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.