One of the disturbing things about getting older is that all of your cultural references become obsolete. I’ll mention Leave it to Beaver, and get blank stares. Or I’ll suggest someone look at the colors of the Fillmore posters, and, once again the stare that says, “Wha’?” and, “You’re old.” Today I mentioned Pablo Ferro’s incredible title sequence for Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and had a similar reaction. I love Ferro’s explanation that refers to the sexuality of the scene. Others might skirt the issue, or suggest the viewer can determine his or her own meaning. Pablo states blatantly, “Everything we do is always very sexual. A B-52 refueling in midair? Of course! It’s sexual.” The combination of the wonderfully immediate typography, easy listening music, and documentary footage creates a pornographic and sensual experience. Okay, maybe not hot, hot, hot pornography, but certainly sensual.
Forgive me, my mind is linear and it is stuck in a groove today. After yesterday's post about Adlai Stevenson, I spent all night thinking about Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. Pablo Ferro's title sequence is sublime, and the dialogue is hilarious. President Merkin Murfley, played by Peter Sellers, is clearly based on Stevenson. The exchange between President Murfley and the Soviet Premier Kissoff is genius. To recap, a plane is on it's way to Russia to drop a nuclear bomb, under the wrong assumption that the US and USSR are at war. President Murfley is trying to negotiate the situation.
President Merkin Muffley: [to Kissoff] Hello?... Uh... Hello D- uh hello Dmitri? Listen uh uh I can't hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?... Oh-ho, that's much better... yeah... huh... yes... Fine, I can hear you now, Dmitri... Clear and plain and coming through fine... I'm coming through fine, too, eh?... Good, then... well, then, as you say, we're both coming through fine... Good... Well, it's good that you're fine and... and I'm fine... I agree with you, it's great to be fine... a-ha-ha-ha-ha... Now then, Dmitri, you know how we've always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the Bomb... The Bomb, Dmitri... The hydrogen bomb!... Well now, what happened is... ahm... one of our base commanders, he had a sort of... well, he went a little funny in the head... you know... just a little... funny. And, ah... he went and did a silly thing... Well, I'll tell you what he did. He ordered his planes... to attack your country... Ah... Well, let me finish, Dmitri... Let me finish, Dmitri... Well listen, how do you think I feel about it?... Can you imagine how I feel about it, Dmitri?... Why do you think I'm calling you? Just to say hello?... Of course I like to speak to you!... Of course I like to say hello!... Not now, but anytime, Dmitri. I'm just calling up to tell you something terrible has happened... It's a friendly call. Of course it's a friendly call... Listen, if it wasn't friendly... you probably wouldn't have even got it... They will not reach their targets for at least another hour... I am... I am positive, Dmitri... Listen, I've been all over this with your ambassador. It is not a trick... Well, I'll tell you. We'd like to give your air staff a complete run-down on the targets, the flight plans, and the defensive systems of the planes... Yes! I mean i-i-i-if we're unable to recall the planes, then... I'd say that, ah... well, ah... we're just gonna have to help you destroy them, Dmitri... I know they're our boys... All right, well listen now. Who should we call?... Who should we call, Dmitri? The... wha-whe, the People... you, sorry, you faded away there... The People's Central Air Defense Headquarters... Where is that, Dmitri?... In Omsk... Right... Yes... Oh, you'll call them first, will you?... Uh-huh... Listen, do you happen to have the phone number on you, Dmitri?... Whe-ah, what? I see, just ask for Omsk information... Ah-ah-eh-uhm-hm... I'm sorry, too, Dmitri... I'm very sorry... All right, you're sorrier than I am, but I am as sorry as well... I am as sorry as you are, Dmitri! Don't say that you're more sorry than I am, because I'm capable of being just as sorry as you are... So we're both sorry, all right?... All right.
Several years ago, we pitched the idea of doing a show about “design in film” to the Sundance Channel. Yes, this was stepping out of our job of identity and brand design, but we had their attention via the on-air graphics, so why not? Well it worked as well as teaching a goat Buddhism. They just looked at us as if we had suggested doing a show about watching grass grow. Our first show would have focused Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey. So, I abandoned our idea and focused on deconstructing (that’s French structuralism for stealing) the design of the movie.
Unlike Design Observer, that discussed the film's typographic choices, mainly Futura, with an exemplary intellectual rigor, I am excited by the aesthetics and wacky spacefood packaging. The color palette is a lesson in late 1960s “sophistication”: ochre, avocado green, orange, cornflower blue, paired in black and white settings. The shapes used for doors, windows, on-screen graphics, and the monolith could all be easily converted into high-style corporate identities of the time. My favorite element, however, is the food service tray. The quirky illustrations of specific food items to be eaten through a straw are strangely out of place in the high-design aesthetic. But they give hope that there will be a home for odd and wacky when we are flying on a Pan Am shuttle to the moon.