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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Soundtrack > Ice Station Zebra (Limited CD)

Ice Station Zebra (FSM Limited Edition CD Soundtrack)


Sound: B     Music: B



What is it about Michel Legrand when he does an Action film score?  This is a man who usually does Operettas, Musicals, and Dramas, but his action scores either have humor when needed, or are unintentionally funny at times.  This does not render them ineffective, but his music for Ice Station Zebra (1968) has the disadvantage of being trivialized by the overload and glut of similar soundtracks in commercial Action films since the 1980s that want to emulate it.  Marvin Hamlisch could be said to be the first one to take-off from this film in that respect for his James Bond score The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), but that had more humor as well.


This new CD of Ice Station Zebra goes farther than the limited M-G-M and MCA (both now defunct labels names) LPs and Pendulum CD by expanding the available music to fill the entire disc at nearly 80 minutes in length.  This limited edition version is from the music label of Film Score Monthly magazine, with only 3,000 copies being produced, which can be ordered exclusively from them at www.filmscoremonthly.com with an entire series of vital movie music that has something for everyone.


The music sounds good, in part because it was recorded with the knowledge that the film was being shot in Super Panavision 70 (65mm negative footage with Panavision’s lenses at the time for the larger-frame format), and would be issued in the later Cinerama presentation process that skipped three projectors.  Wider single-lens, single strip 70mm Cinerama with a lens unsqueezing the anamorphic 70mm print into a wider 2.76 X 1 image was used in its place.  The 70mm presentation would offer five channels of stereo sound behind the screen, while Cinerama could offer up to nine channels.  Legrand actually conducted his material, and this likely helped him keep his vision of the big music for the big screen in tact.


The big sounds are underlined with interesting motifs for various key elements of the film, as well as its narrative that makes sense.  The Tigerfish, the name of the submarine, is announced as the “good” vessel.  The theme song constantly announces its goodness in intent and greatness in size and capability.  That may seem hokey, but it actually works for the film much as the U.S.S. Enterprise and its various versions work in the Star Trek franchise.  The hokey-ness that is avoided by Legrand is any dated pseudo-Russian music that permeated far too many Cold War-era Comedies and Thrillers, making them seem dated and even older after recent international events.


These sounds also play well from the CD, with all tracks decoding well in Dolby Pro Logic, though the case does not identify it as encoded that way.  The tracks are clean for their age, but do seem a slight touch off in the clarity department.  This is very minor, but needed to be noted just the same.  Otherwise, this is a fine sound presentation in all 15 often-long tracks.


A DVD with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound from the original 70mm 6-track magnetic stereo was issued and it was not bad, but not as good as this CD set, which is still in print.  No Blu-ray had been announced at press time, but considering how well Grand Prix, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Baraka turned out in 1080p, Warner Bros. will  hopefully be planning it with a DTS HD or Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix.  FSM just added Grand Prix to their CD releases ironically and their series continues to be one of the best in the business.  Ice Station Zebra is a key highlight and still very much recommended.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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