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Old 19-08-2005, 21:44   #1
John Hodson
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Titles Designed By Saul Bass...

Thanks to Robert Harris over at the HTF; for fans of the uniquely talented Saul Bass, check out this excellent website:

Titles Designed by Saul Bass

I get a thrill from watching a film, sometimes not knowing that Bass designed the titles, but instantly recognising the style, usually ahead of its time (The Big Country), innovative (North by Northwest) and always interesting (Psycho, Seconds, Vertigo).

What's your favourite?
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Old 19-08-2005, 22:10   #2
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The Hitchcocks you mention are all good. Also West Side Story, Cape Fear (1991) and Casino. There's an awful lot he's done; many I haven't seen or can't bring to mind. Spartacus is a classic with an interesting back story to it - a great article about which can be found here.

There's a good feature about Saul Bass credit sequences with some examples on the extras disc of Cape Fear (Scorsese's a bit of a fan).

I'd like to see Phase IV again. Only seen it once on the one occasion (to my knowledge) it's been shown on terrestrial television - during that Sunday night sci-fi season on BBC2 many moons ago that gets referenced quite often for obscure films!

edit: half an hour later I can get on the site - very nicely done!

If you're interested in the man's work you should certainly go here aswell...

Last edited by Blofeld; 19-08-2005 at 22:18.
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Old 19-08-2005, 22:10   #3
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I love North by Northwest and The Man with the Golden Arm but my favourite has to be Vertigo ... just the combo of Bass's titles and Herrmann's music. Makes me wanna watch it again right now!
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Old 19-08-2005, 22:16   #4
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Yup i am abit of a geek when it comes to title design and in particular Saul Bass being the master and Kyle Cooper cause i like his work.

Did my graphic deisng disitation on title sequences and helped to put together the uni lecture

Scorsese loves him as well, no doubt still be doing his title sequences now if he had not passed away last he did i think was Casino.

Kyle Cooper has a lot to owe to err dam cannot remember his name now did a lot of experimental work and criterion released it on dvd.
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Old 19-08-2005, 22:36   #5
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My favourites are "Advise and Consent", "Anatomy of a Murder" and "The Age of Innocence".

"Phase IV" is interesting. I've got it on VHS (from that fabled SF season Blofeld mentioned) and I watch it quite regularly.
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Old 19-08-2005, 22:55   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike
My favourites are "Advise and Consent", "Anatomy of a Murder" and "The Age of Innocence".

"Phase IV" is interesting. I've got it on VHS (from that fabled SF season Blofeld mentioned) and I watch it quite regularly.
I think Channel 4 showed it once, which is when I saw it.
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Old 19-08-2005, 23:46   #7
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Def Psycho and NbN
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Old 20-08-2005, 11:30   #8
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Phase IV apparently has a big chunk of psychedelic imagery missing from it, which would be interesting to see, as otherwise, visually, it's often quite pedestrian, which is disappointing.
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Old 20-08-2005, 13:32   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary Couzens
I think Channel 4 showed it once, which is when I saw it.
I think you're right Gary - and I missed it. It's always risky making the above claim! Though it's certainly a terrestrial broadcast rarity. Lucky Mike has his off air dub

Kyle Cooper has inherited the title of superstar title sequence designer from Saul Bass though I find his stuff to be more flash than artistic (probably because of the technology involved and the targeting of modern audience sensibilities). That's not meant to be a negative criticism and it's heartening that someone is out there making a career out of it. For me Seven is his most innovative sequence though as Jez says the scratched film look does owe something to Stan Brakhage.

The presumably definitive work on Saul Bass is still coming, though we're going to have wait a little longer unfortunately. FWIW here's the link on Amazon.
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Old 20-08-2005, 13:36   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anephric
Phase IV apparently has a big chunk of psychedelic imagery missing from it, which would be interesting to see, as otherwise, visually, it's often quite pedestrian, which is disappointing.
It's been showing quite regularly recently on Sky Cinema; I'd contest the word 'pedestrian' - some of the macro work was quite ground-breaking (but I think I get your drift).
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Old 20-08-2005, 14:17   #11
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I was going to add the caveat "apart from the macro" but, hey, I was in a generalising mood.

Visually, aside from the climax of Lynne Frederick rising up out of the sand, I suppose I expected a lot more from Bass - his compositions seem very workmanlike and there's a fair bit of ugly zooming going on...
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Old 20-08-2005, 19:47   #12
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thanks for the link great find
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Old 20-08-2005, 20:32   #13
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Soul Bass directed the shower scene in Psycho

Well he storyboarded it
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Old 20-08-2005, 20:44   #14
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According to Bass, he shot most of it as well.

"I also shot footage for Hitch on Psycho. I worked on the shower sequence, you know. My intent was to create a bloodless murder - the blood going down the drain at the end of the sequence was to be the only blood in the scene. Hitch then wanted to have a shot with a spray of blood on Janet's chest. He also insisted on the shot with the knife in her belly (which was actually a pull away from her belly, and then printed backwards). I felt these shots ruined the purity of the sequence. I was kind of astonished at my reaction, because Hitch was, after all, the great master."

He worked uncredited second unit on Spartacus too (the final battle).

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Old 21-08-2005, 04:16   #15
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For me, Bass's titles summon up 50s America in as powerful way as 50s cars like the Studebakers and Cadillacs with their rockship tail fins; his titles resemble those paintings by Hopper, the Charles Eames's chair, Duke Ellington's jazz, Marilyn's tits and other cultural icons. His titles sequences remain unequalled - obvious classics have been noted above, but I also love his endless steps in The Cardinal, the flickering flames of Exodus and the split-screen auto-fantasia of Grand Prix.
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Old 21-08-2005, 08:23   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anephric
According to Bass, he shot most of it as well.
Not true. At least according to Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, assistant director Hilton Green and screenwriter Joe Stefano. Apparently Bass wasn't even on the set when the shower scene was shot.
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Old 21-08-2005, 14:11   #17
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I did use the qualifier "according to Bass"... so it just means someone's lying along the way...
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Old 21-08-2005, 19:18   #18
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The Design Museum in London had an exhibition on Bass last year. Unfortunately it was an opportunity missed with hardly any of the original design work and very poor video projections of the title sequences. Most frustrating was that they showed his rarely seen short film Quest, based on a Ray Bradbury story, on a tiny screen on a loop without any sound. I read about it in Cinefantastique at the time and always wanted to see it.

I remember really liking Phase IV at the time and found it quite haunting, but I haven't seen it in about 20 years.

Apart from his work for Hitchcock and Preminger my favourite Saul Bass title sequence is probably the one for Walk on the Wild Side .
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Old 12-06-2006, 09:14   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wendell Armbruster
...and the split-screen auto-fantasia of Grand Prix.
Just a heads up about the forthcoming release of Grand Prix SE (R1) in July, which includes the featurette The Style and Sound of Speed – A look at the style of Saul Bass and the film’s sound design.
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Old 12-06-2006, 11:15   #20
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I had the good fortune to attend a lecture by Saul Bass in the mid-80s. We sat for most of the afternoon with him, and he took us through the various stages of his career, from his graphics/ad work, to the titles he designed and the films he directed. He talked at length on the shower sequence. He was fascinating and utterly engaging, and we asked him questions and chatted with him after.

My favourite? Probably Vertigo.
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Advise and Consent, Anatomy of a Murder, Cape Fear, Casino, North by Northwest, Phase IV, Psycho, Robert Harris, Saul Bass, Seconds, Spartacus, The Age Of Innocence, The Big Country, The Man with the Golden Arm, Vertigo, West Side Story

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