Tag Archives: Daniel Stern

Rocks In The Attic #802: Arthur B. Rubinstein – ‘Blue Thunder (O.S.T.)’ (1983)

RITA#802Another Roy Scheider film, coming shortly after post #792’s 2010 – The Year We make Contact. This time Roy takes his likable masculinity to the skies of Los Angeles. He plays Frank Murphy, a police helicopter pilot charged with looking after rookie flight-engineer Richard Lymangood (played by a fresh-out-of-the-womb Daniel Stern). There’s something not quite right about Murphy though. He spends a lot of time in the locker room, pre-shift, with his eyes shut as he times himself against his digital watch. IT’S VIETNAM, MAN! YOU DON’T KNOW, YOU WEREN’T THERE!

RITA#802aMurphy and Lymangood spend their time in the air peeping at a naked chick doing yoga in her living room, before they’re rudely interrupted by having to do some actual work. A city councilwoman is murdered in a seemingly random murder, and Murphy starts investigating it himself.

Meanwhile, Malcolm McDowell’s Colonel Cochrane turns up with a prototype military helicopter – codename: Blue Thunder – presumably named after x-rated flatulence. Murphy and Lymangood are tasked with testing the new helicopter, which has been developed for riot control at the 1984 Olympics. Things are not as they seem, and the film finds Murphy battling Cochrane in the skies in the thrilling finale.

I have a strong memory of watching Blue Thunder on video when it was first released, which would place me around the age of five. Something happens to Daniel Stern’s character mid-way through the movie, and I definitely remember being shielded from the scene by a parent who was starting to figure out that the film’s ‘15’ rating was justified. Aside from this bit of nastiness, the rest of the film is an easy-going thriller, with aspects of gung-ho heroism. Directed by John Badham and co-written by Dan O’Bannon, it prefaces the late-1980s action-thriller boom at the hands of producers like Joel Silver.

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The soundtrack score, composed, conducted and produced by Arthur B. Rubinstein is fantastic, expertly making use of the Synclavier II alongside Moog, Jupiter and Prophet analogue synths. The main title feels like one of the great, lost action themes of the 1980s, and definitely deserves a listen if you’ve never heard it.

In terms of casting, McDowell’s character may be a cartoon cut-out but Roy Scheider and Daniel Stern are so damn affable, it’s a shame the film didn’t lead to a sequel. If it had been made five years later, it probably would have led to a franchise. A short-lived TV spinoff (featuring Dana Carvey in the flight-engineer role) aired for one season in 1984 before being overshadowed by the sleeker Airwolf, which took off in the same year, eventually running for 4 four seasons and eighty episodes.

Hit: Main Title / Dusting

Hidden Gem: Thermographics

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Rocks In The Attic #728: John Williams – ‘Home Alone (O.S.T.)’ (1990)

RITA#728I’ve just re-watched Home Alone. It’s probably the twentieth time I’ve seen it, but it felt like the right time to finally show it to my three daughters, aged seven, five and three. The three-year old was a little scared, but the other two enjoyed it as much as I hoped they would.

It’s funny how much of an evergreen hit the film has become. Upon its release it was a throwaway comedy, albeit a very successful one, but in the last decade or so it seems to have become as synonymous with festive TV scheduling as The Great Escape was in my youth.

What’s not to like? The McAllister family are as ignorant and self-absorbed as you’d want late ‘80s yuppy suburbanites to be portrayed, Macauley Culkin’s acting is just on the right side of precociousness, and Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern’s wet bandit burglars are laughably moronic. But it’s the two white knights of the film that give it its heart: John Candy’s polka-playing airport saviour to Catherine O’Hara, and Roberts Blossom as the ominous neighbour Old Man Marley.

The film’s other secret weapon is its soundtrack and score by John Williams. Rehashing the childhood wonder / childhood danger motif that Williams has used many times, first with Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, but later with Jurassic Park and his Harry Potter scores, Home Alone stands alongside his seminal work from the ‘70s and ‘80s.

This expanded soundtrack release, from Mondo Records, includes the festive pop songs from the film. These are another highlight of the film, as they’re not the obvious, popular versions of the Christmas classics (and presumably selected for cost reasons): the Drifters’ version of White Christmas, Mel Tormé’s Have Yourself A Merry Christmas, and Please Come Home For Christmas by Southside Johnny Lyon.

Hit: Home Alone Main Title (‘Somewhere In My Memory’)

Hidden Gem: O Holy Night