This edition of my 'epic' coverage takes a look at some sensational matte painted effects from mostly lesser known films that fall way outside of the typical big budgeted Hollywood extravaganzas we usually associate with this particular genre. Today's posting is somewhat of a mixed bag, in as much as the first two films aren't really films at all - they were both made for television miniseries, although one did receive theatrical release in Europe under a different title. The first two 'films' in today's lineup are superb showcases of the artistry of Albert Whitlock and his tight knit team at Universal Studios.
|An extraordinary matte composite revealed on screen with a complicated not to mention impressive camera move|
|The inferno blazes - entirely created on the matte stand in Whitlock's department with extensive painted city detail, artificially manufactured flame and smoke effect overlays and actors on a blue screen stage.|
|There are many mattes of differing views of the desert encampment and the gradual stages of construction of the huge ramp which will eventually reach the summit of the mountain though I have only included some key examples here.|
|The view at right is a wide panning shot with massed army - in part costumed extras while the rest are painted.|
|Upper left - a terrific Albert Whitlock night painting of Rome with, interestingly, a very Ellenshaw-esque looking sky - the likes of which may be seen frequently in so many Disney shows such as DAVY CROCKETT and THE ABSENT MINDED PROFESSOR - both of which Whitlock worked on alongside Ellenshaw.|
|Photo real matte shots of ancient Rome.... who says oils on glass aren't as convincing as a CG recreation?|
|More sensational Emmy award winning matte shots from A.D (ADDIS DOMINI)|
|Peter Ellenshaw's great SPARTACUS shot being admired by it's proud creator, with pictures of painted detail, live action plate with the same group of extras duplicated twice to fill out the crowd and the finished composite.|
|Former ILM staffers, matte artist Chris Evans and cameraman Craig Barron reflect on Ellenshaw's masterful handling of paint and light in the great SPARTACUS glass shot during a special evening at the A.M.P.A.S|
|These matte shots are really very convincing with beautiful matching of light and hue.|
|THE LONGSHIPS - directed by noted British lighting cameraman Jack Cardiff with mattes painted by Ivor Beddoes.|
|The Sophia Loren - Samuel L.Bronston epic featured this uncredited though well executed tilt down matte shot.|
|Another uncredited matte painted ceiling, this being from the Charlton Heston picture EL CID. Both this FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE and EL CID were directed by Anthony Mann and shot in Europe suggesting fx work completed there.|
DANCER OF THE NILE (1923)
I've written a little previously on my silent era BEN HUR posting about pioneering matte painter and epic visionary Ferdinand Pinney Earle and his contributions to what we know as matte painting. Earle was without a doubt one of the two guiding lights in the development of this process - the other light being Earle's industry compeditor Norman Dawn. The two were, by all accounts arch rivals in seeking ownership of the glass painting process and fought many a battle in the courtrooms in an effort to decide one way or the other.
These examples are from one of Earle's big biblical productions, directed and produced as far as I'm aware, by Earle himself. To the best of my knowledge, DANCER OF THE NILE is one of those many 'lost' films from Hollywood's infancy, with just still images surviving. In my extensive Tribute to Warner Bros Stage 5 effects unit blog I covered the work of Paul Detlefsen, one of the industry's most experienced matte painters. To recap, Detlefsen got his start in matte art through Earle on another lost film THE RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM (also 1923) and continued his apprenticeship on this film, DANCER OF THE NILE and continued on with a long and illustrious career both in matte work and later in popular fine art.
|A scene from DANCER OF THE NILE with the entire scene a Detlefsen painting except the 'wedge' of live action.|
|Once again, a beautiful full frame Paul Detlefsen glass painting with minimal live action.|
|DANCER OF THE NILE extensive Detlefsen matte art.|
|An extremely rare photograph of the actual Detlefsen glass painting with the assistant director and a cast member posing up front. I am quite surprised at the sheer size of this matte as most of that era were very small, which makes me wonder if it was indeed a painting intended as an in camera glass shot as opposed to a composite matte shot?|
|Visionary matte artist and film maker Ferdinand Pinney Earle preparing one of the dozens of matte paintings for his film THE RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM (1923)|
NOAH'S ARK (1929)
I briefly touched upon NOAH'S ARK in my Warner Bros tribute, though have included another rare frame here. I've not seen the film, though would love to if the matte shots and the odd old clip are anything to go by. Paul Grimm was matte painter on this and many other silent era films, having started in the industry like so many others as scenic backing painter as early as 1919. Although he lived until 1974 Grimm had had enough of the moving picture industry and retired just a few years after sound came in, leaving for good in 1932 to pursue a living as a fine artist who's works still fetch good prices.
|Classic use of the age old in camera glass shot to add tops to partially constructed sets.|
|An iconic image from the silent era of grand, hopelessly over expensive productions and screen magic.|
|Another terrific Paul Grimm glass painting from Michael Curtiz' NOAH'S ARK (1929)|
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1923)
I don't have any photographic effects shots from the first TEN COMMANDMENTS - only these old articles from Popular Mechanics magazine from 1923 which spell out the processes used to part the Red Sea the first time around. Roy Pomeroy was photographic effects chief on this show with Fred Moran as his assistant. The numerous travelling matte composites were supervised and carried out by Frank Williams - the leader in such technology at the time - in fact the only avenue for composite photography as far as I'm aware. For more on Williams, visit my blog on the silent film SUNRISE.
|Sorry about the quality - it's all I have. I'm told that the final result resembled two enormous mounds of quivering jelly.|
|UPDATE!... some frames from the original Roy Pomeroy orchestrated Red Sea set piece from the old film! Actually, upon viewing the sequence clip I can say that I was very impressed with the manner of execution.|
RICHARD THE LION HEARTED (1927)
The final silent era glass shot, and in fact the last entry for the Epic films series, is this terrific uncredited glass painting from the silent Douglas Fairbanks adventure RICHARD THE LION HEARTED.
|I have no information as to who did this shot - possibly Ferdinand Earle, Paul Grimm, Paul Detlefsen or Conrad Tritchler - all of whom painted during the silent era. No idea really, but enjoy it anyway.|