WolfmanOz at the Movies #84

Opening Credits.

Something a little different this week.

There are many things I dislike about movies today and one of my pet hates is the incessant production credits at the beginning of a movie which can take around 5 minutes to unfurl.

So five minutes into a movie the audience is already bored whilst they have finished their choc tops and their focus is now not wholly engaged with the upcoming film. This was not always the case.

In the mid 1950s film-makers started to be creative with the opening credits for a film as they sought new ideas to engage their audience. At the forefront was the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock who had the good fortune to come into contact with graphic designer Saul Bass.

Bass first saw the opportunity to create a title sequence which would ultimately enhance the experience of the audience and contribute to the mood and the theme of the movie within the opening moments. Bass was one of the first to realise the creative potential of the opening and closing credits of a movie.

With Hitchcock he created the opening credit sequences to Hitch’s three consecutive masterpieces in Vertigo, North By Northwest and Psycho; but it is with North By Northwest that I still enjoy the most with its impudent final shot of Hitch’s famous cameo, all supported by Bernard Herrmann’s magnificent title music.

Bass once described his main goal for his title sequences as being to “try to reach for a simple, visual phrase that tells you what the picture is all about and evokes the essence of the story”. Another philosophy that Bass described as influencing his title sequences was the goal of getting the audience to see familiar parts of their world in an unfamiliar way.

Bass was not alone and animation was frequently used in the opening credits of which the sequence for 1963’s The Pink Panther still stands as one of the best with the Pink Panther making mischief as the opening credits are displayed.

Also during the 1960s the James Bond films became renowned for their sexy and quite suggestive opening credits but nothing could top the credits for Goldfinger with the incomparable Shirley Bassey belting out the memorable title song.

It would be amiss of me not to include maestro Ennio Morricone’s legendary music to the classic spaghetti western The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, in which the music and credits are played over stills from the film. Simply marvellous.

Just like a good cover on a book, the opening credits were used as a ruse to engage the audience’s attention and buy-in to the film. Of course there could be no guarantee the film would be any good but from the start the audience is entertained and invested with the film they about to watch.

Other opening credit favourites of mine are The Great Escape (1963), The Professionals (1966), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Superman (1978), Alien (1979) and The Shining (1980)

It’s yet another feature of movies that we’ve seem to have lost today.


and the tease for next weeks post . . . Watch the skies.

32 responses to “WolfmanOz at the Movies #84”

  1. Indolent Avatar

    The two films where the opening credits stayed with me the longest are Funny Face and Silk Stockings (pure coincidence that they’re both Fred Astaire films). Obviously, music is a big part of it for me. Come to think of it, The Adventures of Robin Hood made quite an impression too, as did Scaramouche.

    Oh, and I mustn’t forget the Peter Ustinov version of Evil Under the Sun, possibly the best use of Cole Porter’s music ever, not to mention the gorgeous watercolours with an evil undertone.

  2. WolfmanOz Avatar

    Good suggestions Indolent.

  3. Dragnet Avatar

    I always liked the opening animated credits to “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” fantastic early ’60’s style.

  4. Bar Beach Swimmer Avatar
    Bar Beach Swimmer

    Wolfie, nothing can compare to the opening sequence of NBNW, which is also the other half’s favourite fillum.

    Under the confusion in which Roger O. Thornhill finds himself is a clear and rational operation being undertaken by the “other side”.

    The lines crisscrossing the screen seamlessly become a reflection of the world of rational movement and then to the people moving within their own lines of rational intent. Into this Thornhill loses his own intentional practice and, as the arrows within the title, is being moved, as on a chessboard up and down and sideways, by others, and to where?

    However, a recent honourable mention is the James Bond – Skyfall, which, when I saw it on the big screen, bowed to NBNW’s storyboard style and delivered in that mould.

    The opening credits should be the correct moment to deliver the précis, now, however, that task is being done by the shorts.

    Quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of going to the cinema and having a coming attraction’s entire story with all the best bits handed to us like fast food rather than that slow enjoyment of digging into a repast of depth and flavour. It turns me off every time.

  5. Bar Beach Swimmer Avatar
    Bar Beach Swimmer

    One additional thing, as you pointed out Wolfie, how important is the title music!

  6. Fair Shake Avatar
    Fair Shake

    I nominate a James Bond for opening credits. ‘Casino Royale’ 2006. With Chris Cornell belting out ‘You know my name’ and the animated / overlaid fights scenes with playing cards…top notch.

    With a different twist I do like The Naked Gun open credits with the police car siren wailing and lights racing along different roads, car washes, ladies showers… v funny.

  7. Dot Avatar

    The bizarre origin of “the” James Bond theme.

    “Good sign, bad sign” – Barry Norman.

    I was born with this unlucky sneeze,
    And what is worse I came into the wrong way round.

    Pundits all agree that I’m the reason why,
    My father fell into the village pond,
    And drowned.

    I was born… un-der a bad sign!

    Everybody worries ’bout my sneeze.


  8. Turnip Avatar

    My sister was once bitten by a Moose.

    The Holy Grail had me in stitches well before the movie started.

  9. Pogria Avatar

    Touching on P’s High Noon opening sequence.
    Lee van Cleef was such a spunk! He had that Soviet/Siberian Ballet Dancer look about him. sigh…

  10. Lee Avatar

    The High Noon opening sequence is fantastic and never fails to send goosebumps up my spine whenever I see/hear it!

    The rest of the film is great too.

