Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Mattes Go High Definition: The BluRay Experience

PINEWOOD POSTSCRIPT - 

Just prior to journeying through this month's article on BluRay high definition matte imagery I first must include this vital addition to last month's extensive post on the mattes and miniatures from England's Rank Organisation.  As is often the case with my blog posts, material and important information sometimes comes to hand after the fact - and the Pinewood story is a great example.  Often people contact me with promises of old photos of family artifacts and rare pictures, and more often than not they never come to fruition, sadly.  The very day my Pinewood article hit the airwaves I received a wonderful letter from the grand daughter of one of Pinewood and Denham studio's old time special effects veterans, Jimmy Snow.  Jimmy's grand daughter, Brigitte, has spent some time in piecing together her grandfather's career and has amassed a list of credits as long as both my arms as well as some wonderful archival material still in the care of the family.
FX man Jimmy Snow (left) and unidentified associate at Denham Studios.
According to Brigitte, Jimmy was a "quiet and unassuming man and there sadly seems to be little mention of him nowadays".  All of those effects personalities I mentioned in last months' article worked with Jimmy.  Bill Warrington, Bert Marshall, Cliff Culley, Albert Whitlock, Doug Woolsey, Cliff Richardson and many more.  Included among the numerous old photographs in the family album is this absolutely wonderful group photo, shown below, of the whole Pinewood effects crew posing on the miniatures stage for the filming of HOTEL SAHARA in 1951 - pure 100% gold plated motion picture history to fellows like me, and hopefully some of you too.  I'm most grateful to Brigitte for kindly sharing her memories and rare imagery with me.  The following bio was kindly supplied by Brigitte expressly for this blog.
A wonderful group photograph of the Pinewood VFX department, taken in 1951 during model photography on HOTEL SAHARA.  Jimmy-Ackland Snow is at far left with eyeglasses.  Centre of front row is a young Albert Whitlock.  Next to Al is effects cameraman Bert Marshall (with pipe), and at right, leaning on Bert's shoulder is SFX head of department Bill Warrington.  In the back row only two faces are known:  gaffer Ronnie Wells (wearing hat, at right) and next to him is mechanical effects man Frank George.  I am wondering if the fellow at far left in the back row might be Cliff Culley? 


  Jimmy (Ackland-) Snow was just one of the many, largely unheralded behind the scenes technicians within the British film industry. In a career spanning 40 years Jimmy worked on a wide variety of films doing everything from making models and gadgets, special effects like wind, rain and fog, and pyrotechnics. The films Jimmy worked on ranged from The Thief of Bagdad in 1940 to the Carry On and Bond films of the 1970s and included such classics as: In Which we Serve [1942], This Happy Breed [1944], Oliver Twist [1948], Genevieve [1954], Reach for the Sky [1956], Goldfinger [1964], Thunderball [1965] and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang [1968] and many, many more.
 

HOTEL SAHARA (1951) either a Whitlock matte or a combo model shot



A scene from HOTEL SAHARA (1951), likely a totally miniature set up.

Coming from a family of men who were good at all things practical with a tendency toward invention, Jimmy's Grandfather, and to a greater extent his Uncle, used to make props for the illusionists Maskelyne and Devant in London in the first half of the 20th Century. In the latter half of the 20th Century the family scenery business made sets for BBC TV shows such as Morcombe and Wise.
 
Miniature docks, traffic and battleship: IN WHICH WE SERVE (1942)

Before working in the film industry Jimmy was a plumber at Whiteleys of Queensway department store in London and also worked for GEC (General Elecric Company) in Coventry, England. He started as a "chippy" [that's a carpenter to you American readers...Pete] at Denham Studios about 1935, working on the Alexander Korda films Elephant Boy [1937] and The Thief of Bagdad [1940] starring Sabu. His carpentry skills then expanded into model making.

During the War years Jimmy was with the Crown Film Unit (formerly the GPO Film Unit famous for, amongst other things, the critically acclaimed 1936 documentary Night Mail). The CFU produced both propaganda and information films commissioned by the MoI (Ministry of Information), as well as training films for RAF pilots - one example of which was Journey Together produced in 1943. Other films included Coastal Command - a 1942 documentary on the work of the RAF Coastal Command and "story documentaries" such as the short (50 mins) film Target for Tonight [1941]. Filmed in just 3 months Target for Tonight reconstructed a single bombing raid over Germany and portrays the RAF as efficient and powerful (and therefore likely to win). This style of film sometimes used actual war film footage and service personnel instead of, or as well as, actors. Jimmy was playing his part in all this by making models, including complete model airfields for the training films.
 
IN WHICH WE SERVE - excellent film, excellent effects!

After the War, still model-making he worked on the convent for Black Narcissus [1946] and the hotel for Hotel Sahara [1951]. However, by the late 1940s when Denham had become D&P Studios, he was more involved in special effects, both inventing and improving processes and making gadgets. He took out three patents: A Method of Creating Artificial Fog, Mist or Smoke; A Bulletless and Cartridgeless Firearm for use in Theatres, Studios and the like and An Improved Means for Creating Rain Effects Adapted for Cinematographic Studios.
 
 

By the 1950s D&P Studios were producing a wider variety of films some of which were of a more lightweight nature than in previous years, and comedies such as Genevieve in 1953 and Doctor in the House in 1954. The Denham facility closed in 1952 and so the Studios were now just at Pinewood in Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire and Jimmy was now in the "Special Effects Department" as a Jack of all trades doing whatever was called for.

Effects crew prepare the Graf Spee model in the Pinewood tank  for BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE (1956) - one of the rare on screen credits that Jimmy ever received.  That's Jimmy bending down adjusting something near the stern of the ship.  Note the technician seemingly walking on water at rear.       


A few examples of his work over the years: the fires in The History of Mr Polly [1949], monsters on the beach in Quatermass 2 [1957], arranging the bubbles around Diana Dors in An Alligator Named Daisy in [1957], the ice cream in the trombone scene in A Stitch in Time [1963] starring Norman Wisdom, the flying goose that turns it's head to look at the camera in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines [1965] and the revolving number plates and functional ejector seat on the James Bond Aston Martin.
 
ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS MISSING (1942)

Jimmy worked on many of the films made at Pinewood during the 1940s-1960s, and even after officially retiring in the early 1970s he was still doing some work for the Studios. Unbelievably, the list of films he worked on is over 100 titles. As well as his time at Denham and Pinewood he was also seconded to work at other Studios such as Ealing. He worked on David Lean productions such as Great Expectations, the Powell and Pressburger films like 49th Parallel, for Archer Films on Oliver Twist, under the London Films banner on The Thief of Baghdad and even did some Hammer Horror work as special effects supervisor on Dracula Has Risen From the Grave.  Among his many other credits were films as diverse as The Red Shoes [1948], Sink The Bismark [1960] and Dr No [1962] - in which Jimmy and Frank George built and blew up the miniature docks and building at the end to name but a few.
 

Jimmy dressing a large and detailed miniature set, thought to be from QUARTET (1948).  I saw the film years ago though can't recall this setting so it may be another film altogether.

In the early years at Pinewood he worked with Bill Warrington and later with John Stears in a small team including Frank George and Bert Luxford. As others left the Studios and moved on, he stayed. A Londoner through and through, Jimmy did go on location to Malta for The Malta Story [1953], to Tripoli for The Black Tent [1955] and Amsterdam for Operation Amsterdam [1958], but declined an offer to go to America to work for Walt Disney.
 

Jimmy on a model airfield set at Crown Film Unit
In trying to help unravel some of the past for Brigitte I had a chat with Brian Johnson, who himself has had a long and active role in Britain's visual effects industry (and will be subject to an in depth interview in this very blog quite soon!).  Brian told me "Jimmy was a great FX man.  He used to run 'The Bessler' - a monster smoke machine that in wartime could hide an entire airfield!  At the time I knew Jimmy he worked for Les Bowie (at Bowie Films) - as did Bill Warrington when Les was based in the old Gerry Anderson AP Films building on Ipswich Road, Slough Trading Estate - now a tyre depot. Fireball XL5, Supercar and Stingray were all made in this building, and Ray Harryhausen used it to film some of his animation sequences for Jason and the Argonauts.  Jimmy was a wonderful man to work with.  I remember him with great fondness, and his patience with me - a callow youth - was very much appreciated."


Jimmy was only ever credited on screen for his special effects work on Battle of the River Plate. I hope this brief summary of his work will go some way towards ensuring he is not completely forgotten.



Jimmy lathers up UK sex siren Diana Dors for a sequence from AN ALLIGATOR NAMED DAISY (1957).  Jimmy's granddaughter told me that this picture was probably just to show off to his mates down at the pub!

