This soundtrack by Michel Legrand never achieved the immense success of the composer's music for The Thomas Crown Affair, released the same year. But as a big-scale orchestral score for a Hollywood blockbuster (and just about the last movie of that kind to come from MGM), it was intrinsically influential, and also established Legrand as a figure who could go head-to-head with the best Hollywood composers of the era, and outdo many of them when it came to sheer inventiveness. Working with a very large orchestra, of over 70 pieces (including lots of percussion and some electronic instruments as well), Legrand delivered a richly textured body of music that was alternately lush and sweeping, taut, suspenseful, and mysterious. Just how good the music was might have been lost on the public -- without a love theme such as "The Windmills of Your Mind," the original soundtrack LP never had a chance -- but it put Legrand in the front rank of his profession, for reasons that are amply on display here.
The overture presents the elegant, sweeping main theme (reprised in the "Entre Acte" and "Thru the Ice") associated with the submarine Tigerfish at sea -- but this is followed by the music accompanying the fall of the Soviet satellite, laced with strange oscillations and dense, driving passages for the bass strings; and the jazz influence on the wind parts in the music associated with the Russian trawler. And the percussion-based misteriosos only add to the density and complexity of the latter track. These multi-layered musical surprises don't slacken in the second half -- if anything, the jazz and avant-garde elements, including some obvious dance components, build up after the "Entre Acte" into what almost sounds like a ballet in the music depicting "The Lab." And, indeed, this entire score has been described by some listeners in terms of a ballet; the CD makes a strong case for that position. "The Fight" is surprisingly quiet, given its title and the sequence it accompanies in the movie -- subdued, ominous pizzicato strings are the dominant part of this section, along with some jarring electronic keyboard runs. Some parts of the score may not impress 21st century listeners, because a lot of its most inventive moments have since become standard, but here is where they were set down and used for the first time. Clearly, a lot of younger composers and studio music departments were listening and learned very fast from Legrand. The soundtrack might not have been a hit, but it was the most daring and clever part of the movie. This CD edition offers no annotation, just 30 minutes of excellent music, cleanly mastered. Film Score Monthly has a fuller account of the score available, but for those who just want the basic soundtrack, this is a great starter.