40 Years of Saul Bass’ Groundbreaking Title Sequences in One Compilation

A good title sequence tells you every­thing you need to know about the world of a movie. As it unspools the cred­its for a giv­en film, it can also con­vey the movie’s mood, its sense of place, its story’s theme and even a few of its plot points. Saul Bass invent­ed the mod­ern title sequence with Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Gold­en Arm (1955). Con­sist­ing large­ly of mov­ing white rec­tan­gles on a black back­ground set to a jazzy score, the piece feels like a Blue Note record cov­er come to life – per­fect for a grit­ty tale about hero­in addic­tion. The open­ing was so strik­ing that Hol­ly­wood took note and soon title sequences became the rage, espe­cial­ly ones made by Bass.

Above you can watch a long com­pi­la­tion of Saul Bass titles, start­ing with Man with the Gold­en Arm and end­ing with Mar­tin Scorsese’s Casi­no (1995). Along the way, the mon­tage illus­trates the evo­lu­tion of style over the course of those 40 years, show­ing how titles grew in ambi­tion and sophis­ti­ca­tion. You can see titles for some great films from the yawn­ing spi­ral in Ver­ti­go to the mono­chrome crum­bling busts in Stan­ley Kubrick’s Spar­ta­cus to the abstract shots of neon in Casi­no.

But to real­ly get a sense of Bass’s tal­ents, look to some of the less famous movies he worked on. For Carl Forman’s The Vic­tors (1963), a bleak, big-bud­get anti-war flick, Bass com­pressed Euro­pean his­to­ry from the end of WWI to the dev­as­ta­tion of WWII into one mas­ter­ful mon­tage. At one point, still pho­tos of Hitler giv­ing a speech flash across the screen, each shot pushed clos­er in on his mouth than the last, before the sequence cul­mi­nates in a series of explo­sions. It’s one of the most con­cise and elo­quent retellings of his­to­ry in cin­e­ma. And for the zany com­e­dy Not with My Wife, You Don’t!, Bass cre­at­ed an ani­mat­ed green-eyed mon­ster of jeal­ousy play­ing a vio­lin. Say what you will about con­tem­po­rary movies, but there are def­i­nite­ly not enough car­toon green-eyed mon­sters of jeal­ousy these days.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Saul Bass’ Vivid Sto­ry­boards for Kubrick’s Spar­ta­cus (1960)

Who Cre­at­ed the Famous Show­er Scene in Psy­cho? Alfred Hitch­cock or the Leg­endary Design­er Saul Bass?

Saul Bass’ Oscar-Win­ning Ani­mat­ed Short Pon­ders Why Man Cre­ates

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of bad­gers and even more pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.