Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Movie Title Sequence: Experiment in Terror

This is the relatively simple movie titles sequence to Blake Edwards’ stellar film, Experiment in Terror (1962). Yet, the opening remains one of the eminently moodiest in the period of the 60s. What really made the seemingly straightforward segment a standout was Philip Lathrop’s extraordinary framing, camera work, and marvelous black and white cinematography. Accompanied by Henry Mancini’s atmospheric and rhythmic movie theme that became a hallmark of the composer.

Certainly, the sequence made fantastic use of San Francisco as the backdrop, even if most of it was shadowed in the distinct blackness of Lathrop’s night photography of the time. Still, the high contrast images of traffic as lights dancing in the nightfall, beside the luminosity in the landscape of the city by the bay, established its film noir bona fides through pure dark imagery. Lee Remick’s eyes and face, lit and setup wonderfully by the DP, did the rest.

Tie all that in with Mancini’s unique and moody theme piece and the chief elements fell into a distinct place. It made those white titles, to all intents and purposes, hanging in the dark background, that much more evocative. Utilizing the unusual instrument of the autoharp to augment the plucked strings keeping a patient, pulsing beat (like the villain soon to appear out of the gloom), the main theme was more than compelling in a sequence that’s amazingly just under three minutes long.

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11 Responses to “Movie Title Sequence: Experiment in Terror”

  1. Colin

    Believe it or not Michael, I’m just adding the finishing touches to a piece on Experiment on Terror – another case of great minds thinking alike! I should have it up tomorrow.
    Like you, I love that intro – really cool and evocative.

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    • le0pard13

      Y’know, after I wrote this I went looking at your site to see if you had written a piece on it. Your reviews of noir film is one I highly admire and look forward to. Great to hear you’ll have something on it, Colin. Can’t wait. Many thanks.

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  2. jackdeth72

    Hi, Michael and company:

    Great selection and topic!

    One the the best ominous opening sequences in B&W film. Color would have ruined the sharp contrasts and just a hint of French New Wave. Setting the stage for a frightening tale that culminates with a then unknown Ross Martin’s calmly scary asthmatic creepiness!

    Well done, my friend.

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    • le0pard13

      Thanks so much, Kevin. It would be hard to imagine this film shot in color. The B&W photography remains such a wonderful element in Blake Edwards’ film. And wasn’t Ross Martin fantastic in this?!? Remember his wonderful little villainous role in Edwards’ ‘The Great Race’?

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      • jackdeth72

        Hi, Michael:

        Blake Edwards seemed to just as well versed in B&W as he was in color. Though more comfortable in B&W when shadows and mystery are involved. And they are prominent in ‘Experiment in Terror’.

        Love how Edwards placed Ross Martin in several scenes where shadows slashed his face. Heightening suspense and tension with his asthmatic rasp and calm, creepy demeanor.

        His ‘Red’ Lynch was responsible for putting Ross Martin on my radar very early on. A well versed, tremendously gifted character actor. Who excelled as the elegant, evil Baron Von Stuppe in ‘The Great Race’. And was given a decent playground to ply his craft as Artemis Gordon in CBS’s ‘The Wild, Wild West’.

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