Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:
Have you ever noticed how many genre movies of the late ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s featured specially-composed pop songs? It’s one of my fave aspects of that era in movies. I’m not sure exactly where the trend began, but it’s worth pointing out that many westerns in the ’50s had theme songs. (Here’s one of my favorite examples.) Maybe it derives from that. Or maybe it developed out of the use of theme songs in conjunction with television series. In any event, the Bond series really took it to the next level, each of them opening with a lush pop song played over a decadent montage seemingly geared to mimic the all-too-infrequently-had experience of flipping through a high-end men’s magazine while tripping on peyote.
One of the things I like about the examples I’ve featured below is how unashamedly cheesy they are. They’re loungey, trashy, silly, sexy, fun — like Xavier Cugat tunes set to images. They cue the listener to put aside his rationality for 90 minutes and enjoy some far-out sights and ideas, to indulge in a corny pop fantasy, to not take himself too seriously.
Hey, doesn’t judicious indulgence of this kind seem like a key quality of that whole era? It was a time when adults were still adults, when men often wore suits whenever they left the house, but it was also an era in which the culture provided a variety of rituals and outlets specifically designed to cater to adult fantasy. Tiki bars, “Playboy,” cocktail parties, Bond movies — all fantasy outlets of a very adult (if self-consciously silly) kind. Unfortunately, that sort of sexy-silly sophistication seems to have been drained out of the culture. These days we can’t even appreciate the Bond films as fantasy — as a comic book escape geared towards grown-ups — without wringing our hands and worrying about the sociopolitical implications of Bond’s actions. (The new Bond films aren’t bad, exactly, just sort of joyless. Judi Dench is in them. Need I say more?)
We still have adult fantasies, of course. They often seem patterned on either frat house crassness or quasi-political empowerment schemes. Men seem to partake more frequently of the former, women of the latter. Oh, and there’s the superhero thing too. But let’s not even get into that. I’m in a bad enough mood as it is.
Anyhoo, I’m way off track. Here are some of my fave silly movie themes. If anyone is aware of additional examples, please post ’em in the comments.
The theme song to the 1958 “The Blob” was composed by the great Burt Bacharach, who was a master of the silly-sophisticated thing.
This Danish production was based on the same source as Tarkovsky’s arthouse snoozeathon “Solaris.” Talk about strange bedfellows! I have no idea who that is singing, but the song was composed by the wonderfully named Teepee Mitchell.
This isn’t a theme song, but I’m including it anyway because Arch Hall, Jr. is my hero. “There’s coyotes around the camp!”
Bruno Nicolai composed and Nancy Cuomo performed this Bondesque number from 1966. The title surely comes from “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” a John Barry tune that was intended for “Thunderball,” released in 1965, but then never used. Of course, Pauline Kael later used it as the title of her second collection of movie reviews.
One of my fave title sequences. The rest of the movie doesn’t quite live up to it. The song is by Bob Crewe and Charles Fox.
The greatest man-returns-home-after-a-hard-day’s-work sequence ever put on film. Song composed by The Man himself, Ennio Morricone.
“You’ll believe it when you find…something screaming ‘cross your mind!” This acid rock gem was composed by Richard Delvy.