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Mattes Go High Definition

I'm only a recent convert to the BluRay realm of high def home movie viewing, though have been collecting screengrabs from many films containing traditional matte shots since the process kicked off however many years ago it was.  There are a number of excellent sites out there where BluRay discs are reviewed and rated, both in terms of the actual movie itself, as well as the quite stringently assessed technical quality of vision and audio aspects of the disc.  These prove most useful to the connoisseur and reveal much in the way of compression, video and audio artifacts and usually offer eye popping comparisons with other release formats of the same film, with even different BluRay editions from other countries looking surprisingly different in terms of fidelity and so forth.

The quality of the actual BluRay transfers does in fact vary considerably I've found, with results ranging from utterly magnificent at the top end of the scale to surprisingly poor at the other end of the range.  Some titles are so exquisitely mastered and transferred - I just viewed HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962) an hour ago and it's a razor sharp, pristine eye opening treat that gave me a whole new appreciation of the film! A stunner of a transfer, with even the 3-panel ultra wide screen Cinerama photography being surprisingly well mastered and smoothed out for BluRay.  Just while on that film, the process work in the rapids sequence remains as mindblowing as it was then!  Outstanding blending of MGM's tank with Buddy Gillespie's large RP screen (only sequence in the film not shot as 3 strip Cinerama, with 65mm used here)...though as usual, I digress. Being a Warner Home Video release comes as no surprise, as those folks seem to corner the market in top shelf transfers in the format, much as they did in the DVD realm.

Some highly touted BluRay editions look disappointingly 'flat' in the BluRay medium, with GHOSTBUSTERS (1984) being one such soft looking affair. The unforgettably brilliant television series BREAKING BAD (2012) for example,  looks far better on regular DVD than BluRay, with the latter format displaying so much grain and artifact in dark scenes it's hard to believe it's such a recent show.  Grain on DVD is pretty tolerable, but grain on BluRay is a whole other story and looks ten times worse and 'in your face' than you'd ever expect. While Ridley Scott's ALIEN (1979) is immaculate, clean and crisp Jim Cameron's ALIENS (1986) is a veritable grain storm by comparison.

One drawback I've found with the format is that quite often the releases, at least the ones we get here in NZ are sometimes devoid of (or limited) with bonus features that are present on DVD counterparts. I enjoy a good audio commentary and listen to almost all of them as well as watching the making of doco's.  A number of companies releasing films on BluRay are guilty of dropping extras from the format with some examples being THE DEER HUNTER (whereby the 2 disc DVD was fully loaded, but the BluRay has nothing at all).  THE IPCRESS FILE has a ton of bonus material on DVD but very little on BluRay. Likewise BLACK NARCISSUS which has a few features but nothing like the DVD which is packed with material.   ALIEN 1+2 are totally lacking the mammoth 3 hour odd documentaries on each film and all of the other bonus material which made the DVD so sought after, and oddly, SUPERMAN-THE MOVIE which has almost all of the special features ported across from the DVD but lost the most vital one, the excellent Roy Field hosted special effects doco The Men Behind The Magic is absent.  This faux par is inexcusable and means I'll need to hand on to my old DVD as well - just for the doco!  Go figure!
It looks as though I'll have some films in both formats for the sake of completion.


While I have no means of actually grabbing BluRay screenshots myself, here are some of the best sourses of said reviews and occasionally excellent matte shots, should you dig deeply.

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/
http://www.blu-ray.com/
http://www.cinemasquid.com/
http://www.bluscreens.net/
http://blushots.weebly.com/updates.html
http://www.caps-a-holic.com/


There are a number of others but these are the ones I visit most often, with DVD Beaver being the best by a long shot, both in terms of the sheer range and volumes of film titles and genres, as well as the incredibly comprehensive reviews and analysis therein.
Blu-ray.com is useful, though was better in the old days before they started putting great big bloody watermarks across the bottom of the screenshots.  Both this site and the above DVD Beaver are updated daily.
CinemaSquid has a good database, though updates are very infrequent.
Bluscreens.net is excellent in terms of the number of screenshots displayed in as high quality PNG file format for each film.  The owner of that site has been extremely helpful in sending me extra shots of mattes from a number of films such as DICK TRACY, THE BLUES BROTHERS and THE STING.  Thanks Bernie!
If any readers out there have a collection of BluRay matte shots from their own discs that they think I might be interested in (yes, please!) do contact me.  I'm always looking for high quality mattes, especially those without darned watermarks plastered across the best bits!

With that said, here is a pretty good collection of BluRay mattes and a few other effects from films that matter...  Enjoy!

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While not a matte painting, this frame from Kubrick's 2001 (1968) is a matte composite featuring a soundstage set and a forced perspective model of the moon.  The moon terrain miniature was built by Bob and Joy Cuff, while the live action plate - shot some 18 months prior - was split screened in by Richard Yuricich as an original negative matte shot.

Although a tired and tedious affair, sorely devoid of Wise Guys and Made Men, Martin Scorsese's AGE OF INNOCENCE (1992) had several beautiful matte shots by Illusion Arts.  This one is a Syd Dutton matte.

Another AGE OF INNOCENCE matte.  Note the in joke directed at the film's editor Thelma Schoonmaker.

Same film, multi component matte shot.

Close shot from the above elegantly designed VFX sequence.

Same film - a stunning Robert Stromberg matte that's true to the tradition of Dutton and Whitlock in terms of style and technique.  Bravo!

Flawless painted matte set extension from THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938).  Effects chief was Byron Haskin, with Paul Detlefsen as primary matte artist and John Crouse as matte cinematographer.

Gorgeous BluRay master, again from ROBIN HOOD, with another Detlefsen matte shot.  The same painting was reused in at least 4 different Warner Bros films by my counting, though for this show they cropped the top of the painting considerably.  I've got some nice photos of the actual painting on the matte stand in the effects department.
Carol Reed's 1965 epic THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY had some stunning matte work, among the shots were an entire beautifully realsied ethereal 'cloud sequence' where Chuck Heston gets the motivation to paint the Sistine Chapel.  Matte painters were Emil Kosa jr and Jan Domela.

Ray Caple's egg chamber from Ridley Scott's still brilliant masterpiece, ALIEN (1979).  The film never dates and is as fresh today as when I first saw it in '79.

Robert and Dennis Skotak's matte painting which opens James Cameron's ALIENS (1986).  Although this frame looks sensational, the BluRay image in general isn't a patch on the first film.

A crisp, beautifully restored edition of ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930) as demonstrated in this glass shot and miniature foreground by Frank Booth.

Jim Fetherolf's matte art from Disney's BABES IN TOYLAND (1961)

MGM Newcombe shot from the 1951 AN AMERICAN IN PARIS possibly painted by Lou Litchtenfield.

Leigh Took's Bat Cave matte from Tim Burton's BATMAN (1989)

Syd Dutton's matte painting and foreground miniature composite of Gotham City from BATMAN FOREVER (1995)
Bing Crosby's THE BELLS OF SAINT MARYS (1945) had mattes painted in secret by Willis O'Brien during the big Hollywood strike of the time.  Apparently O'Bie painted the mattes at home and smuggled them into the studio past picket lines, or so the story goes.

Probably the most recognised out of all Matthew Yuricich's matte shots was this beauty from BEN HUR (1959)

Also from BEN HUR.  Mattes supervised by Lee LeBlanc.

It's only when studying this shot from BEN HUR on BluRay does it become apparent that a significant portion - almost half the frame in fact - is painted.

Matthew Yuricich's post apocalyptic New York City from BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970).  I recall finding these shots awe inspiring when I saw the film on it's first release - with John Chambers' mutant make ups about as horrific a vision as could ever be concocted!

Now this is an interesting shot from THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN (1969).  If I recall correctly, Wally Veevers made this shot on his so called 'sausage machine' - a home built contraption comprising gears, servos and glass plates - a device he made for Kubrick's 2001 the year before.  FX cameraman Martin Body said that all of the German dive bombers were (if I'm not mistaken) photo cutouts, mounted in several layers on successive sheets of glass, with each layer or sheet of planes gently controlled in a realistic x or y axis so that there was a natural independent sway to each of the aircraft in flight and the whole thing composited against an aerial 2nd unit plate of London, to great effect.

One of the most recognised matte shots in history is this Walter Percy Day shot from BLACK NARCISSUS (1947)
Same film

Same film... I've always loved the design of this shot.

Same film.

The greatest 'downview' in matte history.

Last BluRay matte from BLACK NARCISSUS

A multi part composite from BACKDRAFT (1991) with a miniature rooftop with pyro, a Mark Sullivan painting fleshes out the rest of the shot flawlessly and optically doubled in actors run across rooftop as it collapses.  No, the rest of the film isn't anywhere near as exciting as this wonderful sequence.
Alfred Hitchcock's THE BIRDS (1963) had a number of mattes by Albert Whitlock, some of which nobody ever spotted, such as this one.  Classic Whitlock cloud work in these night skies.

Another atmospheric Whitlock matte from THE BIRDS.
Same film - full painting with small strip of live action and meticulously rotoscoped seagulls matted in.

The famous finale from THE BIRDS which Hitchcock called "the most difficult shot of my entire career."
Albert Whitlock and Syd Dutton matte from THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980) - a film I never tire of.

