Friday, 31 May 2013

A Matter of Perspective





BLACK NARCISSUS matte shot by Walter Percy Day

A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE
It’s that time again whereby I unleash yet another of my favourite sub-genre’s of matte artistry – that being  the art of the painted perspective, though before I embark upon that I must draw my readers’ attention to a new blog on matte art which has arrived on the web.  Though the blog may be new the man behind it has in fact been an active and authoritative researcher and collector on the topic for many years.  Madrid based special effects technician and author Domingo Lizcano has, for well over a decade, run his exhaustively thorough Art in Movies website (link at right) – a site that I have often made mention of in my own writings. 
 By Domingo’s own admission Art in Movies was becoming a little too cluttered and tricky to navigate, leading it’s author no choice other than to seriously reconstruct same as a larger, easier journey for those interested to embark on it’s myriad of treasures hidden within.  I’ve had a look at some of the new, as yet unreleased format and it’s very impressive indeed.  In the mean time Domingo has set up the aforementioned blog Movie Matte Painting (see link at right) whereby he has assembled some rarely seen (mostly new to me) matte magic from obscure European and Russian cinema as well as little seen small epics from some US production houses.  Domingo really knows his stuff, and has been of great help to me with any of the non US or UK matte art shows I’ve profiled with his friendship and work with noted effects icons such as the great Emilio Ruiz del Rio and others proving vital.

Before proceeding with today’s blog I must draw attention to a mystery which has baffled SFX scholars for decades which I alluded to in my last article on Ray Harryhausen – that being the true provenance of that Middle Eastern city matte shot in THE 7th VOYAGE OF SINBAD.  Well, thanks once again to my pal Domingo’s tireless detective work it can now be confirmed that the shot in question (which even Harryhausen himself had long lost track of) is from the Universal costumer THE VEIL OF BAGDAD (1953) starring Victor Mature and most likely the work of resident matte artist Russell Lawsen.  You’d be surprised how many of Ray’s fans, friends and supporters around the world have found this nugget of info the Holy Grail of trick shot heritage.  Thanks again Domingo!

HELLRAISER II-HELLBOUND
So…here we are with A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE .  So, what’s it all about I hear you say?  As any artist knows, the mastery of perspective in draftsmanship is essential, and many magnificent classicists such as Canaletto’s Venitian and London works and a particular favourite of mine being Louis Daguerre’s masterpiece Ruins of The Chapel at Holyrood by Moonlight.
Perspective work in the realms of matte art is essential to realistically tie the elements together and can be the first dead giveaway to the audience when it doesn’t work as it should.  Of course there are those extreme shots where a normalised perspective must, out of necessity, be exaggerated for dramatic effect – more often than not to simulate a unusually wide lens and choice of camera position as dictated by the director. 
  
These shots I find incredibly exciting and a joy to behold.  They weren’t all that common in the era of traditional matte work and appear more and more nowadays in the newer CG stylised over the top school of film making.  Those shots and films fall outside of the scope (and interest) of NZPete’s blog, though I have included a few extreme miniature shots here to compliment the matte work.



In putting this collection together I’ve covered the gamut of fairly ‘standardised’ mattes with beautifully realised vanishing points such as street views  and suchlike which I like very much, right the way through to vertigo inducing downview mattes which, being afraid of heights myself,  make my hair stand on end!  There are even a few outright wacky perspective matte shots that may not appeal to all but delight your editor/author no end.  I know some of these shots have appeared in previous blogs of mine, but some are so bloody good and fully interchangeable they belong here too.

I’d like to extend my thanks to matte artist Richard Kilroy for providing me with some wonderful, rare material here and also to my pal Domingo Lizcano for several last minute add ons I’d never seen before that thrilled me considerably.
So, with that wordy pre-amble let us take a look at some beautifully realised and imaginative examples of THE ART OF PERSPECTIVE.
Enjoy

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What a fabulous shot to begin this gallery with - THE ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES (1993) which utilised the painting talents of Syd Dutton and Robert Stromberg of Illusion Arts.  They don't get much more extreme than this one.

Another from ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES though I think this one's a miniature with a moving painted sky
A wonderful old Technicolor matte from the 1938 ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, whereby Paul Detlefsen was principal artist in the very large effects department under Byron Haskin.

Albert Whitlock and Syd Dutton supplied a number of wonderful mattes for the tv series AIRWOLF in the mid 80's.

Undetectable matte painted set extensions by Albert Whitlock for the excellent and thrilling film THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN (1970) which was submitted unsuccessfully to AMPAS as a potential Academy Award nominee.

