Howard's expertise largely in optical effects and blue screen work went back to the late thirties with solid credits on such films as THIEF OF BAGHDAD. For a film as grand as QV Howard needed the services of an experienced matte artist, one able to tackle the many and varied composition and design issues on such a film. Enter one Peter Ellenshaw.
|Although not from QUO VADIS, this untitled Ellenshaw matte carried out while at Metro was perfect practice for the precision blending and eye for perspective that would be essential for Peter's biggest challenge to date.|
|Peter was assured by Tom Howard of an on screen credit... which never eventuated unfortunately.|
|Peter's initial establishing view of Rome - an extensive, almost full painting complete with bird in flight to sell the shot.|
|The Appian way - with added Ellenshaw Roman aquaduct and horizon.|
|Peter was proud of his matte work, and rightly so. The marry ups are all exceptional and the blending flawless.|
|Original Cinecetta set with Peter's magnificent extension that blends with perfection, largely thanks to Les Ostinelli.|
|I can't be certain, but the whole left frame looks painted to me, and the right may have Peter's clouds added?|
|The Ellenshaw sense of light and hue was unsurpassed.|
|The money shot - the all time greatest matte shot of ancient Rome in my book. Most of the crowd and virtually all of the buildings are pure Ellenshaw. What a majestic moment with the fine Miklos Rosza fanfare belting out. Of note too for how long this matte stays on screen. Generally painted trick shots were kept to a minimum, but all of the QV mattes have a decent screen time with this one on screen for a considerable time and shown some five separate times by the film editor|
|There are more mattes than these shown here with more closer views and angles of the same scenes.|
|The chariot battle - all shot on a stage in front of a fairly obvious blue screen and composited by Tom Howard with the sort of result the technique was always plagued with in colour films of the day. At one point Robert Taylor's forearm disapears altogether presumably due to blue spill or matting density issues.|
|Now why did I put frames here of QV's exquisite maidens?...... Because I can, so sue me!!|
|Ellenshaw scenery extended above limited soundstage set.|
|An invisible trick shot if ever there were one. Upper half entirely Ellenshaw's oils on glass.|
|Rome burns...is this the end for Nero? Ellenshaw's contribution to the exciting inferno set piece with much Don Jahraus miniature work and excellent Tom Howard composites to tie the extras into the danger.|
|Rome burns! Great Don Jahraus miniatures (though I think Fred Sersen at the opposition studio Fox really held all the cards when it came to this sort of epic effects sequence as seen in IN OLD CHICAGO and THE RAINS CAME, both of which will be featured right here on this very blog soon.....).|
|Excellent blue screen comp of miniature photography here.|
|Peter Ustinov's 'Nero' fiddling while Rome burns....one seriously deluded and misunderstood bastard!|
|There are more angles for the arena sequence and also some interesting split screens to pit hungry lions in the same space as the tired, sinewy Christians. All top calibre work.|
|Before and after Peter's painted crowded forum.|
|A Tom Howard split screen with lions and actors filmed separately, plus Ellenshaw upper artwork.|
|Ellenshaw crowd art plus blue screened close ups with charging bull.|
|The final shot - a standard Heavenly optical ray.|
|A view of the set built at Cinecetta Studios in Rome prior to the addition of Ellenshaw's majestic, sprawling painting.|
|Two examples of Ellenshaw's flawless artistry and superb blends of live action set to matte art.|
All up I've always felt that QUO VADIS had more than enough in it's favour to be a potential Oscar nominee, if not winner in the 1950 special visual effects category ... but the Academy worketh in strange ways.
The Warner DVD is exceptionally well timed and transferred and it's on Blu Ray too. I have some Blu Ray mattes which look sensational.
Tune in again in a day or so for magnificent matte work from THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD.