She offered moi a chance to contribute to the endeavor since we’re both big fans of the progenitor for the modern comic superhero film, Superman: The Movie. That will land on Thursday.
Today is my appreciation for one of my favorite opening title sequences, and one of best, from this movie.
It’s common for films to offer an introduction, a preamble to the start of their movie credits. Mark of MarkMovies covered the now almost legendary I Don’t Tip scene from Reservoir Dogs that preceded the film’s title sequence, for example. One that made use of the fun 1969 ditty, Little Green Bag.
The unexpected one crafted for this 1978 blockbuster was decidedly quieter and shorter, but no less vital.
A lone horn heralded not only the curtain parting, but John Williams storybook prelude at its start. The sound of an old projector in tandem with the Action Comics opening and a young boy’s narration recalled the newsreels of long ago and the comic book character’s Depression Era heritage.
Really, a wonderful touch as noted by Mark Engblom.
So, too, this small segment was presented in the traditional four-by-three aspect ratio of Silent Film and old television. The latter harked back to the character’s original TV programs. It’s at this point, the sequence pivoted. Transitioning into, frame within frame, the comic book itself.
A venerable Daily Planet Building the centerpiece, and where the sequence really got going.
The view tilted upward to a blackened sky and the full moon, the imagery taking the scene off visually. Vaulting passed our closest celestial body through to the universe. A seamless spot where it shook off the standard ratio shackles into wide-screen splendor. Thus, keying the famed beginning that was the film’s credits.
This noted sequence, designed by R. Greenberg and Associates, done entirely without computer graphics, followed a distinct translucent, symbolic motif.
The swooshing main title images — a clear reference to the main character — cut across the screen, surely augmented by Williams’ heroic score, to lead the way in the segment. Each title thrown toward the audience. Building up, along with the conductor’s theme music, a dramatic momentum in the sequence.
That is, until it reached a part that still resounds in me, even all these years later.
The entry for the film’s still quite impressive icon as it plumed on to the screen: the stylized red-letter S of the superhero’s family crest. Not only visually and musically striking, its appearance reversed the direction the graphics then followed. They’d all race away from viewers at this moment, with some old-fashioned camera-captured effects melded in.
It remains a remarkable superhero introduction on film, then or now.
I recommend reading Benjamin Wright’s wonderful piece on this sequence and how opening titles have evolved since this seminal film, Death of the Title Sequence.