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Getting off to a good start

Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

MGM

Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

Closing credits get longer . . . and l-o-n-g-e-r . . . and l--o--n--g--e--r. Drivers and caterers and completion-bond companies now get joined by wave after wave of CGI workers. Opening credits? What are opening credits? They’ve pretty much disappeared. Twenty-first-century moviegoers want to get right to it, apparently.

For most of movie history, it was the other way around. Closing credits, when there were any, were brief. Opening credits were where the action was — not just the information, but also often the most style and verve. Saul Bass made them into a kind of mini-genre, especially in his work for Otto Preminger and Alfred Hitchcock in the ’50s and ’60s.

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To get a taste of how things used to be, go to the Brattle this Sunday. Sergio Leone’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966) is being screened as part of the theater’s DCP festival, showing off its new digital-projection system.

Like the spaghetti western they introduce, the opening credits for “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” are unashamedly over the top. Iginio Lardani, who designed them, put together Old West typefaces, washes of color, cheesy animated silhouettes, sepia-toned photographs, the sound of cannon fire (sure, why not), and, of course, the magnificent lunacy that is Ennio Morricone’s theme music. After slightly less than three minutes of this, why even bother to watch the movie?

Well, those were the days. Clint Eastwood long ago hung up his serape. Which is just as well, since if the Man With No Name ever returned to the screen it would surely be in a Movie With No Opening Credits.

MARK FEENEY

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