Friday, 10 February 2012

Mattes Up Close - Part Three

As it's summer here, I took a little break and did a multitude of household chores - roof painting, various building projects and such like - all while Mrs NZPete was away overseas so as to make a good impression upon her return (success!!).  In addition I've been helping number two son with his end of diploma 'definitive' student film, which itself has a few interesting matte shots.

Some time ago I posted parts one and two of Mattes Up Close whereby I examined a number of matte paintings in detail - with several quite spectacular examples from the Golden Era.  It's been a long time coming but here is the third chapter in the series and I feel there are some great mattes here, some of which have never seen the light of day before. 

Whenever possible I've obtained close up photographs of mattes, though that's not always possible so in some cases I've tried to blow up detail through the use of Blu Ray images or other means.  Some of the BluRay material looks pretty good in fact and I think there's a good cross section of artist styles, genres and degree of detail which should delight purveyors of traditional hand made matte artistry.  Hope you enjoy this rather sizable collection of hand made wonders.

A special thanks to my friend Dennis Lowe for the wonderful high resolution images of various Doug Ferris and Bob Cuff original paintings.  Also a thank you to Johanna Movassat Domela for the tremendous photos of the sole remaining matte painting from her father Jan's epic career, and also a nod to Robh Ruppel for a few high quality Whitlock images.  Thanks too to Rick Stairstars for those amazing lost Cosgrove shots.   :)

It's been a long time coming........ but here it is......................................


An exciting recent find which, along with three other mattes, surfaced at a film auction was this wonderful original matte painting from the estate of Mario Larrinaga from the exciting Warner Bros. Bogart film ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC (1943). The water and ships are miniatures overseen by effects supervisor Jack Cosgrove and photographed by Edwin DuPar and John Crouse.

Exquisite detail work by Larrinaga. Interestingly, in his memoir, former Warner head of effects, Byron Haskin, wrote of this shot as being painted by Paul Detlefsen, under Jack Cosgrove's supervision.

More detail.  Byron Haskin's book makes many mentions of the Warner Stage 5 matte artists as being "a bunch of nuts."

I'd love to own this piece.

Paul Detlefsen matte from Errol Flynn's ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938).

Detail of Detlefsen's matte art.  This painting was re-used in many, many Warner Bros shows over the years.
Jan Domela's sprawling Arabian fort from the 1957 VistaVision epic OMAR KHAYAM.
Domela's original, and sole surviving painting.  As was the case in certain instances, once the film was complete Jan repainted the 'black matte' area around the road and gateway to complete the painting as a 'stock' matte for use in subsequent films to cut costs.  This is the only known Paramount painting in existence and Domela's family unaware of any other example of Jan's film work anywhere.

Old school style matte art - with much concentration on meticulous detail and precisionPeeling paint in certain spots is unfortunate, though the work has been carefully stored in darkness for all these years.  I offered to buy it but not surprisingly Jan's family don't want to part with it.

More glorious oil painted detail from OMAR KHAYAM (1957).  Effects supervisor was the highly volatile John Fulton, whom Domela frequently crossed swords with (as did everybody it seems).

I love Orientalism art, and Jan's matte beautifully fills that genre and bares a likeness to Jean-Leon Gerome and others.
I know you've seen this before on other blog topics here..... THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO (1944).

An all time favourite matte for me, from an equally memorable film.  The concept and handling of this complex matte shot staggers me.  An utterly flawless finished composite where four elements are expertly tied together by cameraman Mark Davis under the watchful eye of Warren Newcombe. Extensive painting, partial set, ocean plate and all this in turn rear projected behind foreground performers for the briefest of cuts.  So much work for such little screen time!

Detail of the searchlights.

Painted sailors and wings which would be so skillfully blended in the final comp it always leaves my jaw on the floor!!

Jack Cosgrove matte from the effects heavy DUEL IN THE SUN (1946). Everything is painted except the area with the wagon and horses.

Close up detail from a still surviving section of Cosgrove's original painting.
The eye opening finale from a decidedly 'acquired taste' film - ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN (1989)

Doug Ferris' stunning matte painting for the shot.

According to Ferris, director Terry Gilliam was pathological about the level of detail required for the painted sand dunes!
More detail of Doug's sky.

More of the same matte painting.

