Laura Wilkens

Thoughts - A Design and Film Related Blog

The blog portion of focuses on graphic design, film, and travel.

Opening Title Design - The 1960s Part 1

With the increasing popularity of films in the 1960's, I've hit the point where I'm starting to get overwhelmed with options for my favorite opening titles. Therefore there will be two parts to this wonderful decade. The 1960's brought more and more design elements to titles. Saul Bass was gaining more notoriety as we enter into the true heyday of his work. In fact, the majority of the examples below are his creations. At this point, most of the titles I'll be discussing are available to watch online so Youtube links have been provided.

Ocean's 11 (1960)
Saul Bass continues his successful run as opening title designer with the fun and original version of Ocean's 11. With a plot that centers around the Rat Pack taking Vegas by storm, the titles evoke the feelings of glamor and excitement found only in Sin City. They feature bright colors and moving dots that mimic the neon lights of the Vegas strip as well as slot machines and playing cards. It's an awesomely artistic way of showing off Vegas nightlife.


Psycho (1960)
Saul Bass works his magic this time for the thriller genre, taking on Hitchcock's most popular film, Psycho. The opening titles are fast-paced and frenetic which is only enhanced by the overture that is heard throughout the rest of the film with the famous screeching violins. The recurring theme of horizontal lines that get consistently wiped sideways off the screen is reminiscent of the infamous shower scene where the curtain is pulled back and one of the most grisly murders in film history occurs.


West Side Story (1961)
West Side Story is the second longest title sequence designed by Bass. Instead of relying on heavy graphic elements and shapes like previous examples, these titles stay true to life. Each of the major credits in the film are inscribed on different walls in chalk, ink, paint, etc as if it were just graffiti in a New York alleyway. As the more elaborate credits role as superimposed text, we see the names "Jets" and "Sharks" on the wall behind them. At 4.21 we're even weaving through street signs with credits etched on them.


To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
The opening credits of To Kill a Mockingbird are really helped by their amazing cinematography. The narrator of the original book was that of a young child and therefore the credits are a collage of beautifully framed and close-up shots of objects and ideas that would be the most important to someone of a young age. The zoomed-in nature of these images plays off the attention the narrator would give the things that could be found in her box of treasures: pencils, pocket watches, marbles, etc. The most powerful image being the child coloring on paper, only to reveal the title of the film.


Dr. No (1962)
In 1962 a movie was released that would change the course of movies until present day: the very first James Bond film. Not only Dr. No create a cultural icon of a character, but the opening titles open with the CLASSIC shot through a gun barrel and Bond turns and fires back. This image is used consistently throughout the credits til this day. Bond flicks are infamous for their title design and as we progress through the decades they will continue to reappear on the list. In these particular titles (that are very Saul-Bass-esque) we're introduced to the term 007 and morph into some pretty groovy dancing silhouettes.


Lolita (1962)
While the movie was scandalous, the opening titles for Lolita don't hold back with the controversial nature of this film that left it banned in many countries. Credits in a very delicate font appear above footage of a man painting a young girls toenails. Simple and effective.

The Birds (1963)
The Hitchcock movie that made everyone deathly afraid of killer birds. The opening credits is just a disturbing barrage of birds. behind bright blue credits. Perfection and simple like Lolita.