Monday, December 10, 2007

Maurice Binder Rips Himself Off

I remembered Blake Edwards' 1974 spy drama The Tamarind Seed as an underrated movie -- maybe the last time Edwards made a movie that actually could be called a good movie without a caveat attached. (As in, "yes, Victor/Victoria is good but many of the jokes suck, the songs aren't very good and Edwards completely cops out by having James Garner find out she's not a man." Or "yes, S.O.B. is good even though many of the scenes and performances are actually pretty bad.") What I didn't remember was that it had a Maurice Binder title sequence that completely rips off his own James Bond work. He doesn't even bother to use a different typeface from some of the Bond movies.

This was one of the last of the "alternate" Bond movies like the Harry Palmer movies, where key Bond people are recruited and asked to do something very different from what they do for Bond. John Barry comes through as he did in the Palmer films with a moody, un-Bond-ish score, but Binder's solution is just to do what he always does in Bond, but have the characters doing different things: the silhouetted woman has her clothes on -- bell bottoms, yet -- and they're brooding and writing letters instead of shooting off guns. That's not really enough to give the sequence its own non-Bond identity, but then Binder, great though he was, didn't have a whole lot of range as a title designer.

One thing here that Binder would later incorporate into the Bond titles themselves, though, is having the stars' faces actually appear. He'd do this with Roger Moore starting with The Spy Who Loved Me.


Larry Levine said...

Jaime, how do you rate Blake Edwards' 1976 "The Pink Panther Strikes Again"?

Michael Sporn said...

I always found Maurice Binder's work not great. There seemed to usually be a lot of high profile process work that flowed in and around music (usually a song) and didn't seem to have the big thought behind it all. It always looked attractive, but half the time one wondered what was happening on the screen.

If you looked at any of Saul Bass' titles or even Dan Perri, you'd see design with a purpose. The same cannot be said for Maurice Binder's work - at least from 1970 on.

Stephen Rowley said...

I can't think of good post 1970s Binder, but some of his 60s work is very good. Dr No remains a really nifty title. Thunderball is now pure cliche because Binder ripped it off himself so often, but on its own terms it's a nice bit of work.

However, by the 70s and 80s his Bond work was the opposite end of the spectrum - really just ludicrously, laughably corny and bad.

Jaime J. Weinman said...

However, by the 70s and 80s his Bond work was the opposite end of the spectrum - really just ludicrously, laughably corny and bad.

I can't defend post-'70s Binder that much, but I thought his Bond titles continued to at least be appropriate for the films for a few years. (I mean, the movies were pretty ludicrous and corny too.) By the mid-'80s his titles had ceased making any kind of sense, though, except possibly as an excuse for him to film nude models.

Stephen Rowley said...

Yes, the extremely bad ones I was thinking of were mostly his 80s ones.

Joel Schlosberg said...

I've got to stick up for Binder's Charade titles, as being both very good and completely different from the Bond titles formula.