One of many great mattes and intricate visual effects shots from Jules Dassin's brilliant prison thriller BRUTE FORCE (1947).  David Stanley Horsley was in charge of effects, with Russell Lawsen as matte artist.  Terrific film!

One of the all time best VFX films, BLADERUNNER (1982) was sorely robbed (I repeat, robbed!) of an Oscar by an inexplicably ill deserving Spielberg picture.  This shot is interesting as it's part front screen projection, part matte art and like all of the FX shots in the film is so beautifully designed and executed.  Rarely has any film benefited so well from intelligent, and dare I say it, restrained FX Art Direction as this film.  I dread to think what sort of a 'look' a remake might have from some damned quasi MTV graduate hack!

Matthew Yuricich matte from BLADERUNNER

Same film.  Shots work so well due to wonderfully subtle effects animation and interactive light gags.

Illusion Arts resident artist Robert Stromberg's moody matte shot from Martin Scorsese's CAPE FEAR (1991)

Same film.  If blown up, the trees look like Syd Dutton's handiwork to me, with very loose, impressionistic brush strokes.
An obscure matte from an obscure film, the 1990 version of CAPTAIN AMERICA.  Matte artist Frank Marshall.

A Jan Domela matte from the 1950 Alan Ladd picture CAPTAIN CAREY USA.

Another CAPTAIN CAREY matte shot.  By the way, I have a career article coming up on the work of Paramount's longtime visual effects cinematographer Irmin Roberts, in which I have a stack of rare, never before seen old matte before and afters from the Golden Era.  Roberts was employed at that studio from 1926 till 1959 and shot hundreds of Jan Domela mattes as well as numerous other visual effects shots for Gordon Jennings and John P.Fulton.  Watch this space!

Michael Curtiz's CASABLANCA (1942) had more mattes and miniatures than most people realise.  Lawrence Butler was in charge, with artists Paul Detlefsen, Mario Larrinaga and Hans Bartholowsky on board.

Also from CASABLANCA - this Moroccan market was a partial set on Warner's backlot, augmented with painted top up.

Same film - sprawling effects shot of the airport, whereby, despite some perspective errors, it works pretty well.

Gorgeous matte work by the great Albert Whitlock from the film CAT PEOPLE (1982).  Lots of intricate work here such as moving clouds and gradual shift of light across mountains and village as the clouds part. I've said it before and I'll say it again:  'Music maketh the matte'.... Giorgio Moroder's sublime underscore just sells the shot so well.
Another of the dozen or so mattes which comprise the opening sequence of CAT PEOPLE.

Same film - with painted in sky, moving clouds, cat statue work and rooftops all added by Whitlock and Dutton.


Also from CAT PEOPLE is this utterly invisible matte by Syd Dutton where everything except the pond, people and grass is hand painted.  Some of the far people are part of Dutton's brushwork too.  Upon blow up, the tree work at right is very typical of Syd's style and can also be seen in other projects.

Steven Spielberg's CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE 3rd KIND (1978) with location augmented by Matthew Yuricich's painted horizon, treeline and hills, with the clouds being a practical tank gag with interactive lighting effects doubled in.

Richard Attenborough's rather good bio-pic CHAPLIN (1992) had several nice mattes by Syd Dutton and Albert Whitlock - and composited by Bill Taylor.

One of my favourite films, THE CHINA SYNDROME (1979) is a terrific, frightening thriller, with an unforgettable performance by Jack Lemmon.  This is one of quite a number of utterly flawless Matthew Yuricich painted mattes that can be found in the film if you look hard enough.  Yuricich later lamented giving the paintings away to the film's director.

Another Yuricich shot from THE CHINA SYNDROME.  All painted except small area with guy on stairs in radiation suit.
A Cliff Culley painted mountain and sky matted behind a real castle wall for CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG (1969)

Another full painting from the same film, with flying car matted in.

Ray Harryhausen's CLASH OF THE TITANS (1980) utilised miniatures in the top up split screen shots for the most part, with Cliff Culley and assistant Leigh Took working on the shots.

The huge, runaway budgeted, though thoroughly dreary CLEOPATRA (1963) inexplicably stole the VFX Oscar from Hitchcock's THE BIRDS that year, and all because the big Fox film had three good glass shots.  This one was painted by veteran Polish matte artist Joseph Natanson who made many mattes in Italian films over the years.

CLEOPATRA: The first stage of a massive, panoramic pan across the harbour into the city of ancient Alexandria.

...the continuation of that same pan shot.  The city in the distance and parts of the foreground were painted onto a pair of huge glass sheets, mounted in frames.  The prop statue here is positioned to hide the join between the two glass plates
... and the conclusion of the same pan shot.  Most of the temple structures here are life sized sets, built in Rome.  The painted and the real merge flawlessly on screen and are no doubt why the film took home the effects Oscar.  Art Director John DeCuir devised and supervised this glass shot, though differing stories abound as to who actually painted it.  Some sourses state pioneering effects man Ralph Hammeras, some say an artist named Mary Bone, and others state it was John DeCuir himself.  Whoever it was never got due credit as matte boss Emil Kosa jr got screen credit, plus the Oscar for the shot!

Some delightfully eerie mattes open the film CLUE (1985).  Albert Whitlock and Syd Dutton were responsible.

Same film... I'm a sucker for great haunted house matte shots, and these mattes are a joy.  Nice effects gag overlays for the lightning and interactive light on the rooftop area and trees.

Another CLUE matte.

One of Percy Day's matte painted shots from THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (1943)

Same film - a full painting with no additional animation or live action, yet the slight camera move and sound effects sufficiently sell the notion of a thunderstorm and a fast flowing river, when in fact it's simply a static oil painting. Curse that damned watermark though!

Also from COLONEL BLIMP is this very nice miniature shot with painted background.  The camera does a nice slow swoop down into the model set and smoothly dissolves into the live action equivilant.

The terrific true life story of the infamous German POW camp, THE COLDITZ STORY (1957) featured this beautiful, highly detailed matte painting by Bob Cuff at Shepperton Studios.  One of my all time fave matte shots.

A Jim Danforth matte shot from the film COMMANDO (1985) starring the Governor of California to be.
Rocco Gioffre matte shot from DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990)

One of the many mattes from the Jim Henson puppet epic THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982).  ILM did most of them as far as I know, though UK artist Charles Stoneham was also involved.

Same film, with this terrific shot being a Michael Pangrazio painted matte, and beautifully realised it is too.

Also from THE DARK CRYSTAL

An absolutely photo real painted White House executed by the highly talented Paul Lasaine for the fun movie DAVE (1993).  The film is loaded with astonishingly good matte art, that if it weren't for FX supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw giving me a copy of the before and after reel I'd never have spotted half of 'em!

A Richard Kilroy glass painting from the enjoyable DARKMAN (1990) - a neat little flick that has a whole bunch of great mattes, miniatures and motion control.

One of the best ever science fiction films, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951).   Special effects take a backseat to an intelligent, thought provoking story.  Effects boss was Fred Sersen, with matte artists such as Emil Kosa jr, Menrad von Muldorfer, Cliff Silsby, Ray Kellogg and a young Matthew Yuricich on staff.

Another matte (with highly evident join) from DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.

The hugely enjoyable Paul Bartel satire DEATH RACE 2000 (1975) was a typically cheap Roger Corman affair, though they did manage to somehow hook noted matte artist Matt Yuricich into painting this matte, into which Jack Rabin added live action plate, some minor fx animation and composited the final shot.
Ray Kellogg oversaw the mattes for the film DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS (1954)

A stunning Mike Pangrazio matte from DEMOLITION MAN (1993)

Ray Kellogg supervised the mattes in the tiresome DESIREE (1954)

A flawless matte painted extension by Albert Whitlock from DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971)

I was kindly sent all of the BluRay mattes from DICK TRACY, though as there are so many I'll just include a few here.  This one is a Paul Lasaine matte.

More DICK TRACY magic.

Same film.  I think this is a Michael Lloyd matte.  Wonderful VFX sequence here with wall to wall matte art, miniature train and excellent optical work.  A high point for Buena Vista Visual Effects.
DICK TRACY - Michele Moen matte painted shot.  Just love Michele's perspective here.

DICK TRACY - One more of Michael Lloyd's mattes.

The Boris Karloff picture, DIE MONSTER DIE (1965) was a tight little thriller and is well worth a look.  I'm unsure who did these mattes, even though the show was a Shepperton production and some of the matte work was carried out by Gerald Larn, Gerald told me he never saw these paintings in the matte department that he could recall.  I suspect Les Bowie and Ray Caple may have painted these two quite independently.

Another DIE MONSTER DIE matte shot.

Stanley Kubrick's best film - the 'gets better each time I see it' masterpiece, DR STRANGELOVE - OR HOW I STOPPED WORRYING AND LEARNED TO LOVE THE BOMB (1964).  Wally Veevers was in charge, with Alan Maley painting the rather large matte of the Russian missile battery, into which our beloved Slim Pickens descends.  Pure genius!

