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Soundtrack Review

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The Last Starfighter
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack


Composer: Craig Safan
Label: Intrada
RRP: £13.99
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Release Date: 05 January 2015

Intrada release Craig Safan's score for the 1984 movie The Last Starfighter. The film tells the story of Alex Rogan, a teen who lives in a trailer court with his mother and kid brother. Dreaming of a seemingly unreachable life in the outside world, he finds solace in his sympathetic girlfriend, Maggie - and in a peculiar arcade game titled Starfighter. When Alex breaks the high score and wins the game, he receives a visit from a mysterious stranger named Centauri, who claims to have invented the machine. Centauri is, in fact, an alien bounty hunter, and the actual purpose of the game is to seek out potential Starfighters to face the real-life menace of the traitor Xur and the Ko-Dan alliance. Alex is spirited away to the distant world of Rylos, where he is mentored by Centauri and Grig, a reptilian pilot, to join reluctantly in the battle for freedom...

I originally bought this soundtrack on LP back at the time of the movie's release. I played it to death, but haven't heard it in years. Rediscovering it, thanks to this extended rerelease, I was impressed out how fresh the score still is.

On the strength of this score, I'm surprised that Craig Safan didn't go on to become one of Hollywood's A-list composers. Looking back over his body of work, I'm saddened to say that I've seen very few, and on revisiting this score alone, I'm compelled to check out some of his more modern work.

The Last Starfighter remains the most popular and iconic of Safan's numerous film scores. The late-Romantic symphonic approach was almost a prerequisite for genre scores in the '80s, and Safan met the challenge with a large-scale score for orchestra with electronics. To distinguish himself from the other guys composing similar genre scores at the time, Safan turned for inspiration to the works of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865–1957), whose lush symphonies and tone poems he found particularly beautiful. Safan also strove to distinguish himself through his integration of electronics - chiefly, in his music for the film’s alien characters. The aggressive material for Xur and the Ko-Dan, for example, was accompanied by a bed of low synthesizers, doubled with tubas, low strings and contrabassoon. The centrepiece of Safan’s music, however, is his powerful and multifaceted main theme, kicking off with a lengthy, hard-driving fanfare for brass.

The score did remind me of the work of John Williams output of the same time. For example, there are elements of Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 'Centauri Into Space' and Raiders of the Lost Ark in 'Rylos'. But it's the main theme that takes centre stage here. It's a beautiful theme and sounds like a cross between the main theme from Superman (1978) and the 'Throne Room' theme from Star Wars (1977).

The soundtrack was originally released on LP and CD in 1984 on the Southern Cross label (a brief half-hour presentation), followed by a modest expansion on the Intrada label in 1995. Both previous editions were drawn from ¼˝ two-track mixes made for the composer at the conclusion of the 1984 scoring sessions. This new Intrada disc, featuring the premiere of the complete score, is the first release sourced from the multi-track masters, mixed directly from the 2˝ 24-track session elements and includes a wealth of previously unreleased music. This new release contains 22 tracks (1 hr, 03 min, 47 sec) and it's a feast for the ears of any original fan, like myself.


Darren Rea

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