MGM had probably the best matte artists in the business throughout the Golden Era, which under Warren Newcombe's watchful eye produced this shot being a particular favourite matte for me, from the war picture BATAAN (1943).  Wonderful draftsmanship and bold choice of composition for what otherwise might have been a rather drab viewpoint in lesser hands.  Artists active probably Joe Duncan Gleason, Howard Fisher and others.

Another beauty from BATAAN (1943), almost certainly executed with fine pastel crayons as was the chosen method at MGM for years with surprisingly good results.
Tim Burton's 1989 reincarnation of BATMAN featured a gaggle of British matte artists on various shots, with this one being the work of Leigh Took.  The immediate sequel had nice work but the BatCave was pretty unimaginative.

Another matte from the '89 BATMAN - with this one dizzying viewpoint painted by Ray Caple.

The follow up, BATMAN RETURNS (1992) featured this beauty of a matte supervised by Craig Barron and painted by either Mike Pangrazio or Chris Evans at Matte World

The multi-plane matte paintings (buildings on one glass and sky moving on another) at Matte World for BATMAN RETURNS.
Although it's primarily mattes we're all about here, I can't resist these dynamic miniature set ups from the same film which work a treat.

One of ILM's customary high impact matte shots prevalent in so much of their 80's output, with this from BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED (1987).  Christopher Evans was one of the painters on the show.

I've always loved this one - a Syd Dutton rendering from the insufferable 80's tv series BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

One of George Lucas' made for tv films - EWOKS AND THE BATTLE FOR ENDOR (1985) was chock full of fine mattes, most of them original negative as I understand it.  Artists included Michael Pangrazio & Caroleen Green. 
The loud and rather grating BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986) though a huge effects show was virtually absent of painted mattes except this uncredited one, possibly by Michele Moen or Matthew Yuricich.

The oddball 1991 comedy BILL AND TED'S BOGUS JOURNEY had several mattes which all took on a curious digital paintbox appearance for some reason.  Matthew Yuricich and Rocco Gioffre worked on the show.

United Artists rarely gave screen credit for effects and as only a financier & distributor had no actual studio facilities.  This shot from John Frankenheimer's THE BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ (1962) is almost certainly a matte painted set extension with probably all but the lowest level painted in by an unknown matte artist.  Possibly a Film Effects of Hollywood job, and maybe the work of someone like Albert Maxwell Simpson or Cliff Silsby.  Former Paramount artist Jan Domela did freelance work for Film Effects too around that time so it may have been his matte.

The film which should have taken the 1982 Oscar for it's picture perfect VFX design and execution, BLADERUNNER.
BLADERUNNER edge of the seat matte thrills.  Matthew Yuricich was chief matte artist and was assisted by Rocco Gioffre and a young Michele Moen.
Another BLADERUNNER matte, possibly by Rocco Gioffre who contributed several dramatic downviews to the climax of the film.

They don't get much more edgy than the shots in Powell-Pressburger's classic BLACK NARCISSUS (1947) with matte art by the great Walter Percy Day.  See also the pic at the start of this blog for the grand-daddy of all perspective mattes.
Nice vanishing point here from THE BLACK HOLE (1979) though, as I mentioned in my most enjoyable and detailed conversations with Harrison Ellenshaw, the matte art sometimes wasn't well served by washed out RP live action elements, none more obvious than shown here.

Another Harrison Ellenshaw shot from THE BLACK HOLE.
Emilio Ruiz was the master at combining both foreground paintings and/or photo real miniatures to simple production shots to expand scenes as required.  This shot from the film CAT'S EYE (1985) may be a combination of both, all shot in camera for quality and speed.

Cliff Culley matte art with British comic Norman Wisdom added in via travelling matte for the pretty funny THE BULLDOG BREED (1960).  Which reminds me, I've still got a Pinewood-Rank tribute to do.  Stay tuned.... lots of stuff.
Although not an extreme perspective shot I find this matte from CIRCUS WORLD (1964) interesting nonetheless.  Painted at Shepperton Studios by either George Samuels or Bob Cuff, the shot never made the final cut and looks like an unfinished test.  Thanks to Doug Ferris and Dennis Lowe for providing it.

The maestro Albert Whitlock stated that this was the most difficult trick shot he'd ever done in his long career.  The frame is from the matte heavy opening set piece from COLOSSUS-THE FORBIN PROJECT (1969) and aside from the superbly realised vanishing point and perspective (80% of this is pure artwork), the amount of delicate cel animated lighting and interactive effects - all done on original negative - was and remains jaw dropping.  Apparently Universal absolutely were over the moon about this shot.  One of the all time great VFX shots, and as I've written often, one that hits bullseye with the accompanying sound effects cues.