Beautiful, high def BluRay screengrab from the Bela Lugosi DRACULA (1931).  Glass shots by Frank Booth.

Another mood setting glass shot from DRACULA.

One more from the same film.  The detail here in these BluRay frames is extraordinary.
Francis Ford Coppola's BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA (1992) was an interesting take on the age old fable and was a showcase for stunning matte and miniature effects, primarily by Craig Barron's Matte World.  The painters included Brian Flora, Bill Mather and Michael Pangrazio.

Hammer were an economical company and would occasionally recycle shots, such as this Ray Caple matte from DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966)  which popped up again in a few other Hammer films around the time.

Gerald Larn's matte art from DOCTOR WHO AND THE DALEKS (1965)
Another Gerald Larn matte painted shot, this time from the sequel, DALEKS INVASION EARTH 2150 (1966)

A spectacular Syd Dutton matte painted shot from David Lynch's DUNE (1985)

A noted film critic once wrote that Albert Whitlock was "the master of the visual effect that doesn't call attention to itself".  Evidence here is the totally convincing matte painting which occurs near the start of the movie EARTHQUAKE (1974).  Only the immediate foreground is real - a partial hole dug on the Universal backlot.  The rest stretching just beyond the piles of dirt to the horizon is pure Whitlock artwork.  I've always loved this unassuming shot.

Another of Al's stunning EARTHQUAKE mattes.  One of his all time best shots as there is nothing here at all that suggests it is in fact a trick shot, it's that good!  The matte line runs just above Charlton Heston's head with everything other than Chuck, the truck and the yellow house being oil paint.... even the roadway the other side of Heston is painted in.  It don't get much better than this folks.

EARTHQUAKE - one of Whitlock's most well publicised shots.  Certainly a loose, though terrific piece of artwork that is only really marred by a couple of things - one being the overly illuminated smoke elements that Al doubled in, and oddly for BluRay, some peculiar colour correction where a violet hue saturates the whole shot.  If you look closely you can even spot Al's original penciled in drawing of the upper floors of the Holiday Inn (I stayed there a couple of times) which were his preliminary lay in before adding the destruction.

Another EARTHQUAKE matte.

Same film

More from EARTHQUAKE

The last BluRay matte from EARTHQUAKE.  A great shot despite Whitlock's amazingly sketchy brushwork.  Albert instinctively knew just how much to paint and where to paint it to sell a trick shot.
20th Century Fox's big epic THE EGYPTIAN (1954) was loaded with matte art - some good and some not so.  Ray Kellogg was head of photographic effects.
THE EGYPTIAN

Same film

Also from THE EGYPTIAN

ILM's new matte department under Harrison Ellenshaw had a large roster of mattes to paint for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)

EMPIRE STRIKES BACK matte, possibly by Ralph McQuarrie.
A great matte shot from a lousy movie - ENEMY MINE (1985).  ILM's matte dept employed people like Sean Joyce and Christopher Evans on this film.

Sean Joyce's epic painting from ENEMY MINE.

Sam Raimi made one good film, the original EVIL DEAD.  The sequels were next to unwatchable, overly flamboyant and childish.  There were however a few matte shots in the second film EVIL DEAD II (1987).  Bob Kayganich was matte artist on the film though this might be a model castle.

Another Bob Kayganich glass shot from EVIL DEAD II

Roger Corman made a number of quite good Edgar Allen Poe adaptations in the sixties, with this show FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960) being a cut above the rest.  Some great uncredited matte shots which I tend to believe were the work of Albert Whitlock as Al did a number of assignments as a freelance artist for the effects house Butler-Glouner, operated by industry veterans Larry Butler and Donald Glouner and Al did paint on some of the other Poe films.

Another HOUSE OF USHER matte - and it's a beauty.  I just love the perspective work here.  Another on my list of faves.
Dino DeLaurentiis' FLASH GORDON (1980), with matte art by Lou Litchtenfield and Bob Scifo.  Not sure if above is a model shot or matte art, but tend to go with art as it does look painted to me.

Another from FLASH GORDON

FLASH GORDON

MGM's sci-fi show FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) had alot of effects shots with Henry Hillinck providing the extensive scenery and half the saucer to this shot.  All of the right side and the top half of the craft is Hillinck's work.

Same film, another of Henry Hillinck's mattes - this time a full painting.  Matthew Yuricich helped out on this shot.

Same film - long time, veteran MGM artist Howard Fisher painted this view of the Krell power shaft.
Although not a matte painting this is a matte shot which combines live action with a large miniature.  The shot is from FRANKENSTEIN (1931) with John P.Fulton, Roswell Hoffman, John Mescall & Donald Jahraus on the effects side.

Alfred Hitchcock was a master film maker who fully understood the potential of trick photography and would utilise it to great effect in almost all of his fifty odd films.  This is a superb Albert Whitlock matte shot from the darkly barbed thriller FRENZY (1971).  Virtually the entire shot is Whitlock artwork (even the people at the far end of the lower floor are painted!) - with just a small set consisting on some stairs and a few feet of gantry being built in the studio.

The second of the two FRENZY mattes (though I have lightened the frame s little as it was so dark).  Once again, it's almost all paint - even some of the trucks - with just a small foreground space to allow actor Barry Foster to enter the shot.  Beautiful 'stretch' in Al's draftsmanship here to match the wide choice of lens employed for the plate photography.

Illusion Arts were given the assignment to provide the big reveal shot pullback for the end of Robert Rodriquez's hugely entertaining FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996).  Robert Stromberg painted the large glass matte, Lynn Ledgerwood provided several foreground miniatures of wrecked cars for depth, while Bill Taylor rear projected live action into a small slot next to the temple.

Cliff Culley's painted ceiling and walls from FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963)
Even those Japanese monster movies seem to have gone hi-def, with this frame from GAMERA VS. BAGERON

Matte painting from the opening scene of Fox's THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR (1947).  Fred Sersen in charge of fx.

A trio of matte artists worked hard on GHOSTBUSTERS (1984).  Matthew Yuricich was chief matte artist and was assisted by Michele Moen and Deno Ganakes.
Another from GHOSTBUSTERS

The best matte in GHOSTBUSTERS with far more painted here than you'd first suspect. Almost all of the floors are Yuricich's work, and even the ceiling in the immediate foreground is painted.  The only actual set is the piece of stairway with the guys on.

Another GHOSTBUSTERS expansive matte, though one I never much cared for.  I'd be surprised if this was Matthew's work as it looks decidedly cheesy.

Same movie with live action foreground, miniature street, guy in a marshmallow suit and matte painted buildings.

A uniquely early look at the Vietnam conflict, Samuel Fuller's CHINA GATE (1957) had some interesting photographic effects work.  This shot looks like a sandwich shot with process background, actors on a stage and glass painted foreground to tie it all together.

Another Ray Kellogg matte shot from CHINA GATE.

A beautifully executed in camera foreground matte painted shot by the great Emilio Ruiz del Rio from the excellent Ray Harryhausen fantasy THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1974).  Both the building at left of screen and the whole fortress/city were painted on a sheet of aluminium positioned on a rig in front of the camera and photographed in natural daylight as a single viewpoint, which was always Emilio's preferred method over his long career.

Richard Donner's THE GOONIES (1985) had a few minor matte shots, with this top up which added the upper sails and rigging as well as the cavernous walls.  Frank Ordaz was the artist.

An early MGM trick shot, from GRAND HOTEL (1932) possibly made by Warren Newcombe with the assistance of Newcombe's old matte partner Neil McGuire

Another view from the same film.

Charlie Chaplin does his fuhrer bit as THE GREAT DICTATOR (1940).  Jack Cosgrove was matte artist and this looks like a matte painting used in a process shot.
An exquisite hanging miniature from David Lean's GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1946).  The entire ceiling, chandeliers and upper walls are a highly detailed model, built by Douglas Woolsey and perfectly lined up on set for principal photography to produce a completely convincing illusion that nobody would ever suspect.

Rocco Gioffre's opening matte for Joe Dante's GREMLINS (1984)

...and here's Rocco's matte for the closing scene of GREMLINS.

THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (1965) was a big effects assignment with a ton of great mattes in it.  Jan Domela painted this shot and several others, while Matthew Yuricich and Albert Maxwell Simpson did the rest.

One of the best matte movies of all time, Selznick's GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) was one of the biggest matte painting projects for years, with so many shots needed.  Jack Cosgrove was principal matte artist, with Albert Maxwell Simpson, Jack Shaw, Fitch Fulton and Byron Crabbe assisting on painting chores.

More from GONE WITH THE WIND.  This actual painting still survives and is just one of two known to be still in existence.
Same film - another fave painted matte for me... just sublime and very much a part of that era of trick work.

Same film, with more painted here than you'd think. Look closely at the cannons and wheels at left, and even the flag!

