Opening titles to any film are vital. Whilst some are happy to just throw a bit of white text on a black screen, or not even bother with them at all, and plunge straight in, I like a film that takes a minute or two to set the mood.
For this edition of Five Favourite Things, I’ve chosen opening titles that also combine an actual scene of some kind, no matter how small, with a cool soundtrack. For this reason, stuff like a James Bond opening title would be exempt.
So here’s five of the buggers.
We only ever see Toshiro Mifune’s back in the opening to Yojimbo, in which he plays a ronin wandering the land, looking to fuck shit up, just to pass the time. At the fifty-second mark, the score ramps up a notch, almost at the point Toshiro starts walking away from camera, as if the orchestra is trying to match each momentous step towards his date with destiny, a crossroads, and a stick. Plot spoiler: he fucks shit up.
Get Carter (1971)
The train thunders from London to Newcastle, sweeping through station after station, tunnel after tunnel. The sublime score by Roy Budd feels like it serves a number of purposes: it’s the rhythm of the train, or the ticking time bomb that is Michael Caine as he heads back to his home town to avenge his brother’s death, or, as the train and the music slows, maybe it’s the last few desperate beats of a dying heart. Because in Get Carter, very few escape alive.
(SMALL WARNING: Should you ever decide to watch this movie for the first time, avoid the trailer on youtube, as it reveals every single twist of the plot from beginning to end. The video below is not the trailer though, so don’t worry.)
I don’t think the nineteen-eighties were particularly cool. They were positively cheesy. But they didn’t care. And they had funky synth music. So in fact, they were cool. In the opening titles of Drive, an eighties style score throbs over a neon-soaked city, and Ryan Gosling drives around with a little matchstick in his mouth, like Sylvester Stallone in Cobra. At no point does he cut a pizza with a pair of scissors.
The Italian Job (1969)
Forget the lame remake, starring Mark Wahlberg. This is where it’s really at. The original Italian Job opens in style, to the dulcet tones of Matt Monro, singing On Days Like These. All the while, a cool looking gangster type bloke, with a ciggy dangling from his mouth, speeds through the Italian Alps in a Lamborghini Miura. He then puts some cool sunglasses on, as he realised things still weren’t quite cool enough.
A young Jane Fonda strips off her space suit in zero gravity. Now, nudity aside (there is a bit of nipple, so careful if you’re watching at work), I like how the letters of the titles come tumbling out of Fonda’s hair as she shakes it loose, or out of an artfully removed sleeve. Did I mention Jane Fonda gets nude in this? I did, didn’t I?
So there you go, five favourite opening titles! Do you have any particular faves?