Another of the numerous Whitlock mattes which open COLOSSUS-THE FORBIN PROJECT and once again all paint except a small area of bridge, augmented with animation and light effects of doorway.
Minor matte add ons for Danny Kaye's THE COURT JESTER (1956). FX by John P.Fulton.  Matte artist Jan Domela. 

I rather like this uncredited matte shot from DANIEL STEELE'S JEWELS (1992).  Possibly a Cliff Culley shot?

Richard Kilroy painted this and a few other key mattes at Introvision Inc. for the under rated DARKMAN (1990).  A great little movie packed with excellent mattes, miniatures, motion control, comps and pyro.

Absolutely one of the best ever perspective mattes - another of Richard Kilroy's DARKMAN paintings which happens to be a stunner both in terms of draftsmanship and sheer screen drama.  I just can't get enough of this one.  I mis-credited it in a recent blog (Painted Skies) to Richard's fellow artist Rick Rische, who also painted on the same film.
As much as I love the effects work in CITIZEN KANE (1941) this is one of the few shots which fail.  A patently obvious painting which looks more like a drawing, with quite clumsy draftsmanship and irregular perspective.  I doubt that Chesley Bonestell or Mario Larrinaga painted this one.

I like this one though - a wonderful viewpoint from CITIZEN KANE with much artwork and multiple live action elements

Subtle, convincing and quite considerable painted extension by Les Bowie and Ray Caple for Hammer Films' THE BRIDES OF DRACULA  (1960)
Michael Lloyd's evocative and virtually full screen painting for DICK TRACY (1990)

Michele Moen painted this interior to the DICK TRACY tram barn which nicely compliments Michael Lloyd's exterior shown above.  A vastly under valued FX film which should have had some recognition by the Oscar people.
One of the best Bond films, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971) had this nice Albert Whitlock matte and substantial animated overlays to good effect.  While on 007, this Daniel Craig fella just ain't Bond in my book.  Way, way off the mark, with these latter day 007 films being unmemorable and fatally over done in all respects.  I do like his fine lady wife though.

Uncredited matte art from Columbia Pictures'  Rita Hayworth picture DOWN TO EARTH (1947)
Syd Dutton's Great Hall matte from DUNE (1984)

Gerald Larn matte shot from DOCTOR WHO AND THE DALEKS (1965)
An unusual and deliberate viewpoint painted by Peter Melrose for Hammer's DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968).  In an interview, matte artist Melrose mentioned the initial surprise at being presented with a plate photographed with such an extremely wide lens which would necessitate rather extreme perspective lines on his part to carry on through from the limited set to the substantial painted area.

The MTV music video DANCING WITH MYSELF with matte art by Eric Critchley.
Another of Peter Melrose's mattes from the same film with a dramatic downview this time as Lucy clambers across the rooftops.  All painted except the ledge with girl.

Oscar winning matte shots by Albert Whitlock for EARTHQUAKE (1974)
One of Whitlock's 22 glass paintings from EARTHQUAKE
A Ralph McQuarrie matte painting from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)

I'm not sure if this is a painted add on or a hanging miniature from EL CID (1961)

Two shots from LucasFilm's EWOKS-THE BATTLE FOR ENDOR (1985)
A rare before and after of a Bob Scifo matte from Dream Quest Images for the film FINAL ANALYSIS (1992).  This is what extreme perspective mattes are all about.

The Roger Corman Poe adaptations often included imaginative matte art, though always uncredited.  As far as I know Albert Whitlock was primarily involved on the mattes for the series with this, FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960) being an especially good example.
The ill fated 1980 FLASH GORDON wasn't entirely without it's merits, with great art direction and a curiously sadomasochistic undercurrent.  Some nice matte art by Louis Litchtenfield and Bob Scifo.

Another Lou Litchtenfield matte shot from FLASH GORDON.

Quite another tangent altogether was the misjudged follow up to the 1974 cult classic FLESH GORDON, though this time round it was FLESH GORDON MEETS THE COSMIC CHEERLEADERS (1990).  The film was limp but Bob Kayganich's mattes were really fun and fit this blog like a glove.
Although it may appear to be an actual production shot with nothing special flagging it for this blog, it is in fact an almost full frame matte painting by the great Albert Whitlock for Alfred Hitchcock's bitingly clever masterpiece FRENZY (1972).  All painted except part of the foreground roadway and one or two trucks  - all else a masterfully executed Whitlock glass painting.  I include it here as it's a really first class example of subtley drawn out perspective with realistic simulated wide angle distortion toward the sides of the frame, all courtesy of Whitlock's expertise.  Magnificent.

Robert Stromberg's spectacular painting from the closing shot of Robert Rodriguez' FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996)

Nice matte composite supervised by Emil Kosa jr for Mark Robson's FROM THE TERRACE (1960)
Many downright wacky matte shots abound in the bizarre Dr Seuss show THE 5000 FINGERS OF DR.T (1953) 

No credit for mattes or special effects but may have been Lou Litchtenfield possibly.  I really dig the shot at lower left.