Same film - so much a product of it's time in design and construction, this matte is a delight and, not uncommonly is almost all paint except a tiny wedge shaped area with the horses etc.  Almost all of the mattes were made on original negative, which given this was 3 strip Technicolor, was no mean feat at the time.

GONE WITH THE WIND - don't you just love that layout and VFX art direction?  Incidentally, many of the mattes were sketched and worked up by a young designer named J.MacMillan Johnson, who would years later head up the visual effects department at MGM through the 60's.

The wonderful closing shot from Hugh Hudson's GREYSTOKE - THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, LORD OF THE APES (1984) - although in re-jigged DVD editions it's the opening shot for some odd reason?  Albert Whitlock painted this in his studio at Universal, with assistant Syd Dutton and cameraman Bill Taylor bringing it to life with a multitude of gags to introduce rays of sunlight, moving clouds, flying birds and falling waterfall - all concocted in Whitlock's workshop!
Samuel Goldwyn's HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSON (1952) used mattes in several sequences.  Clarence Slifer was effects supervisor and cinematographer, with artist unknown, but may have been Jack Shaw, with whom Slifer had had a long working relationship.


Roger Corman's 1963 THE HAUNTED PALACE recycled the same matte shot (with nice perspective) from his earlier PIT AND THE PENDULUM made 2 years prior.  I'd bet my cat that this is an Albert Whitlock matte.

While on Albert, here's one of his from Mel Brooks' HIGH ANXIETY (1978) of The Institute For The Very, Very Nervous.

The upper half of this castle was painted and composited by Ray Caple for HIGHLANDER (1986)
Mel Brooks' not very funny, but a must see for Albert Whitlock's amazing matte shots, HISTORY OF THE WORLD, PART ONE (1981) - there never was a part two before you ask.

Same film - I love this shot and feel it's Whitlock's best in this film... and the film has a hell of a lot of great mattes by Albert assisted by Syd Dutton.  Everything except the small bit of block wall and bushes where the horse and cart is, is painted!  Staggeringly perfect!!  Just love Al's diffused light and feeling of depth of field.

Same film - a magnificent panorama of the Port of Ostere.  I'd love to see the actual glass painting.

Also from HISTORY OF THE WORLD is this shot which comprises a real palace location and a painted in roof, altered top windows, tree tops and a new sky - which has a strangely obvious matte line running across it at right.

Same film - with this matte being a tilt down shot filmed in VistaVision mounted sideways.

Probably the grandest 'The End' the movies have ever seen.  Whitlock's fabulous, and complex glass shot from HISTORY OF THE WORLD.

Syd Dutton's extensive matte, which includes half of the frame and runs just across the heads of those fella's on top of the trucks - from the movie HOFFA (1992)
Yusei Usugi's matte of Neverland from HOOK (1991)

Also from HOOK... I'm trying to recall what Mark Sullivan told me about this shot, but I think it was an Eric Chauvin matte over the top of a substantially retouched photograph - but I may be wrong?

One of many mattes that Les Bowie painted for Hammer Films over the years, with this one from THE HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)

Michael Pangrazio's matte which opens the spoof HOT SHOTS - PART DEUX (1993)

Another of Mike's lovely painted mattes from the same film, though the continuity is all to buggery here as the characters are supposed to be looking through binoculars AT the castle/fortress, yet it's behind them in this shot!

The indescribable, out of control and completely off the wall Japanese spook show HOUSE (1977) is jammed with matte shots and insane opticals, as if the film makers were trying to set some sort of record in effects shots.  Crazy doesn't even begin to describe it... though, highly recommended all the same!

More from HOUSE - not to be confused with the American film by the same title.  No idea who did the mattes on this.

Also from HOUSE.  I have a definite thing for haunted house flicks, though this one is in a class of it's own... sort of?  Leave your sanity at the door folks.

Another of the many mattes and comps from HOUSE (1977).  More than half this frame is pure matte art including the wall of flowers at left.
One of just a handful of very subtle, low key atmospheric mattes in John Ford's HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941).  The painted portion extends right across the frame, partway through the rooftops, though is superbly blended.

I should have put this with the other HOOK mattes... This is an utterly glorious Mark Sullivan paining from said film.  Possibly Mark's all time best.

Mark Sullivan again - with this being THE HUDSUCKER PROXY (1994)

A stunningly complicated Mark Sullivan matte from the same film.  My God, Mark must have gone cross eyed turning this one out!

The 1942 Veronica Lake comedy, I MARRIED A WITCH had a number of trick shots, with this being one.  I can't decide whether this is a Jan Domela matte painting or an Ivyl Burks miniature?  Maybe neither?

Mark Sullivan's German castle matte from INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989)

ILM's fx Oscar winning INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984), with a fully painted cave, with figures added by travelling matte along with steam elements.  Painter might have been Frank Ordaz?

The best matte in INDY's TEMPLE OF DOOM - I think Mike Pangrazio painted this one, with everything visible here painted, except the tiny balcony and kid standing therein.  Phenomenal shot by a master painter.  One of the industry's best.

Same film - Christopher Evans painted this, with Caroleen Green assisting.  A memorable shot and incredible high rez detail in the BluRay transfer.
Also from TEMPLE OF DOOM is this full painting by Mike Pangrazio once again.

Last TEMPLE OF DOOM BluRay shot is this sprawling matte shot from the end of the film.  I found out recently that it is in fact matte painter Caroleen Green seen here doubling for Kate Capshaw.

Fred Williamson and Bo Svenson are shown here in the Enzo Castellari war film THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (1977) with a foreground matte painted scene of destruction by Emilio Ruiz carried out as an invisible in camera effect.

Another flawless in camera foreground painted matte by Emilio Ruiz from the same movie.  All of the vast destruction seen here is pure Ruiz, with some miniatures placed nearest to camera to give depth.
Nobody ever spotted this one, a glass shot from INN OF THE SIXTH HAPPINESS (1958).  The film had a handful of conventional mattes but this one was different, whereas a glass painting of a hilltop walled city was added into an existing Chinese landscape, both as a narrative scene, as well as concealing a hydro-electric power plant and it's huge pipelines that were visible.  No credit for the effects.

I've always been sure that this frame, from THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933), is a glass shot.  I'm certain the roof, chimneys and trees - and possibly the 2nd floor of the house are an addition.  Jack Cosgrove or Russ Lawsen possibly painted.

A colourised frame from Ray Harryhausen's IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955) - a black & white film - shows an extensive matte painted scene with Ray's pissed off marine life doubled in.  Nice shot by an unknown artist.

Les Bowie and Ray Caple's evocative matte from JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963) - complete with cheap costume jewellery draped over the actual artwork at strategic points to complete the illusion. I remember being totally swept away with the notion of film trickery when I first saw this in the cinema years ago.

Another fave fantasy film, Fox's JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH (1959) is a terrific adventure.  Lots of mattes and split screens, supervised by L.B Abbott, with artists Emil Kosa jr, Cliff Silsby, Menrad von Muldorfer and all round effects pioneer Ralph Hammeras involved.

Same film, though incredibly grainy, as in fact a great many composite shots often are due largely to the duping processes of the day, especially in Technicolor, and in CinemaScope!
One of Mark Sullivan's marvellous mattes from the deliriously wacky KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988)

Same film

Another of Mark's mattes from KILLER KLOWNS.

Ken Marschall also provided a couple of painted mattes for KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE.  Nice shot with great interactive light gags within Ken's painting.  If you see just one film about psychotic alien circus clowns out to kick human ass and take over the Earth....  then THIS is it!

Some really nice matte shots can be seen in the big budget spectacle KING OF KINGS (1961).  Lee LeBlanc was artist.

Veteran matte artist Louis Litchtenfield supplied the Skull Island wall for De Laurentiis' KING KONG (1976)
Far more impressive, in every respect, was the 1933 original of KING KONG.  Here's one of the wonderfully atmospheric glass paintings by Mario Larrinaga and Byron Crabbe.  I've said it before folks,  "music, maketh the matte" - with Max Steiner's forboding score completely selling not just the shot, but the whole film.

KING KONG - multi plane glass painted sets such as this with as many as five sheets of painted glass used to build up an innate sense of depth and claustrophobia.

Also from KONG (I mean, seriously... what else could it be from?)  Mario's brother Juan, together with Zachary Hoag painted the New York City glass backings.

Jim Henson's LABYRINTH (1986) had a mix of mattes by both ILM as well as British artists across the pond.

A Caroleen Green matte painting from LABYRINTH

RKO's 1942 film LADY FOR A NIGHT saw this effects shot utilised.  It could be a full model shot due to focal issues in near foreground, but may in fact be a painted house with 3D miniature foreground - something that RKO did on shows like CITIZEN KANE among others.

Doug Ferris painted the upper stories, sky and animated the El Train for this shot from Frank Oz's LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1986).

