Thursday, May 22, 2014


The problem with doing a retro blog is finding out that something you think is a thing of the past is still very much with us in another form or making a comeback among young hipsters.

Not long back, I began thinking about quick cut or jump cut montage editing. It was everywhere in from the mid-60s to the early 80s. Commercials, children's shows, sitcoms, action shows, news documentaries, even the opening to local news cast would feature, at some point, a jumble of images thrown at you at high speed. Many of these quick cut montages featured juxtaposed images, i.e: field of flowers, puppies in a basket, a chubby baby, beautiful girl in a bikini, Superman, Mickey Mouse, American flag, a car wreck, atomic test, skull and a cemetery.

I'm guessing the first major use of this in TV was the opening credits of Mission: Impossible. Here is a link to a compilation on YouTube of the opening credits of season three. Another show that used this editing method was the opening credits to The Monkees second season (This is the version that appeared in reruns). The Monkees show used this effect frequently during the musical segments.

I'm not sure the whole story behind how The Smothers Brothers found Chuck Braverman, but Braverman created two films show using quick cut montage editing that they presented on their variety show. The first one was "American Time Capsule (American History in Under 3 Minutes)."

There was a positive response so it was shown again and Braverman created a review of 1968, set to the drum solo from "In a Gadda Da Vida." Braverman went on to use the same editing style for the opening to the movie Soylent Green.

Another film maker name Dan McLaughlin made a film featuring classical art pieces set to Beethoven's 5th Symphony. The Smothers Brothers ask McLaughlin into allowing them to replace the Beethoven with a musical composition by a writer on the show, Mason Williams. The instrumental was "Classical Gas."


Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In used quick jump cut edits so much that the editor of the show, Arthur Schnieder, won an Emmy in 1968. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any stand alone clips of how it was used on the show, but you can find full episodes of Laugh-In on YouTube.

Sesame Street used quick jump cut edits as well, which is no surprise when you find out that Jim Henson made several experimental films before Sesame Street. Most of these featured scores by Big-Band-leader-turned-electronic-music-pioneer Raymond Scott. One was "Limbo," which features a face, made of string, talking about organizing his thoughts and he takes us on a tour of his mind. Henson was the voice of the character and later used the string face on Sesame Street. He later used the concept in a commercial for Bufferin.


Henson and Scott also made a promotional film for IBM called "Paperwork Explosion," which features fast paced jump cut edits layered over actors dialog.

And finally, when it comes great montage edits, one has to look at the work of Jack Cole, who was resposible for many of the great opening credits of shows produced by Universal Television in the late 60s and early 70s. I've already mentioned on this blog my love for the opening to the show The Name of the Game. That was one of Jack Cole's masterpieces.  However, his crowning achievement is the opening to The Six Million Dollar Man, which Cole says contains five layers of images, including EKG machines, computers, clocks, radar screens and footage of a NASA test pilot's crash.

Another great opening sequence that features this type of editing is Hawaii 5-O. I had to mention this because it sort of proves what I said in the first paragraph. The current version of Hawaii 5-O mixes some of the same images from the original series in what is know as hip-hop montage, which instead of juxtaposition of different images, uses slightly different versions of the same image to produces an altered version of time. This was used extensively in the film Requiem for a Dream.

In doing research on YouTube for this post, I found that I had forgotten what might be the last hurrah of this style of editing on TV: CSI. Here is a compilation of the various opening credits through out the years.

So why is this type of editing not as prevalent on TV now as it was in the 60s and 70s. After all, we have the technology to do this on a lap top or smart phone. You can find examples of student projects doing this on YouTube, why not on TV.

More than likely part of this has to do with the disappearance of opening credit sequences on TV shows. This type of editing is also considered a product of its time and out of date. Too flashy and too exciting for our post-911 "Chicken Fired" nation.    

Some claim that this type of editing causes seizures and strokes in some people. I personally feel this is some of that tinfoil-hat mentality. As a person who knows the joys of video and film editing, all I can say is I do care if it does cause seizures and strokes in some people, I just want to edit together something that looks cool.

There is always a chance that this could come back to the point we would be sick of it, but thin again I doubt we got sick of it the first time. 


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