A while back I waffled about my opening credit fetish when it comes to films. I bored a meagre (but appreciated) readership with regards to how I feel shortchanged when the titles don’t match the poster/VHS/DVD artwork, and that films lose their spark when we’re hurled in after the studio/distributor logos without so much as a single credit, instead leaving it for the elongated end credits instead. It’s heracy for a geek like me. At least drop ’em in after the opening act.
Shit, even throw the audience a curveball by letting the cast and crew scroll horizontally three quarters in. Anything. I appreciate that when I foolishly attempt to squint and adjust the contrast to watch an iPhone film bootleg, one of the first casualties of my nefarious deed is opening credits. Many pirates are too shook when they start. If they start. But if I’m shelling out for the much mooted cinemagoing “experience” I WANT OPENING CREDITS. Preferably innovative ones. ‘Zombieland’ – step forward. Computer-aided they may have been, but the film’s introduction worked a lot better than the poorly lit ‘Dr. Tongue’ zombie that welcomed me to the ‘Day Of The Dead.’
In those blog posts I forgot to mention Sandy Dvore’s film work. The artist and illustrator who created those oft-parodied ‘The Partridge Family’ credits and designed Buffalo Springfield LP sleeves was also recruited for two fairly well-known genre films that are, by and large, derided as trash. In the case of 1970’s ‘The Dunwich Horror’ and 1972’s ‘Blacula’ you may well have caught them late at night, and there’s a fair chance you were lured in by the stunning sequences that preceded them, only to find the live-action that followed horribly dated and faintly exploitative.
I love the expenditure of time, imagination and effort into what’s deemed throwaway. Any assumption that only things of declared culturally significant warrant care and attention is misguided. Dvore went well beyond the call of duty on this duo, and submitted work with no resemblance to the lurid promotional materials. Admittedly ‘The Dunwich Horror’s misleading painted gorgon/victim art has merit – reproduced on the soundtrack LP it’s included in the ‘Wax Poetics’ ‘Cover Story’ tome of notable sleeve art, and ‘Blacula’s posters were befitting any film daft enough to be called ‘Blacula’, but Sandy created two mini-masterpieces that aced the mediocrity ahead.
As I understand, Sandy was also recruited to give another exploitation flick, 1976’s ‘Lipstick’ some logo design, and I’m assuming his handiwork is present in the trailer rather than the less bombastic (and disco soundtrack friendly) credits of the actual movie, that let Ernest Hemingway’s tragic grandaughter Margaux be the star of the show. ‘Blacula’ and ‘The Dunwich Horror’ are animation-heavy and full of gothic visuals.
The bats and vampire victims of ‘Blacula’ are worthy of Stoker or Murnau (if you ditched the Gene Page score that is) and ‘The Dunwich Horror’ goes one louder by arguably being the best lift of H.P. Lovecraft’s aesthetic from book to screen – respect to Stuart Gordon, but I think the demonic shadow “puppets” top tentacles, flesh meltdowns and hard gore – they might even top the sight of Barbera Crampton wearing next-to-nothing. Nearly.
Definite nightmare fodder for me growing up – but in terms of sheer man hours, sketching and bringing the look alive (bear in mind that Bond credits genius Maurice Binder caught a brick when he worked on a love scene sequence for 1979’s megabudget ‘Dracula’), Sandy Dvore’s horror flick work deserves your time. If today’s designers expended half the energy into the seemingly mundane, the world would be a more visually appealing place.