A film that was hit and miss as far as effects go, LOGAN'S RUN (1976) had some great Matthew Yuricich matte art such as this shot and the one below.  Actually, if you look at the BluRay you'll even spot a couple of other painted mattes that aren't identifiable on regular DVD such as the shot prior to this one where York and Agutter (mmmm!) walk up the steps- the right hand pillar and wall with vines has been painted in by Matthew - really subtle and invisible.
Probably Matthew's best in LOGAN'S RUN - and one of his favourites I'm told.  Many of these still exist with Matt's children.

Another Yuricich matte, this one from the not terribly good 1973 incarnation of the timeless classic LOST HORIZON.  Sadly, the shot is badly designed and it was never going to work from this approach.

Doug Ferris recreated 1930's Saigon for Jean-Jacques Annaud's steamy lust story THE LOVER (1992)
Another of Doug's mattes from THE LOVER with cameraman John Grant adding in smoke and animation of boats.
Veteran old time matte man Howard Fisher painted this wide matte for the 65mm comedy IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1963).  Effects camera Irmin Roberts and James B.Gordon

Harrison Ellenshaw's alien vision from Nicholas Roeg's astoundingly good THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976)

Jan Domela painted a significant set extension (everything above and beyond the foreground courtyard) for Alfred Hitchcock's THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956).  Matte photography Irmin Roberts who would also matte in Doris Day into the painted street at the back of this row of houses -  a matte within a matte.

Hitchcock's most tedious affair arguably, MARNIE (1964) did have some good matte work - quite a lot of it in fact.  Albert Whitlock was matte painter with Ross Hoffman shooting and compositing the mattes.

Same film: I heard from Jim danforth that Universal hated Al's matte shots from this show so much that they asked him to remove them from his showreel!  Jesus!  I have to admit that seeing it on tv back in the 70's the shots looked decidedly 'naff' and unconvincing, probably due to badly timed 16mm prints which, due to the telecine technology of the time made many movies look 'way off the mark' when televised.

One of the great Peter Ellenshaw's 60 odd mattes from MARY POPPINS (1964) looks unusually soft and ill defined in this BluRay grab for some reason.

Another MARY POPPINS matte that looks better, resolution wise, than the former example.

Same film, and what a delightful matte, executed in true Ellenshaw style and panache.

Bob Cuff and Ray Caple worked on the mattes for the excellent MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964)
Erich Kettelhutt's matte art from the 1927 landmark film METROPOLIS.

Another METROPOLIS beautiful glass shots.

An original negative matte shot by Doug Ferris from THE MESSAGE - aka MOHAMMED, MESSENGER OF GOD (1977).  The BluRay is a total mess, with the film being transferred in the incorrect ratio, cropping masses of info from the sides of the image, whereas it was originally a 2.35:1 ratio show.  Someone wasn't doing their job!

Walter Percy Day's glass shot from THE MIKADO (1939)

The movie THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987) employed the services of Matthew Yuricich and Michele Moen on mattes.

Ray Harryhausen's MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (1961) had more mattes than any other of his pictures.  I've read differing stories as to who painted them, with some sources stating Les Bowie and Ray Caple, while others report Shepperton Studios' matte department artists such as George Samuels, Bob Cuff and Doug Ferris??

Same film

Same film:  I've always liked this shot.  Totally painted and waterfall I think was salt, with actors doubled in via the sodium screen matting technique.

Also from MYSTERIOUS ISLAND.  All painted except doubled in actors.  One of Ray's best adventure films in fact.
Rocco Gioffre's wonderful Walley World mattes from the still pretty funny NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION (1983)

Same film

Same film.  ...and after days of tormented travel they finally arrive at the amusement park...and it's CLOSED!

THE NEVER ENDING STORY (1984) with many mattes by both ILM and Jim Danforth.  I seem to recall that Jim painted this one.

Also NEVER ENDING STORY, with this one definitely one of Jim's..... his best in my opinion!  Beautiful work here.

Ray Kellogg's matte painted downview from the Marilyn Monroe picture NIAGARA (1953).  I've always liked this shot.

Charles Laughton only ever directed the one film, but what a film... NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) - one of the most stunningly photographed films of the 50's (by Stanley Cortez) and even has a few matte shots in it by Jack Rabin and artist Irving Block.  This one's a shot most people never notice.  The limited backlot set in foreground has been extended considerably by Rabin who carefully matted in a real river complete with paddle steamer.

Possibly Alfred Hitchcock's best, certainly of his post 1940's films, NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) was something of a matte workout for Lee LeBlanc and Matthew Yuricich, with the above matte being one of Yuricich's.
Same film, the United Nations Building in New York as painted by Lee LeBlanc.

Same film, the interior of the UN building as painted by Matt Yuricich.

One of the many wall to wall Mount Rushmore mattes that NORTH BY NORTHWEST required for the prolonged climax.

A Newcombe shot from the 1957 MGM picture PAL JOEY.
Harrison Ellenshaw's excellent glass matte from Disney's PETE'S DRAGON (1978).

Universal's 1943 version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA displayed a few interesting matte shots such as this one by Russell Lawsen.

Another Lawsen matte from the same film with more painted here than you'd think.

The Edgar Allen Poe chiller THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961) employed master matte artist Albert Whitlock.

One of movie history's most recognised effects shots, the stunning revelation that Charlton Heston finds before him in PLANET OF THE APES (1968).  Emil Kosa jr died that year so this may well have been his final matte painting.

The last stage of a dramatic pullback which is the opening scene from POLTERGEIST 2 (1986).  Matthew Yuricich painted the shot and it looks great on screen.

Bob Scifo's matte for a key scene in the still highly enjoyable PREDATOR (1987).  An excellent VFX film with landmark optical cinematography and it looks sensational on BluRay.

Matthew Yuricich painted some of the mattes on PRINCE VALIANT (1954) under Ray Kellogg's supervision.
Another matte from PRINCE VALIANT.

For the comedy THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987) UK artists Bob Cuff and Doug Ferris painted the mattes.

Same film, a Doug Ferris-John Grant matte shot.

Also from THE PRINCESS BRIDE is this sweeping final shot.  It could be a Cuff-Ferris shot or possibly painted by Ken Marschall matte, as Ken was credited for 'additional mattes'.

The Richard Franklin sequel to the classic Hitchcock thriller, PSYCHO 2 (1982), had some very unusual mattes and a few barely detectable painted extensions such as this one where the Universal backlot has been replaced with hills in the distance.  Albert Whitlock and Syd Dutton were matte painters.

Also from PSYCHO 2 is this almost full screen painting of the local diner and surroundings.  I'm inclined to think of this as a Syd Dutton matte as the tree work at right looks like his brushwork.  Nice sky here.

PSYCHO 2 - with a remarkable, dizzying birdseye view of Norman Bates' house.  All paint here folks except a small area of dirt where the teenager runs out of the house.  Must have been a real head scratcher to draft out this one!

Same film.  I saw all of these before and afters on Whitlock's effects reels in 1986 when I quite by accident met Syd Dutton here in New Zealand.  This is brilliant, with classic Whitlock cloud work and superb composite work by Bill Taylor.
It is just so rare for any New Zealand film to have any special effects (pre Peter Jackson that is) that I can only think of three productions with matte paintings in them.  One of these is THE QUIET EARTH (1985) pictured here.  Kiwi artist Brent Wong painted this matte which was composited on original negative by winding back in the camera and crossing one's fingers, as nobody knew any other way to do it - such was the film industry of the time.

One of Peter Ellenshaw's best ever matte painted shots is this masterpiece from QUO VADIS (1951) - a film loaded with many, many visual effects shots of all varieties that it really should have been an Oscar contender... but don't get me started on bloody Oscar injustices!

Alan Maley's matte from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)

...and from the same film is Michael Pangrazio's very famous closing shot.

A pretty well made disaster movie, before they became a fad - THE RAINS OF RANCHIPUR (1955) had some excellent composite work blending miniature destruction with live action, though I think the original THE RAIN'S CAME (1939) was an all round VFX masterpiece in the artform.  Ray Kellogg was in charge here, with numerous matte artists and effects cameramen involved such as Emil Kosa jr and Walter Castle.
ILM shot from RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983), I think painted by Michael Pangrazio.

Also from JEDI, with most of this huge iron door and wall painted in later.

Also from JEDI is this stunning matte painted forest with landing pad, with  the imperial walker added separately.  I think Frank Ordaz may have painted this shot.

Powell-Pressburger's masterpiece THE RED SHOES (1948) was a glorious film to immerse ones self into.  Stunningly photographed and altogether intoxicating, the picture is a winner all the way.  Beautiful photographic effects throughout, with travelling mattes, opticals, glass shots and matte art - sometimes all at once!  Matte painters were Ivor Beddoes, Joseph Natanson, Judy Jordon and Les Bowie.  Some of the mattes still survive at the BFI in London I'm told.

THE RED SHOES

Also from THE RED SHOES.

Same film with split screen top up matte shot.

My favourite of the RED SHOES mattes.

Same film.  I'm told that Les Bowie painted this glass matte, which cracked under the intense light during photography!
Hitchcock's REBECCA (1940), with a very large miniature that occupied an entire sound stage at Selznick International, augmented with foreground glass painted trees and sky.  Jack Cosgrove was photographic effects director and Clarence Slifer was effects cameraman.