An exceptional and invisible matte and detail by Mark Sullivan for the Dustin Hoffman film RAINMAN (1988).

Lee LeBlanc supervised and painted several mattes on BEN HUR (1959).

Detail from the opening shot.

More detail.

An Illusion Arts painting from an unknown show.  I asked Bill Taylor about this shot and he couldn't identify it but was sure it wasn't an Al Whitlock painting due to the 'impasto' cloud work.  Thanks to Robh Ruppel for the photo.

Close view of unknown Illusion Arts painting.

The sky work which Bill Taylor pointed out to me "wasn't Al, because he always tended to paint very flat and wouldn't have left any spots where lights might bounce".

More detail.

I think this is either Pangrazio or Evans' work, from RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983).

The original painting at ILM.

Some wonderful close detail from the piece, which I think is from the hand of Michael Pangrazio.

I'm always so keen on examining brushstrokes - be it on mattes or on classical art at the Louvre.
Harrison Ellenshaw's iconic trench shot from the first and by far best, STAR WARS (1977)
Harrison's original painting, executed at Disney Studios.

Detail of Ellenshaw's work and part of the rear projected plate visible upper left.

The dire Spielberg misfire, HOOK (1991), which in it's favour had beautiful Oscar nominated effects work throughout.

Not exactly the same shot but a dazzling example of Mark Sullivan artistry from HOOK.

Mark Sullivan's matte gracing the walls of ILM.

Doug Ferris' matte painting and composite by John Grant for THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS (1997)

Doug Ferris' freewheeling style is evident here.  Doug said once that unlike his Shepperton mentors in the early 60's such as Bob Cuff and George Samuels who would "dot every i and cross every t", Ferris tried to paint as little as possible to achieve the effect.

Doug still has a number of his original glass paintings stored away in his home in Britain.

More detail from WIND IN THE WILLOWS.  Just one of hundreds of mattes Doug Ferris has completed throughout his long career in the British film industry.

Albert Whitlock with one of his HINDENBURG painted glasses.

Whitlock's shot as it appears on screen.

Detail which demonstrates both Whitlocks amazingly loose and free brush style as well as his use of a photo cut out of the actual airship which was pasted to the glass and retouched for this and many other trick shots to Oscar winning glory.
Invisible Paul Detlefsen matte comp from THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938).

Before and after Warner backlot partial set and composite.

Detail from Detlefsen's painting.  Paul was chief matte artist for years at Warners, working with other notables such as Mario and Juan Larrinaga, Chesley Bonestell, Hans Batholowski, Jack Cosgrove and Fitch Fulton.

Doug Ferris's work again - and this is a shot (which may not have been used?)  for the very strange ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN (1989) for which Doug painted many mattes.

Detail of Doug's painting.

More of Ferris' BARON MUNCHAUSEN unused matte.  Note the perspective lines pencilled in.

Francis Coppola's atmospheric BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA (1992) had this terrific Brian Flora matte shot.

Matte World's Brian Flora at work on the above shot.

Detail which amazes the viewer as to just how much was paint and how little was live action!

A matte which was ultimately not used for the Paul McCartney feature GIVE MY REGARDS TO BROADSTREET (1984).  Matte artist was Stephen Perry at Peerless Optical in the UK.  Peerless never had a dedicated matte department so this was a temporary set up for this production.  Most Peerless matte assignments were farmed out to Ray Caple or Bob Cuff

Detail from Stephen's painting.

Early test comps for both day and night shots which were dropped before the blend was perfected.

Michael Pangrazio's matte shot from NEVER ENDING STORY (1984)

Pangrazio's painting just completed.

Detail of Mike's loose, Whitlock-esque brush skills.  Definitely one of Hollywood's best traditional painters of his generation.  Mike's now ensconced with Peter Jackson's WETA here in New Zealand.

Louis Litchtenfield matte done at Van Der Veer photo fx for the Dino DeLaurentiis version of FLASH GORDON (1980)

Close detail of Litchtenfield's painting style.

More evocative detail from the FLASH GORDON matte shot.  Bob Scifo apprenticed on this production with Louis.
Matthew Yuricich with his grand money shot from BEN HUR where we can see MGM's occasional practice of using photo blow ups to form a basis of the painted matte, though in this case it appears to be minimal whereas in others the photograph could be substantial with limited painted enhancement.

