Found via the Internet Movie Database, The Art of the Title is just what it says, a compendium of great opening title sequences from the history of the movies. They’re not necessarily the titles I’d pick — Saul Bass seems to be pretty woefully underrepresented in the clips available at the site, but still, there’s loads of great stuff there. A revelation was the opening title sequence for Steve McQueen’s Bullitt, produced by Pablo Ferro, who also produced the titles for Dr. Strangelove, McQueen’s Thomas Crown Affair, Men in Black, and a host of other films:
It’s worth it to watch the above clip in the big crystal clear high-res transfer at The Art of the Title. A lot of work went into this sequence, shooting the actors on the film’s sets, creating both color and black and white elements, storyboarding the whole thing, animating on and off screen the text, cutting in the dissolves where the text reveals a new film layer, etc. And this was 30 years or so before Photoshop, Adobe After Effects, and other computer software allowed for graphic sequences to be produced on a computer; these are all film elements layered by hand on an optical printer. (Which helps to explain why expensive title sequences such as the above were in short supply after the lights went out on Big Hollywood in the late 1960s, and before George Lucas jump-started the epic with Star Wars.
One man who was keeping the tradition of Saul Bass and other great title designers from the 1950s and ’60s alive during those lean years was Maurice Binder. Ultra Swank links to a nifty two-part video tribute (narrated by Patrick Macnee), to Binder who created all those wonderful James Bond titles where silhouetted Bond girls twirl in slow-motion across the barrel of Sean Connery and Roger Moore’s err, Luger — to create symbolism that would have made Freud blush. But then, sometimes a silhouetted Bond girl twirling atop a giant firearm is merely a silhouetted Bond girl twirling atop a giant firearm: