Saturday, June 23, 2007


Note: This post is part of the Filmmusic Blog-a-thon at Damian Arlyn's Windmills of My Mind.

The overture is a lost art with movies. It used to be a staple from epics to musicals, in everything from King Kong to Oklahoma!, but Jerry Goldsmith's smashing intro to Star Trek: The Motion Picture was one of the last to open a major Hollywood film. But for a time in the 1980s, millions of cable television watchers were treated to one of history's most memorably brief overtures before the credits ran. Remember this?:

It was the perfect launching point for the movies HBO decided we should watch, back before digital television listings, and even the 'preview' channel that had all the listings. After 'HBO Feature Presentation' faded away, so began the lost art of 'let's guess what movie we're watching!' And if it was a summer Saturday afternoon it was usually Krull, The Wraith or The Legend of Billie Jean. In the 80s, HBO had slim competition from Showtime and The Movie Channel, and it class touches like this that separated the channel from its imitators. They certainly didn't have to feature a score as bombastic as this one (or use high-quality, non-CGI, labor-intensive animation the way they did), but we thank them for it. To me this is the perfect 'anticipation' music, and sets the tone wonderfully for the upcoming cinematic experience -- whether good or bad.

This particular intro premiered in the early 80s and sometimes the channel used a longer, less-effective piece that began in a family's living room and slowly panned through a city's streets and up through the sunset to the stars where we meet The Good Starship HBO. Toward the end of the decade another, more rock 'n' roll-intensive intro started appearing, and it replaced the 'HBO in Space' intro completely in the early '90s:

Like they used to say, 'It's not TV, it's HBO,' and to anyone who grew up with this intro, it just isn't HBO any more without it.


TALKING MOVIEzzz said...

Is it wrong to sing along to that theme? I always did.

Loved seeing it again.

It's funny, I go on Youtube and watch clips like that, or the network movie openings that are up there (NBC Sunday Night at the Movies) yet at the time, I couldn't wait for them to end and for the film to begin.

Joe Baker said...

Great clip, Adam, that brings back a flood of memories. My parents had HBO since Day 1 (and there's a funny story in that when my mother called to cancel cable a few years back for their satellite package, the operator stated "wow, customer number 17???"). My dad, unwilling to advance into the digital DVD age, still has cabinets full of copied VHS movies that bear that same logo because he'd set the VCR timer up 2 minutes before showtime. I bet there's some great lost trailers in those tapes. Anyway, thanks for the memories.

Adam Ross said...

Moviezzz: I was actually the complete opposite, there were many shows back in the day I watched only for the introduction before tuning out, like Magnum P.I. and (strangely) The 700 Club.

Joseph: Great story! My father-in-law actually grew up in the first community in the U.S. to receive cable (Astoria, Ore.). Its geography made it tough for television signals to penetrate. Luckily, the previous family that lived in my childhood home had pirated cable and so we received free HBO, otherwise my family would have never ordered it -- maybe it was fate?

Here's another clip you'll like, full of HBO promos from 1987:

Anonymous said...

I remember the post-HBO overture anticipation effect too, Adam. And the tantilizng list of "adult themes, adult language, nudity," etc. made it all the more fun to try and guess what the feature would be and decided if I would get to watch with my parents or be sent to my room (only one TV in the house back then). :D

Ross Ruediger said...

I ~really~ wish HBO would release these on DVD. I'm half amazed that someone at the top hasn't at least seen fit to use them on HBO today. People would LOVE it.