Yuricich's ornate Roman detail.

Probably Matthew's masterpiece this iconic matte.

More detail

Henry Hillinick's full painting for FORBIDDEN PLANET (1955) which still survives to this day.

Detail from the Hillinick painting.

More Hillinick detail.
Alfred Hitchcock's pedestrian UNDER CAPRICORN (1949) full painting and on screen shot of same.

This painting recently came up for auction, and is from the estate of Mario Larrinaga.  Although this was a Warner Bros release I was surprised to find Larrinaga as artist as it was an entirely British production so I always figured the many, many really nice matte shots here to be produced in England. 

Tree detail from the Larrinaga painting.

Beautifully rendered detail of the Australian cinematic setting.  Dull film but great matte work throughout.

Terry Jones' excrutiating 1989 film ERIK THE VIKING, like the above film, did have alot of terrific matte shots, with this one by Doug Ferris.

Ferris proudly showing film maker Dennis Lowe his ERIK painting at his UK home.

Detail from ERIK THE VIKING.  Other artists on the show were Bob Cuff, Joy Cuff and Leigh Took.

Doug points out his hidden signature which is intertwined with the detailing.

Albert Whitlock's ice saucer matte from John Carpenter's THE THING (1982).

Detail of Whitlock's art, with partial 'sunbeam' overlay at right.

Ice and snow according to Al.

Walter Percy Day's matte composite from THE MIKADO (1938) with Peter Ellenshaw assisting.

Detail from Day's MIKADO painting.
Robert Stromberg and Syd Dutton added this moody sky and more to CAPE FEAR (1991)

Close look at Stromberg's painted element moving across with split screens. There are several subtle sky mattes in  film.
A long lost unfinished Jack Cosgrove painting, thought to be for an unfilmed port sequence in GONE WITH THE WIND (1939).  The owner of the painting is certain the architecture matches that of GWTW.

Detail of the Cosgrove piece.

More detail which nicely shows the process in mid stream.

Cosgrove GWTW unfinished matte.

Other artists who may have painted on this were Albert Maxwell Simpson, Jack Shaw or Fitch Fulton.
Syd Dutton matte of period New York Harbour from CHAPLIN (1992)


Detail of matte art with blowing flag burned in via travelling matte.
THE ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN (1948) comp and original painting by Mario LarrinagaNote the blend on the actual painting where the photographic blowup of the Warner exterior road and wall is visible and will be replaced during filming with the live action element shot on that same stretch of backlot.


Larrinaga detail.

This painted matte was executed over the top of a photograph of a partial set on Warner's backlot and considerably extends a limited exterior into 16th century Madrid.
Fred Sersen supervised the mattes for the brilliant DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951)

Detail showing the matted in stationary painted cars which have all come to a halt in Times Square.  Similar mattes were done for the Paris and London segments and look good too.

The sensual French film THE LOVER (1991) set in thirties Saigon had a number of sprawling mattes by Doug Ferris.

Close up of Doug's sky.

More detail of Doug's sky and peninsula from THE LOVER (LES AMANTS).

Walter Percy Day with a gigantic glass painting for the 1925 French film LE TERRE PROMISE.

Detail from Percy Day's LA TERRE PROMISE painting.
Now, I know this is in rough shape, but it's worth a look.  An unknown title, possibly by Cosgrove or one of his artists, of a gothic mansion and graveyard.  The reason I include it is the delightful bit of detail (below) which the artist added.

Detail from the upper right corner which shows a chipmunk with a clapperboard.  Maybe an in joke about the director?

Jan Domela before and after from the first ever effects Oscar winning show, SPAWN OF THE NORTH (1938).

Detail of Jan's painting which extends right around into the foreground with invisible additions you'd never spot.
I know I've done EARTHQUAKE previously but these blow ups are fascinating as they show more......

This close up clearly shows Whitlock's drawing with pencil lines indicating the 'complete' Holiday Inn structure which surprisingly Whitlock never made any attempt to obscure. 

Again, Al's pencil work is evident, as is his astonishingly free impressionistic style which worked a treat.

I think Frank Ordaz painted this matte, for RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)

Detail of Ordaz' delicate handling of brush and colour.
The beautiful Powell-Pressburger film THE RED SHOES (1948) had many delightful mattes by Joseph Natanson, Ivor Beddoes, Les Bowie and maybe Judy Jordan.

