme. “Following the Bad Guys / Thermographics” isn’t better. The unnerving suspenseful sound in “Adios J.A.F.O.” is somewhat enticing, creating an added string sound around the droning that is effectively entertaining.
I’m going to tell you something that is positive. The first minute in “River Chase / Hide and Seek” is probably the best minute of the entire album. The main theme is accompanied by a great action fanfare and it was the one moment besides the theme I always loved. Naturally what follows is more of the same electronic droning we’ve come to expect by now. The final two tracks (bringing the main theme) are solid closers.
But it isn’t enough, this must be said loud and clear. While I appreciate the ideas and the construction of the score, the sound and produced tone of the entire album is not a pretty one. The electronic sound is simply hideous and it makes the average idea sound like a waste of potentially solid music. Rubinstein’s score is surprisingly effective and even entertaining inside the movie, but on disc this doesn’t sound that way at all. The only question is the following, if WarGames received its orchestral rousing affair, why didn’t Blue Thunder? It truly would have made of it a better album.