Saul Bass was a filmmaker and graphic designer who made a significant contribution towards the art of film title design. His innovative title sequences communicate the film’s key themes and ideas. He is especially hailed for his smart choice of typography and metaphorical imagery that perfectly present the film’s subject in just a couple of minutes. Here are some of his best title sequences.
This psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is a story about paranoia and obsession and hence, Bass created a sequence that is equally trippy and unsettling. Circling spirals that look like eyes emerge from the screen and one gets the sensation of being sucked into the spiral, and consequently, the drama of it all!
The Age of Innocence
Flower motifs, layers of lace and opening flowers suggest that the film is about love, sensuality and desire. The elegant calligraphy script was taken from etiquette books of nineteenth century New York high society and suggest elegance and sophistication. This is quite an apt title sequence since the film is about codes of etiquette and high society manners that were used to suppress sexuality and sexual desire during the age.
This was the last title sequence made by Saul and his wife Elaine. The sequence opens with a bang, literally, as it has Robert Di Nero’s car bursting into flames. The montage of surreal neon lights mimic lit up streets in the sinful city that never sleeps – Las Vegas! A lot of the imagery in the title sequence reminds us of lit up casinos and gaming tables in them.
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World
A fairly long title sequence, it presents the theme of the movie through an animated globe which is subjected to a range of visual puns and gags, thanks to its inhabitants. By giving the sequence a simplistic, childlike illustration style, Bass mirrors the films light-hearted treatment of serious themes like deception and greed.
Nine Hours to Rama
The film documents the happenings that unfold in the nine hours leading up to Mahatmas Gandhi’s assassination. Since the film is about time, Bass makes his title sequence too about time. A ticking watch reminds the viewer of the inexorable nature of time. The mechanically forward-moving seconds hand takes the viewers on an unstoppable march towards the future, where one knows the fateful event is set to happen.
Saul Bass also created wonderful title sequences for films like Anatomy of a Murder, The Man with the Golden Arm, Around the World in Eighty Days, Ocean’s Eleven and several others.