Close up of the above matte painting.

Again, from THE RED SHOES.  I believe this matte is by Les Bowie.


Ornate architectural detail, probably painted by Les Bowie and composited by Leslie Dear.
A sensational Fred Sersen supervised matte of The Kremlin from THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951)

detail of the onion spires.

More detail of The Kremlin.
A monumental matte puzzle from GONE WITH THE WIND (1939).  Numerous elements including multi plane matte art, miniature upturned wagon and wheels, small live action strip and smoke elements burnt in.  Wow!

close up with miniature wagon etc and painted soldier foreground glass.

close up of upper area of painting with smoke overlays.

more GWTW Cosgrove/Slifer detail.
Another flawless original negative matte from GONE WITH THE WIND as it appears on screen.
An incredibly rare, long lost original Cosgrove painting from GWTW - now in a private collection.

Detail from Cosgrove's matte art.

More magic from GONE WITH THE WIND with the artwork extending even to the left and right lower frame canons etc.

Detail of war torn South

Jena Holman matte for the unfinished THE PRIMEVALS (1978)

Glacial detail by Jena Holman.
ILM matte for RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983) - artist maybe Chris Evans.

Detail of the landing pad.

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) - either Ralph McQuarrie or Mike Pangrazio

Intricate detail from above.
Lee LeBlanc full painting from NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959).

Skyscraper detail.

More of the same, with a tiny sliver of live action where people are matted into extensive shot.  Even cars are fake.
Rare Albert Julion glass matte from DON'T PANIC CHAPS (1959)

Close detail of Julion glass painting.

More close detail from DON'T PANIC CHAPS

Probably Jim Danforth's best ever matte shot - from NEVER ENDING STORY (1984)
Jim's glass painting.


More glorious Danforth detail.
Mel Brooks' HISTORY OF THE WORLD-PART ONE (1981) was a matte fiesta for Whitlock and Dutton.

Detail 1

Detail 2

Detail 3 - the ancient port of Ostea according to Whitlock.  Just sublime.
Leigh Took's wartime village for the tv series REILLY, ACE OF SPIES (1983)

Detail of Leigh's work.
More REILLY detail

Screen comp of painting and plate.

An unused aerial view matte by Jan Domela for THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (1965).

Highly detailed architecture etc.
ILM full painting for STAR TREK II-THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982).  Painter either Chris Evans or Frank Ordaz.

Detail of above painting.

More of same.
While on STAR TREK, here is a well known matte from the original 60's tv series, painted by Albert Whitlock.

Detail of Whitlock's painting which would be altered and used for other episodes if my memory serves me.

More detail


More uncredited Whitlock magic.
Ralph McQuarrie's EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) matte.

Detail from the right side.  Personally I don't care for Ralph's airbrush style, though fully acknowledge his conceptual contributions, without which, I'm sure STAR WARS would never had gotten the 'green light'.

Whitlock and Dutton again - HISTORY OF THE WORLD latent image matte wizardry.

Detail of that magnificent piece of art.

More deliriously good old style oil on glass magic.  CGI this aint!
Albert Maxwell Simpson's very KONG inspired jungle for the old RKO version of SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON (1940).  The similarities aren't surprising as I believe Simpson also painted on the original KONG.

Beautifully atmospheric SWISS FAMILY detail where, as with KONG, danger is suggested behind every bush.

Chris Evans at work on the infamous Genesis Cave matte for STAR TREK II (1982).
Chris' matte nearing completionReportedly the artist was never happy with the final shot.

Detail from a third painting for the Genesis Cave scene - this one by Frank Ordaz.

An awesome Cosgrove painting for Hitchcock's THE PARADINE CASE (1948).

A closer view.
The legendary Peter Ellenshaw with one of his most recognisable mattes - SPARTACUS (1959)

Ellenshaw's art and the two live action crowd plates.

Al Whitlock, who was still at Disney at the time, actually started this massive vista but for some reason couldn't continue, so Ellenshaw took the job over and completed it.

Ellenshaw at his best.....
Ancient Rome never looked so good.

More from Ellenshaw snr.

It's all about the effect of light upon the object, and not the object itself.
One of my all time favourite mattes - this a Cosgrove shot from SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (1944).
Ces Magnifique??