Still more crazy effects shots from 5000 FINGERS OF DR.T.   Helluva guy that Theodor Seuss.
One of the most iconic images of 1950's movie going was this vast Howard Fisher matte painting from FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956).  Not in the least bit convincing, but wonderful sci-fi art in it's own right.

The excellent Gary Cooper picture THE FOUNTAINHEAD (1949) was a huge special effects project for Warner Bros with vast numbers of painted mattes, miniatures, process and often all of the above combined in one.  A marvellous matte showcase both in boldness of design - unlike any other film to that point - and in execution.  Primary matte artist was Chesley Bonestell with Mario Larrinaga and Louis Litchtenfield also involved.  I love this shot above all else.

A Chesley Bonestell painted matte from THE FOUNTAINHEAD.

I'm not certain if this is a matte painting or a large miniature from THE FOUNTAINHEAD.  It's a massive shot which culminates in a camera move upward and right onto the face of Cooper, standing atop the building.  Just the sort of trick shot which Warner Bros set the industry benchmark for.  Film should have had an Oscar nomination.... really!
The opening atmospheric shot from Bob Hope's very funny THE GHOST BREAKERS (1940) for Paramount with matte art by Jan Domela.

One of my favourite Matthew Yuricich glass shots - this from GHOSTBUSTERS (1984) where perspective lines have been stretched to the max.

Dramatic edge of the roof matte from GHOSTBUSTERS - extensive matte art by Matt Yuricich.

Another sprawling 'wide' painting from GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)

The ideal New York City 110th floor walk-up apartment.  From GHOSTBUSTERS again.
A pair of elaborate MGM matte shots from GRAND HOTEL (1932) probably supervised by the studio's creative head of special effects James Basevi, no doubt with input from Warren Newcombe.  Nice shots, with pockets of live action in specific areas of the overall matte.

Les Bowie was one of the matte artists on David Lean's masterpiece GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1946).  Albert Whitlock, Cliff Culley and Joan Suttie would also play an important part at Rank from around that time onward.

Artist Richard Kilroy at work on his THE GREAT L.A EARTHQUAKE matte painting and the finished shot.

Bob Cuff painted several mattes on THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (1961) and I think long time Shepperton chief matte artist George Samuels may also have painted some.
MGM's Oscar winning special effects showcase GREEN DOLPHIN STREET (1947) was loaded with beautiful matte art and flawless miniatures.  Warren Newcombe supervised the mattes, with Howard Fisher and Norman Dawn among those who painted the shots.

Universal's THE GYPSY WILDCAT (1944) had John Fulton running the effects and most likely Russ Lawsen on mattes.

Talk about trick shots you'd never notice, this flawless matte painting by Jesse Silver for the Renny Harlin actioner HARLEY DAVIDSON AND THE MARLBORO MAN (1991) is a winner and certainly one never to be noticed as such.
The ultra gory follow up to Clive Barker's Hellraiser film, HELLBOUND-HELLRAISER II (1990) featured some tour-de-force photographic effects work by Cliff Culley - some of his best work in fact. 

A blue screen composited performer added into a Cliff Culley matte painting from HELLRAISER II

Must have been a son of a bitch to paint, but it works a treat.

I include this matte from Laurence Olivier's HENRY V (1944) because of the very odd perspective - not just in this shot but in several others too.  I assume it was the directive of Olivier as matte artist Percy Day, I feel would have done it all quite differently.
Both Mark Sullivan and Rocco Gioffre collaborated on this mammoth up-view for the bizarre HIGHWAY TO HELL (1992) with deliberate and careful angulation to allow for a quick tilt up from the live action at bottom.  Beautiful painting.

The tilt up as seen on screen:  HIGHWAY TO HELL (1992)

Dizzying point of view by Alan Maley for Disney's HERBIE RIDES AGAIN (1974)

Jack Benny's crazy comedy THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT (1945) had several amazingly complex matte and miniature 'fly over' camera moves in tried and true Warner Bros fashion, though these frames aren't them.  I'm not sure if these shots utilised miniatures or painted mattes, though I'm inclined toward elaborate miniatures.
The funny Charlie Sheen spoof HOT SHOTS PART DEUX (1993) concluded with this Matte World painted composite.

A very bold up angled matte painting from INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984)
Cliff top hijinks from INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (1984) where partial exterior backlot set in the UK has been extended with matte paintings and split screened in water.  Falling bodies pass across the matte line by means of travelling mattes.  Matte artists on the film were Michael Pangrazio, Christopher Evans and Caroleen Green.