One of Albert Maxwell Simpson's wonderful painted mattes from REBECCA.

The only good thing about the dreadful film RED SONYA (1985) was the terrific Al Whitlock matte work.

Also from RED SONYA is this interesting shot which combines an Emilio Ruiz miniature skeleton with an Albert Whitlock sky matte painting and fire elements.
Laurence Olivier's RICHARD III (1955) had some matte art by Shepperton painters George Samuels & Bob Cuff.

Another RICHARD III matte shot that looks like a full painting.

For Kevin Costner's ROBIN HOOD-PRINCE OF THIEVES (1991) British matte painter Doug Ferris was called upon to provide two paintings of Locksley Castle.

Albert Whitlock did alot of freelance work in the 1960's for companies like Butler-Glouner, such as for the Paramount picture ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS (1964)

Also from ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS.

Mark Sullivan's matte of Graumann's Chinese Theatre from THE ROCKETEER (1991)
Paul Verhoeven's ROBOCOP (1987) was top notch in the effects stakes, with, among other things, Rocco Gioffre's matte art being positively excellent.

A Syd Dutton matte complete with a ton of gags and animation, from THE RUNNING MAN (1987)

Among Alfred Hitchcock's catalogue, SABOTEUR (1942) ranks way up the top in terms of sheer excitement and non stop visual effects - quite possibly Hitch's biggest effects movie outside of THE BIRDS.  Photographic effects by John P.Fulton, with Ross Hoffman as effects cameraman, Charlie Baker on miniatures and RussLawsen and John DeCuir as matte artists.  I'm inclined to think of this shot as a combination miniature Liberty, painted base area with several pockets of live action elements matted in.
Same film - a John DeCuir matte painting.  Love John's sky here.

Another John DeCuir matte shot from SABOTEUR.  John's son told me that his father used to paint most of the mattes on this and other films while his boss, Russ Lawsen spent his time sunbathing up on the roof!.

One more extensive matte painted fx shot from SABOTEUR, probably by Russell Lawsen.

H.Rider Haggard's classic story SHE (1935) had a multitude of excellent mattes and other effects (I did a whole blog on it a few years back).  Byron L.Crabbe was matte artist here.

Another BluRay matte from SHE.

THE SHADOW (1994) was a surprisingly enjoyable flick, loaded with excellent visual effects work by both Matte World and Illusion Arts (both now sadly deceased).  I'm not sure who did this shot, maybe Robert Stromberg?

Same film- Now this shot's a beauty... a Syd Dutton matte which is far more expansive than this frame would suggest, though as a tilt down matte the screengrab only caught the latter part.  Splendid work, and a very large painting too.

Doug Ferris' North Pole matte art from SANTA CLAUS - THE MOVIE (1985)

Same film.
An Albert Whitlock matte from SHIP OF FOOLS (1965) which I think is a full frame painting with some sort of ripple device for the water.  Even the people are painted - an extremely bold move I'd have thought.

A remarkable matte from SHIP OF FOOLS by Whitlock, with the entire frame being pure artwork, supplemented by various fx gags such as ripples, smoke and blinking lights.  Every shot in the film of the ship is a Whitlock creation, and as such the film was submitted to the Academy for consideration that year, but turned down by the AMPAS 'cartel' who knew better.  Indeed!

A striking in camera foreground painted matte by the great Emilio Ruiz del Rio from the dismal Harryhausen picture SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER  (1977).  Emilio was 'the boss' at simple yet utterly photo real illusions for over 45 years.  A true craftsman and visionary.

From the big Fox musical SOUTH PACIFIC (1958) is this comparatively minor matte, though it's the only BluRay matte I've found.  I wish I had those Bali-Hi matte shots in HD... and I wish the guy who still owned them in his garage would send me a photo like he said he would!!!

Syd Dutton's beautiful rendering of King Roland's castle and environs from SPACEBALLS (1987)

From the same film is this Albert Whitlock take on a classic sci-fi iconic fx shot.

Matthew Yuricich's matte of a future dystopian society as seen in SOYLENT GREEN (1972)
SOYLENT GREEN

Stanley Kubrick pretty much disowned SPARTACUS (1960), though I thought it was a good movie.  Clifford Stine did special fx photography with Russ Lawsen providing most of the matte shots.

Same film - I've always found this shot unusual and suspect it may be a combination of miniatures and painting due to the curiously uneven focus at left midground where the temple and pillars seem incongruous with the background scenery.

Same film - I quite like this matte.

Same film, though Peter Ellenshaw was called in to paint this shot.  In fact, Albert Whitlock started on it but for some reason it was passed over to Ellenshaw.  Probably Peter's best ever piece... a beauty.

SPARTACUS - example A of how BluRay screengrabs can differ.....

example B from a different source, with better image and resolution.

William Holden's excellent STALAG 17 (1953) opened the story with this fx shot of said POW camp.  Not sure, but it looks like a combination miniature (by Ivyl Burks) and matte painting (by Jan Domela) which was common practice at Paramount.
For the Stephen King adaptation STAND BY ME (1986) matte artist Ken Marschall painted this shot which added most of the forest, all of the horizon and the sky - though you'd never know it.


Salvador Dali even got in on the matte caper with several shots in Hitchcock's experimental misfire SPELLBOUND (1945).  I saw this actual painting as part of an exhibition at a gallery in Singapore 2 or so years ago.

Another Dali matte painting from SPELLBOUND.

Christopher Evans' matte from STAR TREK IV - THE VOYAGE HOME (1986)

Harrison Ellenshaw's iconic power trench from STAR WARS (1977).  I never figured out why they didn't bother with hand railings on that bloody gantry.  Health & Safety was apparently lacking on the Death Star.

The shot that director George Roy Hill called "the best shot in the movie" - Albert Whitlock's exquisite El Train shot from THE STING (1973).  A masterpiece among matte shots!  Say no more.

Another of Whitlock's mattes from THE STING.
For John Carpenter's 1984 feature STARMAN, Industrial Light & Magic's Frank Ordaz painted this matte.

Nice BluRay matte from one of those interminable STAR TREK spinoffs - I think its from STAR TREK-THE NEXT GENERATION episode The Best of Both Worlds?  Probably an Illusion Arts matte shot by Robert Stromberg.

Les Bowie matte shot from SUPERMAN-THE MOVIE (1978)

Same film and what appears to be a full painting combined with Les Bowie's tempera paint in water gag for the mushroom cloud.

Also from SUPERMAN, I believe Ray Caple painted this glorious view of The Fortress of Solitude. Magnificent!

SUPERMAN matte painted shot.

Peter Ellenshaw painted some great mattes for the less than impressive SUPERMAN IV-THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987)

Same film.

Also from SUPERMAN IV is this amazingly impressionistic matte shot by Peter Ellenshaw that actually slips by unnoticed.  Everything bar the small piece of live action on the sidewalk and one or two cars is painted on glass!!!

The F.W Murnau silent film SUNRISE (1927) was an outstanding visual effects film, with some pretty amazing Frank Williams travelling matte process shots and forced perspective miniatures as well as this Schufftan shot of the train arriving at a non existant station.  I can't recall the precise details of how the show broke down, but it is a significant trick shot nonetheless.

A creepy looking piece of real estate is seen in the RKO picture STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT (1942)
I've been planning on doing a follow up to my MGM TARZAN matte shot post with an RKO TARZAN matte shot post, as there are a great many mattes in some of those.  This is one such matte, and it's in the film TARZAN AND THE AMAZONS (1945).  Matte art probably by Chesley Bonestell or Albert Maxwell Simpson.

Cecil B.DeMille's THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) was a blockbuster by anyones reckoning.  This shot's a combined miniature (the whole upper half), a huge live action location plate and a matte painting used to blend the two together.  Effects supervised by John Fulton, VFX cameraman Irmin Roberts, miniatures Ivyl Burks, matte art Jan Domela.

The same view as seen later on in the story with an even more complex shot with more elements layered in including blue screen foreground.

Same film, with the principals blue screened into a split screen matte shot consisting of a live action plate with sheep and a Jan Domela painted mountain with an actual smoke element added as cloud.

One more from TEN COMMANDMENTS with a complex multi element shot comprising blue screened live action, painted sky and model statue.


The first CinemaScope widescreen film, THE ROBE (1954) had a few hit or miss matte shots, overseen by Ray Kellogg.

Larry Cohen's THE STUFF (1985) used a variety of special effects methods, with a couple of matte paintings, one by Jim Danforth and the other (shown here) by Mark Sullivan.  All painted except the soldiers and the optically doubled in 'gunk'.  Love the painted truck and trailer.  Check out my very detailed Sullivan tribute and interview from late last year to see more pics of this matte and a hundred others.

A Jim Danforth painted matte - which I swear isn't in either the VHS or the DVD I saw - from the silly John Carpenter show THEY LIVE (1988).  Aside from the people in the centre of the frame the entire shot is a painting - even the guy at right.

