Friday, October 27, 2006

Maurice Binder vs. Saul Bass

Which iconic creator of movie credits sequences do you like better: Saul Bass (Psycho, The Man With the Golden Arm, Anatomy of a Murder) or Maurice Binder (Dr. No, Charade, Barbarella)?

The two are similar in many ways: they were around the same age, both from New York, both helped re-define what an opening credits sequence could be, both adopted different techniques (animation, live-action, abstract patterns) depending on what kind of movie they were working on, and both frequently came up with title sequences that were more acclaimed than the rest of the movie. But there are differences too. For one thing, Bass mostly worked in America, Binder mostly in England. Bass was more in demand for serious dramatic movies -- by Preminger, Hitchcock, and the like -- while Binder tended to be more in demand for light-hearted adventure movies like the Bond films. And I think Bass's approach to opening titles was a bit more serious than Binder's approach. Bass tended to try and find a graphic approach that would help convey the themes of the movie in a dramatic way, whether it was something as simple as the slashing lines in Psycho or something as offbeat as the black cat taking a Walk on the Wild Side (to Elmer Bernstein's music):



While Binder was also out to sum up the movie -- the shot of James Bond through that gun barrel tells you everything you need to know about what kind of movie this will be -- he tended to do it in a more tongue-in-cheek way than Bass; one of the films that brought him to prominence was Stanley Donen's The Grass is Greener where he re-imagined all the main characters as babies. And Binder's title sequences were more sexualized than Bass's; most famous are the silhouetted women in all the Bond sequences, but when Binder used non-silhouetted women, the result could be something very close to soft-core pornography, as in the titles of Barbarella or his leering title sequence from the Raquel Welch vehicle Fathom (which is certainly not among his best work, but I'm posting it here because it's just such a perfect summation of wholesomely sleazy '60s pop culture and Binder's own contribution to that atmosphere of wholesome sleaze):



All in all, I don't really have a preference between the two because I think they're sufficiently different that they each have different things to offer -- Bass's titles are more intense and mood-enhancing, Binder's are more fun.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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