ILM's Yusei Uesugi working on an extreme view for INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE
Yusei Uesugi painted significant additions to an actual location for INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989).  The handling of the very wide angle 'stretch' on the left and right sides of the shot is particularly interesting.

A Cliff Culley matte painted shot from Morcambe and Wise's THE INTELLIGENCE MEN (1965)
William Cameron Menzies' INVADERS FROM MARS (1953) with matte work by Jack Cosgrove and Irving Block.

Not a matte but a very cool miniature by Mark Stetson from THE HUDSUCKER PROXY (1994)

Another all time fave of mine is this Chesley Bonestell matte from THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1939)

Although a very elaborate outdoor set was constructed for HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME it in no way went anywhere near the extent of this birds-eye view, the majority of which is a Chesley Bonestell matte painting.
Nice design and perspective here on Disney's ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD (1974), but an all too obvious mismatch in tones around the join.  Matte artist Alan Maley.

Not a matte shot but I'll throw it in anyhow as it's a beautifully constructed and photographed miniature set by the great Derek Meddings from the 1969 film JOURNEY TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE SUN (aka DOPPLEGANGER).  Here's a film loaded with wonderful miniature work and really good optical photography and overall FX art direction.
A guilty favourite of mine is the insanely brilliant Chiodo brothers flick KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988). Several artists worked on the film with Mark Sullivan providing this deliriously Chuck Jones-esque matte, among several others in the film.  I'll be talking with Mark in an upcoming blog and he'll be sharing a mulitude of wonderful images with us. KILLER KLOWNS was a film sorely neglected by the Academy for best original screenplay in my book.... but don't get me started on Oscar injustices!

Bob Cuff's matte painted vault for Chaplin's excellent A KING IN NEW YORK (1957)

MGM Newcombe shot from THE KING'S THIEF (1955)
The 1991 version of A KISS BEFORE DYING would feature this nerve wracking down view, though whether it's matte art or miniature I'm uncertain.  Doug Ferris did paint on this show and may have painted this view.  Doug did paint the follow up view of the smashed in glass atrium right after the girl falls through as seen from the underside.
Two of my favourite matte art genres all in one shot - both theatre marquee and perspective artwork.  KISS ME KATE (1953) supervised by Warren Newcombe, though between you and me, I do wonder if this might be a miniature, though why I don't know, as MGM were the absolute masters at these painted matte marquees.

Matthew Yuricich's full painting of the Lincoln Memorial from LOGAN'S RUN (1976) with just a small patch of live action
One of Ken Marschall's mattes from the made for tv THE JOSEPHINE BAKER STORY (1991)

One of Doug Ferris' matte painted composites from an unknown show, probably a British tv commercial.
Before and after Peter Ellenshaw matte shot from MARY POPPINS (1964) with actors performing in front of a sodium screen.
Yul Brynner added into a Cliff Culley painting for THE LONG DUEL (1967)

The big 65mm effects show MACKENNA'S GOLD (1969) used many mattes to tell the sprawling story.  Matte artists were Bob Cuff, Ray Caple, Lynette Lee and Joy Cuff with John Mackie as effects cinematographer.

One of Albert Whitlock's most unique glass paintings - a floating down view on the Statue of Liberty for the 1974 film MAME starring Lucille Ball.  Masterful handling of light and texture among other points.
The final glorious composite - MAME

One of the best of the Roger Corman - Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) was a beautifully photographed piece with superb art direction supplemented by nice Bob Cuff-Ray Caple matte work.

Matthew Yuricich's loose and impressionistic matte art as seen in MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE (1988)
Another shot I've always loved - from MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939).  Matte artist unknown but may have been New Zealander Ted Withers who painted for Columbia around the time.  Just love the hard angles.
Probably a Willy Muller miniature, but an amazing shot all the same from METROPOLIS (1927)
Also from METROPOLIS and I'm pretty sure this is a glass shot by Erich Kettelhut.
Cliff Culley's matte art is combined through travelling matte with the actors to exciting effect in NORTHWEST FRONTIER (1959) aka  FLAME OVER INDIA.

Lee LeBlanc painted this extensive matte for Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) with only the tiny little strip with the four people walking as original photography - all else is Lee's painting.
Lee LeBlanc and Matt Yuricich painted perspectives from Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959). 
A sorely under appreciated 007 entry, the slam bang ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (1969) which despite a slow start and too much exposition, would turn out to be one hell of a ride - and a very violent one at that.  I saw this on first release and had nightmares when the guy went through the snow plow (Bond: "He sure had a lot of guts").  Lazenby made a great Bond and could really have taken the role a long way had he not behaved like such a prick off camera.  Anyhow, I digress....  Cliff Culley supplied the mattes on this and many other Bond films.

