Pop quiz – what is Terry Gilliam’s earliest credited work on a feature film? If you guessed anything “Monty Python” related, you’re actually a tad off. A year before “Monty Python’s Fliegender Zirkus,” and five years before “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the actor/writer/director/everything man proved just how much of a film factotum he really is. Though he’d been working in TV since the late ’60s, Gilliam’s first feature credit came in 1970 in the form of title designer for “Cry of the Banshee.”
If you’re thinking, “Cry of the what?” you’re probably not alone. At all. Directed by Gordon Hessler — whose credits also include “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park” and twelve episodes of “CHiPs” — the film stars Vincent Price as Lord Edward Whitman, an evil Elizabethan nobleman who tries to exterminate an entire coven of witches. (An “evil” witch-hunter seems a bit oxymoronic, but we’ll go with it.) Apparently, Hessler was dissatisfied with the end result, due in large part to mandated edits, which stripped the film of topless nudity and some of its more graphic violence.
Gilliam’s sequence is an anachronistic example of animated titles, featuring an illustrated Price that gives way to flying ghouls, monsters, and a crowned skeleton. The creepy(ish) images are punctuated by music by Les Baxter and lines from the poem “The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe. Uninspiring or campy as the full film might have been, Gilliam’s titles aren’t bad. Sure, they’re dated, but they’re also kind of cool. Plus, it’s fun to see what he was up to before the work that has made him most famous.
Check out the title sequence below. [via Dangerous Minds]