From March 30, 2012 – What would the early James Bond movies have been like without the boost they got from those fantastic, over-the-top title sequences by the late great Maurice Binder?
The combination of the sexy graphics and the bombastic title songs set audiences up for what was to follow in everything from “Goldfinger” to “You Only Live Twice.” They became crucial elements in the Bond template.
The same thing could be said of the Saul Bass titles for Alfred Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” and “Psycho” — they set the tone for two very different films, one a lark and the other a descent into madness.
A two DVD set from Submarine Channel — “Forget the Film, Watch the Titles!” — celebrates the modern art of title design and the artists who work in the field.
The DVD set is an offshoot of a website the Amsterdam-based Submarine Channel has launched — www.watchthetitles.com — which is an ever-growing collection of great movie title sequences and mini-documentaries about artists who create them.
The site covers titles old and new and features a page of classic French opening credit sequences — I especially like the jazzy titles for the mid-1960s Jean-Paul Belmondo romp “That Man from Rio” — that gets a new addition every Friday.
The DVD set is designed so that you can watch it in small pieces or as two 90-minute features — the first disc collects more than 30 modern title sequences from last year’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” to the marvelous neo-James Bond titles that Laurent Brett designed for the French spy spoof, “OSS 117: Lost in Rio.”
The title of the set is proven to be true with the stunning opening credits for last year’s forgettable horror flick, “Splice,” and a Paris Hilton bomb called “Bottoms Up” that I had never heard of before.
The second disc contains mini-docs on masters of the art such as Brett and Kook Ewo who did the “Splice” title sequence.
Many of the contemporary artists cite Saul Bass as a major influence for the scope and the quality of the titles he did throughout the 1950s and 1960s, from the spooky John Frankenheimer thriller “Seconds” to the very clever “West Side Story” closing graphics.
For the Oscar-winning Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim musical, Bass took what could have been a boring and endless credit crawl and turned it into a memorable sequence as the names of actors and technicians appeared on urban slum images in keeping with the story audiences had just watched.
Movie buffs will have a blast watching the Submarine Channel DVDs and exploring the ever-growing website.
(For information on the DVD set, go to www.submarinechannel.com/shop)