Eesh, the last article I posted here was in November? Yikes, the holiday season really swept me up; let’s see if I can get back into the habit of posting here for fun again. This should serve as a nice warm-up; the funny part is that I thought I had already posted about this, but a search tells me otherwise.

During a somewhat-recent bit of nostalgic browsing, for one reason or another, I wound up looking up something a bit odd: An old introduction sequence that HBO used to run before showing movies in the 80s. Cable networks used to have some really neat vignettes like this, and maybe they still do; I don’t watch enough now to really know. But this one always stuck out in my mind; I think there may be others (for Showtime, Cinemax, etc. in addition to HBO), and I’d love to find them sometime (feel free to leave a comment if you know of other neat ones).

Here is the intro in question, and you know it’s something special, because it’s a 30-year old video that’s hosted by HBO themselves on their YouTube channel. Who else does that?

I can’t say for certain what it is I love about this sequence. Perhaps part of it is my affinity for the night; conversely, perhaps this is part of why I have that affinity. A real chicken-egg scenario, I know. The music is cool, too; it begins sort of ominously, then turns epic as it builds, and then cranks it up another notch as you expect to go into hyperspace or something, but are instead told “Hey, a movie is coming on. That’s cool, too, right?”

Darn right it is. What? This was before streaming, Netflix, DVD, or even widespread VCR (yes, I included a link for the younger among you) saturation. Heck, even cable television wasn’t quite widespread when they made this back in 1982 or 1983.

Perhaps more amazing is that this was all done with practical effects; no computer-generated imagery here. Scale models and a little bit of editing to keep everything consistent, from seeing the family at home to zooming through the cityscape, the suburbs, the countryside and then blasting off to the movie. It was cool enough that HBO even put together a special “making of” video, which unlike the video itself, is unfortunately not hosted on their YouTube channel:

Some of the models may not hold up well to up-close scrutiny, but in the finished product, the camera races by quickly enough that you can’t even tell. Did you even spot the HBO-branded movie theater on the first pass? In a way, it almost feels wasteful to have everything shown for only the most fleeting of moments, and then nothing else… ever. At the same time, it feels like the kind of thing I’d have loved to play with as a kid, be it with Hot Wheels or having Metroplex tearing up the countryside as he keeps the Decepticons away from the populated areas.

Putting this together, I’ve noticed that there seem to be some fond memories of this video. That’s actually rather reassuring, as now I know I’m not some sort of lone, solitary freak who remembers these things; at the very least, I’m in the company of other freaks (and I use that term with the greatest affection). People remember this thing, with some hailing it as the best intro of all time. They’re probably right.

What’s interesting is that it seems as though HBO themselves have realized the significance of this, and I don’t simply mean by putting it on their YouTube channel. More recently, they put together what feels like a spiritual successor of sorts to celebrate their 41(!) years of providing entertainment to so many. Unfortunately, remember what I said about the other being practical effects, rather than CGI? Well…

Now, I don’t know for sure if this is meant to be a successor to the original, or related in any way, but all the zooming along feels like the intent was there to me. Regardless… I find it lacking. It just doesn’t have the same “oomph” and appeal that the first one did. The technology may be more advanced, but the results feel more inadequate.

Certain parts are okay, but once it hits the countryside, things begin to feel inadequate, like we’re looking at a PlayStation 2 game or something, which would have been fine… maybe 10 or so years ago. I noted that the original didn’t hold up under scrutiny, but the speed of the camera covered for it; it feels like the same trick was attempted here, but to lesser results.

Honestly, I’d love to see the original reshot, maybe in high definition, though that might highlight some of the flaws there. Then again, would they be seen as flawed, or as an added sense of charm? Either way, I imagine the pieces used to shoot this are long gone from this plane of existence, and all we have left to remember it are these clips.

With that said, I’d love to hear about any other such memorable intros or such station signatures, commercials, and the like that have really stuck in your memory. Please, feel free to leave a link (or even just an anecdote) in the comments below!