It is Bass's credited role as 'pictorial consultant' for Alfred Hitchcock on Psycho (1960), however, that has caused some controversy and debate. Bass claimed that he participated in directing the highlight scene of Psycho, the tightly edited shower-murder sequence, though several on set at the time (including star Janet Leigh) disputed this claim.

For Spartacus (1960), Bass as visual consultant designed key elements of the gladiator school and storyboarded the final battle between slaves and Romans. John Frankenheimer, the director of Grand Prix (1966), had Bass storyboard, direct, and edit all but one of the racing sequences for his film. For West Side Story (1961) Bass filmed the prologue, storyboarded the opening dance sequence, and created the ending title sequence.

Hitchcock's production of Psycho

The research of several film scholars on Hitchcock's production of Psycho validates the claim that Bass in his capacity as a graphic artist did indeed have a significant influence on the visual design and pacing of that famous scene. Hitchcock had asked Bass to design and produce storyboards for the shower murder scene and for some other scenes in the film. For this, Bass received a credit as Pictorial Consultant as well as Title Designer.

The research of several film scholars on Hitchcock's production of Psycho validates the claim that Bass in his capacity as a graphic artist did indeed have a significant influence on the visual design and pacing of that famous scene. Hitchcock had asked Bass to design and produce storyboards for the shower murder scene and for some other scenes in the film. For this, Bass received a credit as Pictorial Consultant as well as Title Designer.

Bass has the unusual credit of visual consultant or pictorial consultant on five films.

Although Bass was already an established designer by 1959, North by Northwest is likely his first truly modernist title sequence, adopting a clean, minimal style and a veneer of graphic sophistication previously unseen in his title work or elsewhere in mainstream film.

Accompanied by Elmer Bernstein's driving jazz-like score, and set against a black background, white bars appear, disappear and form abstract patterns before finally coalescing into the film's symbol.

Anatomy of a murder

The opening title sequence of this 1959 crime drama is a classic piece of graphic design – giving the movie a strong, timeless indentity that still inspires filmmakers to this day, says Designer Julien Vallée.

What we were going for in the Spartacus titles was the multiple layers of elegant and disdainful faces, which express the duality of Roman rule — the oppressiveness and brutality, as well as the sophistication that made possible so many contributions to Western civilization.

Therein also lies the brilliance of Bass' title sequence. In the space of a few short minutes, with his minimal toolkit and Bernard Herrmann's jagged score, Bass creates a parallel visual tension to the film.



Titles by Saul Bass