Hailed by critics when it was released in 1987 for its intelligence and its elements of anticipation, Project X directed by Jonathan Kaplan was also recognized for James Horner's fabulous score. 1987 was the same year of *Batteries Not Included. Project X tells the story of Corporal Jimmy Garrett (Matthew Broderick), a US Air Force pilot who will have to choose between his duty and his conscience. After a flight suspension, Garrett was assigned to a military-scientific project, Project X, for which he had to supervise chimpanzees forced to use flight simulators in order to become fighter pilots instead of humans. The experiment is under the responsibility of Dr. Carroll (William Sadler), assisted by psychology researcher Teri McDonald (Helen Hunt). Garrett soon discovered that Project X hides another scientific experiment that studies the level of lethal radiation that primates can endure in the event of total nuclear conflict. McDonald and Garret will join forces to try to save the chimpanzees from their doomed fate and lead them to freedom.
To characterize primates, Horner used all kinds of flutes, including the shakuhachi, and highlighted their playful nature in a kind of swing with Chimp Rumble. The score presents a theme associated with Virgil that resonates as a call for a return to the wild. There is also a theme associated with theft, and a love theme used as much for Garrett and McDonald as for Virgil and his partner Ginger but also to illustrate the affection between Garrett and Virgil. To designate the nuclear threat and the military, Horner takes up an idea already present in the previous year's Aliens by quoting a string motif from the Adagio of Aram Kachaturian's ballet Gayane, a piece made famous by its Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey use. And we find the famous four-note motif, dear to the composer as soon as the chimpanzees' lives are threatened.
Fifteen years after the movie hit the screens, James Horner’s Project X (1987) was first released as part of the Varèse Sarabande CD Club in 2002. This edition, limited to 3,000 copies, sold out quickly. Now, twenty-two years after the film's release, La-La Land reissues the score as a remastered album drawn from the master tapes, extending the program to more than 79 minutes. The unreleased tracks, although less than 4 minutes in total, are a welcome extension of the 2002 album. Lockridge and Simulator Room is presented in its full version, half a minute longer than previously available, but it is the previously unreleased The Phone Call and Top Brass that will attract most attention. A mesmerizing cue lasting more than 3 minutes, it plays under the crucial scene where Jimmy Garrett decides to disobey orders after being informed that Virgil will be the next monkey to be subjected to massive doses of radiation. The score’s eerie piano motif is taken up by strings and brass when military bigwigs arrive to witness the radiation test.
La La Land called on sound engineer and producer Mike Matessino to assist Neil S. Bulk in producing a reissue with clearer and more natural sound. The richly illustrated booklet features extensive notes by Jeff Bond detailing the score cue by cue. The new Project X album is limited to 1,500 copies.
Thanks to MV Gerhard, Matt Verboys and Neil S. Bulk.