Sunday, February 26, 2017

Type swap: "Shaft"

Not going to make the obvious "shafted" pun in the opening sentence. Oops.

I was watching Turner Classic Movies last Thursday night. They are showing Academy Award winning and nominated movies -- from the TCM library -- in alphabetical order. In-between 1976's Sherlock Holmes/Sigmund Freud pastiche, "The Seven Percent Solution" and 1937's Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers confection, "Shall We Dance" was the original 1971 Gordon Parks-directed "Shaft."

I was watching the opening credits, enjoying Isaac Hayes Oscar-winning Best Original Song, "The Theme From Shaft," and then I noticed that something was weird with the credits.

Hi-def "Shaft" credits, substituting Arial for the original Helvetica. Also adding a thin black line around the letters. My photo doesn't capture the vivid red of the lettering. They got that part of the credits right. (Click on the photo for a larger view.)

Original "Shaft" credits using Helvetica.

The credits had obviously been re-done when they re-scanned the film for high-def blu-ray and HDTV release. The type was very crisp. It had a thin black outline around the red type that looked really sharp. Too good, maybe. But I won't quibble about type being too sharp.

The second thing I noticed was that the typeface used was Arial. Now, if you don't know about Arial, Mark Simonson wrote a wonderful essay about it and it's history. (And how to identify the typeface.)

I was pretty sure that Arial wasn't around in 1971 when the original "Shaft" credits were made. According to this Wikipedia article, Arial was designed in 1982.

Hi-def "Shaft" credits, substituting Arial for the original Helvetica. 

Original "Shaft" credits using Helvetica.

Anyway, all this was zooming through my brain and it took me a few moments to get my camera out and to take some shots of the new "Shaft" credits.

And after the credits were over, I went to YouTube to look up the original credits.

Hi-def "Shaft" credits, substituting Arial for the original Helvetica. 

Original "Shaft" credits using Helvetica.

It will not come as a shock to know that the original credits were actually done in Helvetica. And it kinda looks like the originals didn't have the black line around the type. But I can't really see that for sure from the YouTube video.

I was hoping the original credits would be in a typeface that has a little snap it. Maybe Franklin Gothic. But Helvetica is cool. I was very surprised that whoever scanned the movie and redid the credits didn't know that the original was Helvetica. Or didn't care enough to match the original. Or didn't have the budget to match the original. Whatever the excuse, to me, there's no excuse for this!

Mystery solved via Internet. The movie itself? It was kinda fun. Angry fun.

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