California Literary Review

The Fourth Wall

A Film and Television Blog

Credit Where Credit’s Due: “Dexter” Main Titles


January 5th, 2011 at 3:38 pm

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Welcome to The Fourth Wall’s newest blog series, Credit Where Credit’s Due, which will focus on memorable TV and film credit sequences. In particular, we’ll spotlight credits that excel in distilling the show’s or movie’s content into a few-minutes-long sequence, or main titles that have become an indelible part of media history. Sometimes the credits of a TV show or film are so good they’ll play over and over in your head–and yet you probably have no idea who’s responsible for them.

Any film fanatic or avid TV watcher has a brain full of trivia: actors, directors, producers, composers, guest stars, plot points. But most of us aren’t running around with the knowledge that Kyle Cooper directed Se7en‘s unforgettable credit sequence before the artist founded (and subsequently left) the company Imaginary Forces, or that Saul Bass is the artist behind Anatomy of a Murder‘s classic credits. Even the Wikipedia page on Emmy Awards for Main Titles doesn’t list companies or names! So let’s give them credit for work amazingly done.

Orson Welles is CLAPPING

Kane thinks these deserve a round of applause.

First off:

“Dexter” Main Titles: Digital Kitchen

Digital Kitchen is responsible for some of the smartest and most artful main title sequences in the last decade, but “Dexter”‘s titles stand out among them. The show’s credit sequence won an Emmy in 2007, so we bloggers aren’t the only ones who noticed. I figure it’s worth reiterating, though: when looking for a credit sequence that features incredible music, fantastic imagery, and manages to fascinate you and make you cringe at the same time, “Dexter” is the place to go.

Michael C. Hall as Dexter in Dexter title sequence

Hall: father, lover, murderer.

Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), a forensic blood splatter analyst who moonlights as a serial killer, has become one of TV’s most talked-out examples of moral ambiguity. Why, oh why, does this good bad guy fascinate us so? Is it his double life–a loving father and husband on the one hand, a brutal murderer on the other? Is it the fact that he (mostly) adheres to Harry’s Code, only killing those who truly deserve it? Or is it the fact that on some level we identify with a guy who’s comfortable letting his Dark Passenger out of its cage in short, savage bursts? The show’s seasons are hit-or-miss (my favorite is undoubtedly season 4, featuring John Lithgow as Trinity), but the credits never cease to amaze me.

YouTube Preview Image

Tell me you don’t want to watch it one more time.

In Digital Kitchen’s production, which features lilting, haunting music by Rolfe Kent, the most mundane morning routine becomes intensely grim. In extreme close-up and ultra slow motion, even the most banal actions (frying ham and eggs, blending fruit juice, tying shoelaces, and shaving) are ominous and disgusting. The titles contrast hot sauce with crimson blood from a shaving cut, focus tightly on the ligature of floss around a finger, and linger on fruit guts. “Real life is brutal and lovely,” the credits tell us. “You want evidence? Take a really, really hard look at what you do every morning when you get up.” These images, punctuated by creepy yet harmonious music, combine to tell you everything you need to know about Dexter, his outlook, and his version of “normalcy.” The result is pure brilliance.

Dexter title sequence Digital Kitchen

See? Fruit guts. Delish.

Here is a great interview with Digital Kitchen’s former creative director Eric Anderson.

Stay tuned for more Credit Where Credit’s Due, and please tell us your favorite credit sequences in the comments!

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