|Walter Percy Day - known in the industry as 'Pop' Day - stepfather and mentor to Peter Ellenshaw is shown here painting on Laurence Olivier's HENRY V in 1944 - the year before CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA|
|Percy Day's painted vista of the port of Alexandria (I vaguely recollect)|
|A series of frames pasted together by Domingo Lizcano to illustrate a severe tilt down on what I assume could be a miniature, or even an actual constructed set. The shot is so good it's very hard to work out. If it were a miniature then Bill Warrington would have had alot to do with this effect.|
|Probably a significant set construction with distant city being painted by Day (?)|
|A magnificent effects shot whereby I'm guessing the matte line runs along above the lion statues at left and across the frame at approximately that same level. If so it is utterly superb in camerawork, painting and compositing.|
|I think it's the Alexandria Lighthouse for memory - possibly one of the wonders of the world and the Pop Day painting is beautifully integrated into the live action footage here by effects cameraman Wally Veevers.|
|One of the numerous shots possibly achieved for real with expensive sets, or maybe matte art??|
|Again, the light and perspective are so convincing I'd tend to go with a foreground miniature perhaps?|
|The same here - a jaw dropping visual effect that could possibly be a meticulously set up foreground miniature perfectly blended onto the outdoor set. I really don't know, but the shot is so damned good, with even the fire perfectly scaled. If it is a painted matte I can detect what looks like a soft split running midway along the brickwork of the wall, up and over the statue and across just above the heads of the furtherest away people.|
Now KHARTOUM is a good showcase for some of the best ever matte shots painted by Pinewood mainstay Cliff Cully - a painter who had been in the matte department at that studio since the mid forties working under Les Bowie and Joan Suttie, and presumably alongside a young Albert Whitlock.
Cliff, who's long retired, did alot of mattework for Pinewood over the years, particularly in the sixties and seventies before going out on his own to form Westbury Design and Optical, an effects house specialising in mattes, miniatures and optical effects with Cully's son Neil as effects cameraman and other up and coming effects people on staff such as Steve Begg, Terry Adlam, Steven Archer and Leigh Took. One of the best matte shows the company produced were the terrific paintings for the Clive Barker horror film NIGHT BREED in the late eighties.
Culley's long time associate Roy Field would have photographed the mattes and carried out the compositing. Roy too was a real trooper in the British film industry for decades on other big matte shows such as CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG and culminating in an Oscar for the wonderful SUPERMAN - THE MOVIE in '79.
The picture at left, taken in 1967 in the Pinewood matte department shows Field manning the 65mm matte camera while Culley touches up one of his large glass paintings for CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG.
|A magnificent Cliff Culley painted vista that beautifully sets the flavour of the times.|
|Culley's city with separate subtly blowing palm frond elements added in foreground.|
|The classic and erroneous cliched 'binocular' effect - though Cliff's River Nile is terrific.|
|A key battle sequence has several atmospheric skies added by Culley and Field.|
|Another angle on the battle matte.|
|A grand wide vantage point, superbly painted by Cliff, with on close moving examination what appears to be small slot gags in a few areas to suggest waving palm trees near the city wall. I think KHARTOUM was a 70mm presentation and as Pinewood was set up for 65mm matte photography I'd assume the elements and paintings would have received the old Ultra Panavision treatment.|
|THE MINOTAUR - matte painted composite by Joseph Natanson|
|Matte artist Joseph Natanson|
Some of these films illustrated below fall into the 'sword and sandal' or 'peplum' genre - a genre I'll be the first to admit I just cannot personally abide. However the beautiful matte paintings seen in many of these easily warrant coverage here (and beyond this mere blog and in an official book on the topic of old school European visual effects in my mind).
|Emilio Ruiz del Rio - 'the maestro' in my book!|
The third name largely associated with trick shots and matte art was Italian cult director Mario Bava. I was surprised to learn that Bava executed mattes and glass shots on a great number of his own films, such as the wonderful DANGER DIABOLIK and even on Dario Argento's INFERNO. There are some dazzling examples that follow of some of Bava's glass shots from some Roman sword and sandal epics.
|THE FURY OF ARCHILLES (1962) Joseph Natanson matte shot - It's quite possible that Natanson painted the similar mattes of a Greek fleet for HELEN OF TROY as he was involved on that Warner Bros release, though based at Cinecitta at the time as well. Joseph also painted on the huge Fox film CLEOPATRA, with fellow artist Mary Bone, created one of the vast panoramas of ancient Alexandria.|
|Also from FURY OF ARCHILLES - painted by Joseph Natanson.|
|Natanson glass shot from FURY OF ARCHILLES.|
|A Joseph Natanson matte shot from THE STORY OF JOSEPH AND HIS BRETHREN|
|A Natanson matte from the fifties historic bio pic film FRANCIS OF ASSISI|
|Another Joseph Natanson glass shot, this time from the film COLOSSUS AND THE AMAZON QUEEN|
|HEROD THE GREAT - city glass shot by Joseph Natanson|
|Emilio Ruiz practically invented the notion of using foreground flat two-dimensional panels of art applied more often that not to sheets of aluminium carefully positioned to merge reality and fantasy into hundreds (or thousands) of flawless trick shot composites throughout his very long and very distinguished film career. Among the notable genre films that feature Emilio's great trick work are Ray Harryhausen's wonderful GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1974).|
|Emilio Ruiz foreground matte art from the 1958 film THE WARRIOR AND THE SLAVE GIRL|
|Another Ruiz masterpiece - THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII - a 1959 version I never knew about till now.|
|A story unlike any other I suspect, MEDUSA AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES (1962) Ruiz glass shot.|
|Another painted Ruiz effect, from the same film.|
|Emilio's painted city gates and walls from above titiled 1963 film.|
|In addition to these probable hundreds of Italian and Spanish films, Emillio worked stateside too on a number of films, often for producer Dino DeLaurentiis, whom I suspect he knew from Dino's European days. Some of the films Ruiz painted on or created amazing foreground miniatures were DUNE, the two CONAN films, RED SONYA (with his miniature of the skeleton bridge integrated with an Albert Whitlock matte painting of a foreboding sky) plus many shows for Enzo Castellari such as THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS and EAGLES OVER LONDON - Tarantino's favourite director.|
|I don't know how many trick shots Emilio did, but it must number the thousands, and as far as I know he was still working practically up till his death in 2008.|
|Another wonderful example of Emilio's eye for the visual effect - with these two shots from SHEHERAZADE|
|The Charlton Heston picture ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA - final effect on screen...|
|...and Emilio Ruiz' foreground painting awaiting alignment for the camera.|
|A wonderful demonstration of the skills that made Emilio Ruiz Spain's secret weapon and a leading visual effects artist.|
|A matte deceptively not belonging in the period under discussion, but included all the same as a great work in progress.|
|One of numerous matte shots created throughout the career of noted Italian director and writer Mario Bava, with this shot from a film called THE GIANT OF MARATHON|
|Finally, three matte shots executed by director Mario Bava for the film NERO'S MISTRESS|
|I really only knew Bava by his Barbara Steele films and horror, so this aspect of Mario is quite a surprise to me.|
|The third of three glass shots Mario Bava did for NERO'S MISTRESS|