Another of Cliff Culley's OHMSS mattes.

The totally off the wall W.C Fields adventure NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK (1941) was a complete free for all on all counts.  John Fulton was effects boss with Russ Lawsen and John DeCuir in the matte department.

A beautiful glass painting by Cliff Culley for the long television miniseries PETER THE GREAT  (1986) -  a painting that sadly looked too dark and hard to even make out in the final broadcast version.  Such a waste of a great matte.

Universal's 1944 Robert Siodmak film THE PHANTOM LADY with Russell Lawson's matte work.
One frame from Matthew Yuricich's big pullback shot at the start of POLTERGEIST II - THE OTHER SIDE (1986)

Jim Danforth is an undisputed talent in all areas of traditional visual effects, and this vast matte painting from the abysmal 1971 disaster PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT is a masterpiece.  Jim told me the painting was too large and too fragile to take with him and he ended up leaving it in the workshop leased for the effects work.

A film that was very much an acquired taste, THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987) included this matte by Bob Cuff.

Albert Whitlock's severe up angle full painting which appeared in 2 or 3 different Roger Corman pictures in true "why spend a buck when I don't need to" fashion.  It featured prominently in THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961) and again in THE HAUNTED PALACE (1963).

Early CinemaScope matte shot from Fox's PRINCE VALIANT (1954).  Ray Kellogg supervised mattes with Emil Kosa jr and Matthew Yuricich both painting.

Syd Dutton's opening matte for the Anthony Perkins film PSYCHO III (1986)

An early Albert Whitlock matte painted shot from the British film QUARTET (1948) which shows interesting perspective and much more painted in than you'd think.
I find this Les Bowie painted interior of Westminster Abbey to be most interesting.  I like the way Les has composed and drawn out the shot for THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT (1956)

The Don Knotts slapstick comedy THE RELUCTANT ASTRONAUT (1967) employed Al Whitlock's matte work.

A jaw dropping glass painting, I believe by Mike Pangrazio, for THE RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983).  Another on my list of all time favourites in matte artistry.
Also from RETURN OF THE JEDI this I think was one of ILM artist Frank Ordaz' renderings - another very talented matte artist.

Paramount's resident matte painter Jan Domela supplied many mattes over the years, with quite a number for the various 'Road' movies such as this, THE ROAD TO MOROCCO (1942), one of Bob and Bing's best.

Another Jan Domela matte, this time from ROAD TO UTOPIA (1946), by far the biggest matte show of the series with loads of painted shots, optical tricks and other gags.  Funny show.
I never much connected with Paul Verhoeven's ROBOCOP (1987) personally, though Pete Kleinow and Harry Walton's stop motion and Rocco Gioffre's matte shots were brilliant.  Here's one of Rocco's astonishing mattes.

Man, this is good.  Rocco Gioffre filmed an actual location with elevator etc and added extensively to it all with his matte art to perfection.

Assisting Gioffre on ROBOCOP was the multi talented Mark Sullivan, whose matte painting this is.

The famous Statue of Liberty finale from Hitchcock's thrilling SABOTEUR (1941) was a John P.Fulton tour de force, with matte artists John DeCuir and Russ Lawsen, miniaturist Charlie Baker and optical cinematographer Ross Hoffman contributing much to it's success.  Although matte art is prominently used in the sequence, I'm inclined to believe this view is of a miniature statue due to focus shift, with matted in actor at top of arm.  It looks to me as though the lower area is painted, with pockets of live action and a separate ocean plate added.  Should have been an Oscar contender for the many amazing mattes and trick shots throughout - Hitchcock's biggest fx show outside of THE BIRDS.

An exciting Hammer matte from THE SCARS OF DRACULA (1970) with uncredited mattes probably by Ray Caple.

An imposing Albert Whitlock matte shot from THE SEEKERS (1954) - aka LAND OF FURY

Yet another all time favourite in the extreme mattes club - THE SHADOW (1994) with Matte World supplying these fantastic shots and Illusion Arts supplying others.  Actually a really enjoyable film.

Another dynamite matte shot from THE SHADOW (all painted except the people on observation deck) from Craig Barron's Matte World.  I think Christopher Evans painted here.  Just love this one!
An interesting full painting by Ray Caple for the none too impressive 1966 version of SHE.

The Cosgrove Department at Selznick painted many classic mattes through the 30's and 40's with this atmospheric interior being all painted above the people for the film SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (1944).  Matte painter Jack Shaw.

Matte from THE SNAKE PIT (1948) carried out under Fred Sersen's supervision at 20th Century Fox.

Some may wonder, but I quite liked Russell Lawsen's layout here for this SPARTACUS (1960) matte shot.

