Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Kick Bollock Scramble

One thing Our Pal once said to us, which was of great help, was a tip the writers of The Sweeney has passed on to him when he was writing his book about the show.

Their edict for beginning each episode of the 1970s rough and tumble cop show was “Kick, Bollock, Scramble.” Grab the audience by the scruff of the neck and get right into the action from the get go.

Last night, conversation turned to the best openings in films that hook the audience. For me there’s no better start than David Niven piloting a burning Lancaster bomber.

The interesting thing was, like most of the nominations mentioned, that wasn’t the film’s actual opening scene.

Like most of the other examples brought up, it wasn’t actually the proper opening scene. As I was reminded, Powell & Pressburger’s majestic A Matter of Life and Death actually begins with a no-less extraordinary trip across space, accompanied by a quirky narration: “This is the universe. Big, isn't it.” It’s only when we reach Earth and the narrator points out the glowing light of a 1,000 bomber raid on Germany, and the fog rolling in over the English Channel, that we cut to the interior of the bomber and Squadron Leader Peter Carter’s dilemma.

Although not mentioned last night, the same happens when people talk about Saving Private Ryan and the harrowing beach landing. The sequence is so exhilarating that they forget the somewhat syrupy opening sequence in the Normandy cemetery before it all kicks off. Then again, it’s easy to forget a blubbery old man kneeling at a grave when it segues into a 20-odd minute descent into hell.

Eventually, I came back with the simplicity of “I believe in America”. Although, truth be told, that only came about because I had been re-reading Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Batman: The Long Halloween, which, paying homage to The Godfather, opens with Bruce Wayne standing in the dark, stating “I believe in Gotham City,” which is adapted by each character and threads throughout the 13-part story.

Obviously we could be accused of splitting hairs and being complete and utter pedants, but it does raise a useful point. If you can’t sock them between the eyes with a great opening scene, come up with an outstanding second scene that will knock their head clean off.


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