More detail.
The Kevin Costner film ROBIN HOOD - PRINCE OF THIEVES (1991)

Michael Pangrazio's beautiful painting for the opening shot.

Close detail where painter Mike Pangrazio himself will double as the holy man on the minaret.

Close detail of comp.

More detail
Robert Stromberg full painting from STAR TREK - THE NEXT GENERATION television series.

Stromberg's original painting.

Detail from STAR TREK -TNG matte.

More detail.

Stromberg detail.
Albert Whitlock's epic closing matte from HISTORY OF THE WORLD - PART ONE (1981).

Whitlock's detail is in itself a work of art suitable for framing.

More Whitlock that even God couldn't produce as spectacularly!
Matthew Yuricich paints his extreme birds eye view of Spook Central for GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)

Final composite with rear projected live action element mid building.

Mind boggling perspective.

Close up detail of Yuricich painting.
A Doug Ferris composite matte of Gotham City from the first BATMAN (1989)

Ferris' matte painting prior to compositing by cameraman John Grant.

Detail of Doug's Gotham painting.

In the mid 80's Bob Cuff painted this matte for a television commercial.

Cuff was always an advocate of painting each and every detail in his mattes.

More of Bob Cuff's Great Wall of China glass shot.
Peter Ellenshaw painted some 60 mattes for SWORD AND THE ROSE (1953)

Detail of Ellenshaw's SWORD AND THE ROSE painting.

This is actually some Ellenshaw conceptual art for a key SWORD AND THE ROSE matte shot.

Detail from the above.

More detail from SWORD AND THE ROSE.
Another Doug Ferris matte shot from the 80's - this I think from a television commercial.
Doug's painting.

Detail from Doug.

More Doug Ferris trickery.

The African Savannah according to Ferris.

The sky's the limit.... Doug Ferris commercial detail.
Rocco Gioffre's WalleyWorld entree from NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION (1983).

Closer view of Rocco's matte shot.

Another rare Mario Larrinaga matte painting - this one from SARATOGA TRUNK (1945).  Again the original photo blow up of the studio set has been extended and augmented with Larrinaga's matte art.

detail from SARATOGA TRUNK.

More detail.
Yusei Usugi paints one of the largest, and possibly the last, traditional matte shots for I.L.M's DIE HARD 2 (1990).

Detail of 'non existant' airlines for DIE HARD 2.

More detail.
An unfinished painting by Frank Ordaz for RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983).
Millenium Falcon detail by Frank Ordaz.
An old RKO matte, purportedly from MR BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (1948) - though it's not in my DVD

Closer detail.  Possibly painted by Albert Maxwell Simpson.
An unknown film, with this a Doug Ferris matte painting.

Detail of Doug Ferris' painting.

More detail.
A Ray Kellogg supervised matte shot from THE EGYPTIAN (1954).


A Jena Holman matte painting for the incomplete film THE PRIMEVALS (1978)

A view of Jena's detail of the mountain top chalet.


  1. Staggeringly comprehensive, as ever! Your knowledge and research of your subject always amazes. Many thanks!

  2. I never tire of looking at these wonderful paintings. They are among the elements that made movies magical.
    Michael Goldberg
    Nashville, TN

  3. Regarding Die Hard 2, I always thought that it was the first film to use digital matte painitngs;looks like it's also one of the last to use traditional background painting.Thank you for this wealth of information

  4. Wow! Thank you for these cool pictures, I love watching the detailed views, the paintings are so beautiful. Wonderful!!!

  5. Many paintings look realistic. Are these images considered as vintage one's? Where did you get these?

  6. Oh my gosh, this blog just amazes me over and over. The sheer wealth of material is incredible. THANKS!

  7. Hi Pete! Thanks for your kind comments on my blog "BLUSCREENS". I'm sorry i haven't given you an answer earlier but i've been down with a nasty flu the last couple of days. I must say this is a interesting blog as well. Lots of great information, about the Blues Brothers matte shot, i think i know what you're thinking of so i took some caps.

    Here are the links (hope it can be of help to you)

    Just click the pics for full size.

  8. Hi Bernie

    A big thank you for those excellent frames. They are exactly what I was looking for.

    I'm looking forward to your future posts and hope to catch more matte shots from your collection.