    Ian MacDonald, Robert Wilke and Lee van Cleef made for great western villains.

  11. P Avatar

    Ian MacDonald, Robert Wilke and Lee van Cleef made for great western villains.

    Sheb Wooley also.

  12. Lee Avatar

    Sheb Wooley also.

    I did think of including him, but I think of him primarily as one of the “good guys” along with Eric Fleming and Clint Eastwood in the long running Rawhide TV series.

  13. Rabz Avatar

    I’ve never really bothered paying much attention to them, to be honest.

    The most interesting credits around now tend to be for various big budget TV shows, the most obvious being Game of Thrones, Westworld and one I’ve recently watched, Foundation.

  14. jupes Avatar

    Speaking of tv shows, Get Smart had great opening and closing credits.

    Like all the recurring jokes in that show, they never got old or boring.

  15. Entropy Avatar

    Back in the olden days all the credits were at the beginning of a movie and all there was at the end was…the end.
    The credits were quite short though.

  16. Alamak! Avatar

    Great post Wolfman, really good topic …

    Small mention to the signature music for Sopranos which never fails to get me in the mood for another round of Tonys battles with his families.

    And The Wire with an already great Tom Waits song made better by having different versions each with something to add to the original.

  17. WolfmanOz Avatar

    Sep 21, 2023 7:09 PM
    Back in the olden days all the credits were at the beginning of a movie and all there was at the end was…the end.
    The credits were quite short though.

    Yup up to the mid-to-late 50s, credits would last about a minute to 2 (tops). The emergence of interesting credits really only extended their length to 3 minutes.

    And as you say the end credits were quick ie The End and sometimes with a listing of the cast again.

    Of course now the End Credits go on forever where the audience is walking out and every person connected with the making of the film – including the tea ladies – are listed. Most go on for close to 10 minutes and are great cures for insomnia.

    Although the longest opening credits I can recall from a major movie is 10 minutes for the opening of Once Upon A Time In the West, where Sergio Leone spends a lot of the time following Jack Elam’s character being irritated by a blow fly !

  18. johanna Avatar

    Sep 21, 2023 7:09 PM

    Back in the olden days all the credits were at the beginning of a movie and all there was at the end was…the end.
    The credits were quite short though.

    Good point.

    It mirrors the decline of the industry from being all about the audience to being all about the people who make the films.

    On TV intros, there are indeed some corkers.

    Agree that The Sopranos is brilliant, and Get Smart has aged remarkably well.

    My favourite is the Inspector Morse music, composed and conducted by a chap from Tasmania with the awesome moniker of Barrington Pheloung.

  19. Bruce of Newcastle Avatar
    Bruce of Newcastle

    My sister was once bitten by a Moose.

    Also Life of Brian with the wonderfully silly animation sequence by Terry Gilliam.

    And of course there’s Apocalypse Now, which has no opening credits at all. But the opening sequence is simply breathtaking.

  20. johanna Avatar

    True, Bruce, but it uses The Doors’ The End unforgettably.

    Thanks, Wolfie, for this discussion. You are absolutely right that the opening of NBNW rivets the viewer to the seat from the first 30 seconds. Whereas nowadays, it seems as though, having got the customer to pay the entry fee and buy some snacks, moviemakers believe that their work is done. From then on they can inflict their egos and their ‘messages’ on the unfortunate public.

    Here is the opening of that great movie, Deliverance.

    Not at all boring.

  21. Dot Avatar


    Review Chevalier.

    Your adoring public demands it!

  22. Alamak! Avatar

    The topic inspired me to go back to an old favourite and see just how simple opening credits could be, while still drawing you into the movie with combination of style, music and queries to be answered.

    Raging Bull

    The music is drawn from an opera,
    Cavalleria rusticana, which is a one-act tragedy so we know by the plot of the opera or by the evocative music that the ending will probably not be a happy one. As opera often delivers.

    Comparing to a recent movie like Barbie is interesting – Barbie is an overt polictical/cultural work of propaganda where the audience is told in no uncertain terms what the right conclusions are to be drawn. Likewise the use of color, music and style hammers home the messages again and again.

    Whereas Raging Bull leaves it to us to decide if Jake is a victim of his own character/culture/choices/other peoples scheming/etc. Clearly his end is not a great one, but was it always going to be that way and what part did his upbringing. education etc play? Compared to Barbie did Jake simply fail because he had no insight into the behaviors embedded within him by patriarchal culture of that time?

    Its a sign of a great movie to leave us with more questions than answers imho and Raging Bull does that while Barbie left me with a headache 😉

  23. Aaron Avatar

    Pulp Fiction.

    Dick Dale.


  24. WolfmanOz Avatar

    Sep 22, 2023 8:55 AM
    True, Bruce, but it uses The Doors’ The End unforgettably.

    Great opening:

    Sep 22, 2023 9:12 AM

    Review Chevalier.

    Your adoring public demands it!

    Sorry Dot – I’ve never seen it . . . yet.

    I’ll have to look it up.

  25. Entropy Avatar

    Hunt for red October
    You just knew you were in for a good un.

  26. Entropy Avatar

    One more time before giving up raiders

  27. johanna Avatar

    Deadman! Hi! 🙂

  28. Deadman Avatar

    Orson Welles speaks the credits of The Magnificent Ambersons;
    the opening credits of Fahrenheit 451, appropriately, are spoken;
    Harry Nilsson sings the end credits for Skidoo;
    Peeper has spoken opening credits;
    M*A*S*H* has spoken end credits

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