Christopher Evans matte from STAR TREK VI - THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY (1991).  Apologies if I got the title wrong as all those latter ST films look the same to me.  Highly illogical I realise (!)

Probably the most iconic effects shot of the 1970's, this Harrison Ellenshaw glass shot from STAR WARS (1977) remains a winner.
I was of two minds as to whether to include this shot from THE STING (1973).  It remains one of Albert Whitlock's finest shots and demonstrates one of Al's specialties - the vanishing point down a city street, in this case Chicago of the 1920's.  Not only did Whitlock provide a masterfully accomplished painting (everything except the foreground street and right lower window was a glass painting) but Al added a stop motion El Train as an additional element perfectly matching the perspective of the painted matte to that of the model train all on original negative.
Wow....now that's what I call a great shot from Universal's THE STRANGE DOOR (1951).  David S. Horsley was effects chief and Russell Lawsen would have painted, though this may be a miniature with some live action added of actor.

I'm pretty sure this is a matte extension with most of the wall of The Bastille added by the matte artists at MGM for the brilliant TALE OF TWO CITIES (1935) - a film with some of the most beautiful pastel painted mattes ever.
Another MGM shot, this time one that appears in several of the Johnny Weissmuller TARZAN films.
An example of a matte that simply fails to work with somewhat wonky perspective.  This is from the 1970 Japanese science fiction show TERROR BENEATH THE SEA.
Van Johnson's 1956 blindman melodrama 24 PACES TO BAKER STREET with this near death matte experience.
Another of those greater than great shots I alluded to, with this terrific Peter Ellenshaw matte from Disney's THIRD MAN ON THE MOUNTAIN (1959).  Guaranteed to make any matte fan feel woozy.
Assisting Ellenshaw on THIRD MAN ON THE MOUNTAIN were Jim Fetherolf and Albert Whitlock.

Another dramatic Ellenshaw matte from THIRD MAN ON THE MOUNTAIN
Percy Day matte art from THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1940)
Albert Whitlock matte shots from the quite bouncy THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (1967)


Ray Caple's matte art from TIME BANDITS (1981) - as with all of Terry Gilliam's films, something of an acquired taste, of which I don't share.
Irwin Allen's popular series THE TIME TUNNEL from the mid 60's and all those others (especially Lost in Space) were staples of my tv diet and were about as fantastic as television got back then.  These scenes had me enthralled as a kid back then.  Being a 20th Century Fox show it's probable that Emil Kosa jr painted them under L.B Abbott.  These shots would crop up again in various shows as stock shots.
Now check out the vanishing points here.  Also from THE TIME TUNNEL tv pilot, and what's interesting is that this is reportedly an Albert Whitlock shot in a Fox television show.  The author of The Invisible Art, Craig Barron told me he recalled seeing this clip in Whitlock's book of matte slides of all his shots.  I mentioned this to Bill Taylor at one stage and he denied it, saying it had none of Al's style or technique.

George Pal's Oscar winning tom thumb (1958) had mattes painted in England under Tom Howard, with Judy Jordan believed to have been the artist.

Exquisite Jesse Silver artwork and complex array of elements for the first TOTAL RECALL (1990)

Matthew Yuricich's terrifying 110 story shaft from THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974) which was edge of your seat viewing on the big Scope screen back in '74.  Still a great movie that hurtles along for all of it's 160 minute run time.

Harrison Ellenshaw's vast Kafka-esque office space from TRON (1982) which for some inexplicaple reason used up only around 2/3rds of the actual painting (see below), which would have worked better using the whole painting.

See what I mean.... Harrison posing with the painting in total, which would have looked sensational if used fully.

An MGM Newcombe shot from the Spencer Tracy film TORTILLA FLAT (1942)

One of the early fx shots in Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO (1958).  It may be Jan Domela matte art but I suspect it could in fact be one of Ivyl Burks miniatures to permit focal shift.  John P.Fulton was effects chief here.

Another of my all time favourite movie perspective mattes - again from VERTIGO this Jan Domela matte shot consists of the tower and tiled rooftops - a detail which caused much fraught nerves between Domela and mercurial boss Fulton.

Memorable VERTIGO moment, though the perspective of the tower isn't true and I suspect some artistic license was taken to present a more exciting viewpoint.  Tiled rooftops also painted by artist Jan Domela.
I'd imagine this to have been a difficult matte to render, let alone composite.  Matthew Yuricich painted it for the TV series V (1983) and David Stipes comped it beautifully.