THEY LIVE - a full matte painting by Jim Danforth with a live action pyro element added.  See my extensive Jim Danforth interview (and I do mean extensive!) for much more on Jim's amazing matte art.



Paramount made a creepy ghost story with Ray Milland called THE UNINVITED (1944) which had some nice effects shots.  The quintessential haunted house atop the cliff was a Jan Domela matte, photographed by longtime Paramount veteran FX man Irmin Roberts.

Still a great movie some 30 years later, John Carpenter's THE THING (1982) blew my friggen mind back in the day, and still works a treat.  Albert Whitlock painted the mattes and did wonders with his customary soft, moving sunlight gag across the painted crater, with the folk blue screened in by Bill Taylor.

Also from THE THING - another Whitlock matte where even the helicopter has been painted in.  As a side note, the recent 2011 prequel of the same name was pretty damned good in my book and had a lot going for it, namely a strong reliance wherever possible to use prosthetics and mechanical gags for the grisly mayhem (like Carpenter's film) with CG kept to a minimum.  Some great shocks and a far better flick than you might anticipate.

The classic Sabu fantasy THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1940) used hanging miniatures as well as mattes, with this being one of Johnny Mills' foreground hanging miniatures, which works to great effect.
A Percy Day matte shot from THIEF OF BAGHDAD
William Cameron Menzies' THINGS TO COME (1936) is somewhat dated now, though still has much creative appeal.  This shot may be a matte by Percy Day though I feel it's more likely a Ned Mann hanging miniature, carefully positioned as a whole wide range of destruction - a Mann specialty.

For David Lean's THIS HAPPY BREED (1944), British matte shot pioneer Percy Day painted in this cathedral among other shots.

The Bond film THUNDERBALL - which outrageously took home a most undeserving Oscar for FX - had this shot which may be a Cliff Culley matte shot (or may not?)
A stunning Ray Caple matte painted shot from the bizarre TIME BANDITS (1981)

Another Caple matte from TIME BANDITS.

For Hitchcock's TORN CURTAIN (1966), matte painter Albert Whitlock was required to create an entire East German museum via matte art for a key sequence with some half dozen back to back painted mattes.  I wish I had BluRay grabs of all of those shots as they are terrific.

Another of the 6 mattes Whitlock created for the museum chase.  Even the paintings on the wall are part of Whitlock's glass shot.

Bob Scifo matte shot from TOTAL RECALL (1990)

An outstanding visual effect from a still terrific movie, THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974) opened with this seemingly authentic shot of the 138 story building of the title, plus a second skyscraper - both miniatures - matted into the San Francisco skyline with the icing on the cake being a helicopter that flies into shot and is beautifully rotoscoped crossing in front of and then circling behind the twin skyscrapers.  Sensational effect by L.B Abbott and Frank van der Veer.

A Matthew Yuricich matte shot from TOWERING INFERNO with Paul Newman bluescreened in.

A really fun little hommage to fifties style Universal monster movies, TREMORS (1990) had a truckload of great monster and model fx by the Skotak brothers as well as a couple of Robert Stromberg matte paintings such as this.

A picture perfect matte composite from the amusing John Wayne show THE WAR WAGON (1967).  Albert Whitlock was matte artist and veteran Universal FX cameraman Roswell Hoffman assembled the shot.  Whitlock was the master of light and had a instinct that few other matte people possessed.

A classic 30's era matte by Conrad Tritshler from the film WHITE ZOMBIE (1932)

The mood setting opening sequence from Hitchcock's VERTIGO (1958) with Jimmy Stewart bluescreened into what could be a miniature set on the stage at Paramount.  John P. Fulton was FX chief with Irmin Roberts as FX cinematographer and Paul Lerpae handling optical compositing.

Stunning mattes from ILM's effects guys for WILLOW (1988).  Matte painter for this shot was Chris Evans.

Another of the uniformly excellent mattes from WILLOW - a film that hits bullseye with all of it's VFX actually.

WILLOW - a Caroleen Green matte painted throne room that's completely photo real.

Same film - with this being a Mike Pangrazio matte painting, with even more visible in the film as the camera does a tilt.
The awesome closing shot from WILLOW is a Chris Evans matte painting with real water and a few people added in.

MGM's timeless WIZARD OF OZ (1939) had some glaring matte art, though there were a few really superb pieces such as this early on shot where most of the frame is painted (with pastel crayons in fact) and blended superbly.  This one sold recently for a fortune - I forget how much, but a hefty amount.

Same film.

Same film - the mattes were done uner the supervision of Warren Newcombe with artists such as Rufus Harrington, Candelario Rivas and others working on the shots.

Also from WIZARD OF OZ

WIZARD OF OZ matte.

Lon Chaney's THE WOLFMAN (1941) was a solid film from the Universal moster stable.  Future highly regarded Production Designer John DeCuir worked under Universal's matte chief Russell Lawsen for several years and painted on this film among many others.

THE WOLFMAN matte, which includes most of the scene, combined with the forecourt area by means of a soft blend that runs through the vegetation and hedgerow.  Possibly a John DeCuir painting.

Also from THE WOLFMAN

...and finally, a Matthew Yuricich glass painting from Mel Brooks' YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974).  As a sidenote, I remember seeing this film at the Plaza theatre (now long gone)here in Auckland back in '74 and being quite pissed off that the show was in black & white, while the lobbycards outsidewere all in full colour.

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Well, that's about it for another of these marathon type fests (I do it all in one go, while the kama is right!).  Next up is hopefully an interesting career tribute on veteran Paramount VFX cinematographer Irmin Roberts.  Irmin worked at the studio from 1926 through to 1959 (!) and then worked freelance.  Irmin's son and family have been extremely generous with photos, stories and info, with a stack of hithertoo unseen matte before and afters to share... so stay tuned.

Peter

10 comments:

  1. Thanks for all your epic posts on Matte Paintings, there a real treat to read.

    When they do digital restoration on some of these films do they 'touch up' minor issues, for instance a hot spot in a back projected plate or the black edge of an un-aligned matte?

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    1. Hi Brian

      I don't really know. Some special films get the full treatment with scratch and dust removal and complete new timing of colour and contrast etc, with some vintage films looking phenomenally 'clean' on BluRay. I don't know about hot spots in RP shots though I think Harryhausen's films had a complete going over to correct inbalances in picture and sound, but really I don't know much about this side. Harrison Ellenshaw told me recently that the remastering of THE BLACK HOLE for BluRay was done really well, with clearly visible wires etc now not visible and the elements looking better than ever.

      Peter

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  2. Every time I see a new one of these entries I'm both blown away and afraid that the herculean effort might have taken so much out of you that I might not see another new entry. Holy S**t! You have REALLY raised the bar impossibly high.

    I haven't dealt with the whole blue-ray/hi-def issue yet but as I'm relocating this August that will probably be the time that I do. The big CRT TV is NOT coming with us.

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    1. Hi Spencer

      It's always good to see a note or email from you. By all means dump the old CRT TV and treat yourself to a LCD big flat screen TV. I've got a nice Samsung 55 inch LCD with about a million settings possibilities, so the best BluRay's look totally s**t hot!

      Peter

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  3. Thanks for the mention Pete! Great to hear you started to look at blu-ray, some of them are absolutely stunning. Great pictures in this post! Be sure too drop me a line on my website if you have a request for a movie, maybe i can do some caps for you!

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  4. Hi Bernie

    I'm glad you found this post. I tried to find a way to inform you but couldn't figure out a means.
    Always enjoy your site but get disappointed when you feature a film that I know has great matte shots in it, though these aren't included in your selection (a common trait among all BD sites....) - though I understand, as the regular punter couldn't care a damn about 'mattes and VFX' shots.

    Pete

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  5. Great photos of these great matte paintings. Awesome stuff!!! The ones from the Star Wars , Indiana Jones and Superman films are my favorite!!! Keep up the good work.

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  6. Just curious if anyone can offer comments about the quality of Disney's streaming HD movies from Amazon (hopefully they will offer these on blu ray eventually) ?

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  7. Wonderful site! Been reading for a long time and am impressed upon each visit!
    Concerning your comment concerning grain in blu-ray, specifically comparing Alien v Aliens, I would be curious to know if perhaps the grain factor is a result of the original film negative or the type of lenses used. Alien, shot with a 100 ISO, would have a smaller film grain than Aliens which was shot with a faster film speed of 400 ISO and a larger film grain. On top of that, Alien utilized an anamorphic lens known to lessen grain while remaining sharp as opposed to a spherical lens used on Aliens to allow it to shoot in lower light. Is it possible that these factors are magnified on blu-ray and unproblematic to lower resolution formats (dvd, vhs) or unrecognizeable on classic 35mm film projection. I cant help but wonder if the problem you see goes back to the original cinematography. Note: I have never seen a blu-ray, so I'm really swinging in the dark here, ha!

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  8. classic,
    love the classic story

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