George Pal's WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (1951) was an Oscar winner for its variable effects - some of which came from other films!  The giant ramp here could be a miniature but I tend to think it's matte art, as it would have been next to impossible to hold focus and sufficient depth of field so well at such an angle with film speeds and so forth at the time. Gordon Jennings was effects supervisor with Jan Domela as matte painter.
Before and after Albert Whitlock matte shot from Sidney Lumet's seriously ill chosen project THE WIZ (1978)
Another Whitlock before and after from THE WIZ with architecture of near Dr Seuss levels of engineering.

An extreme viewpoint for the film WILLOW (1988) as painted by Paul Swensden at ILM.

Nice lines and vanishing point in this matte from Warner's YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN (1950).  As far as I could tell, this was a full painting with just Kirk Douglas and rising smoke added in.  The shot started on Kirk's face and pulled out to this wide shot in typically ingenious Warner Bros fashion.  Hans Koenekamp was effects chief.

That's about it for now.... it's 3 in the morning here and I'm done.

Enjoy

Pete

27 comments:

  1. Pete - wonderful as always! I never get tired of the Matte shots you present! It makes me appreciate what these artists were able to accomplish!
    mg
    Nashville

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    1. Thanks for that... though I just realised I omitted a great 'extreme matte' - that being Albert's birds eye view of Norman Bates' house from PSYCHO II.

      Pete

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  2. Thank you very much, Peter for that beautiful article and for the kind comments. I have specially enjoyed several paintings I have never seen before. Great material wonderfully assembled as always.

    I’m already anxious about the incoming Pinewood-Rank matte paintings tribute.

    Domingo

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  3. Peter:

    Incredible stuff. A few minor notes about two of the films.

    HENRY V started in the Globe theater with an Elizabethan (possibly the first performance of the play) performance in the Globe Theatre where there is no attempt to be "period accurate" or realistic. then as the "conceit" of the film they would introduce backdrops … more and more detailed as the film/play proceeded … more backdrops than they ever would've used in Shakespeare's day. The film was designed so the perspective of the paintings and the settings began very "unrealistic" in the style of tapestries from the middle ages in which the play is set. The film then gradually became more and more "realistic" (a style and not an absolute standard) until the battle. Then as things wrapped up suddenly all the female characters are once again played by men in drag and they're back in the Globe Theatre. It is a clever and audacious move.

    In the much later (and nowhere near as good) BILL AND TED'S BOGUS JOURNEY a lot of stuff had a "curious digital paintbox appearance" because it was done digitally and, even when painted traditionally, went through a paintbox program. Rocco was NOT happy about that! That film was a major transition to digital film but still had a lot of optical work since optical work was cheaper frame-by-frame than digital. Each output took about 6 minutes per frame and was very pricey. The digital items output to be composited optically were pretty dicey as the matte passes had considerable differences from the image/beauty passes. God they were a headache! The film was originally titled BILL AND TED GO TO HELL but the producers were afraid of igniting violent protests from Christian fundamentalists which is not an unreasonable fear. A bunch (17 if memory serves) of bluescreen shots done at Patrick O'Neill's Lookout Mountain Films were cut since the test audiences showed that children found hell to be disturbing. Pat just looked astonished and said, "Isn't it supposed to be disturbing?" The foregrounds were live action and the backgrounds were CGI. Not a particularly good film but it had a lot of fun bits.

    I agree that a lot of the "extreme perspective" stuff is often the most fun.

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    1. Hi Spencer

      That makes sense - and yes, now you mention it, I think I do recall a purposeful 'tapestry' approach to HENRY V from the audio commentary on the old Criterion DVD (not a good transfer BTW).
      Thanks too for the explanation on BILL & TED's curious look.
      Hell......'disturbing'??? What were they thinking?

      I'm going to do a 'great optical effects' blog some time, with some greats like the SON OF DRACULA transformations and assorted other transitions and assemblies over the pre-CG era which no doubt would set an ex optical printer fellow like yourself 'on fire'.

      Old optical cameramen never die... they just 'fade' away!

      Peter

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    2. Hey Peter:

      I'm looking forward to that blog. As marvelous as the stuff in SON OF DRACULA is, and it's amazing it is rather simple in theory. Fulton figured out where the smoke was to originate and then shot the smoke against black velvet. The smoke element was then double-exposed either with a diffusion filter over the optical printer's camera lens or there was a second pass through diffusion. The smoke might be A B smoke (I forget what the two chemicals are that produce the smoke) since it doesn't seem to flow like dry ice fog.

      A harder to explain is the importance of design in an effects shot. It's more obvious in a matte painting. Design in, let's say, a traveling matte shot requires a lot more explanation. A less-than-perfect film (but great example) would be Fulton's staging of invisibility effects in the scene in the office with Mr. Growley (Charles Lane) from THE INVISIBLE WOMAN.

      Most people know that some sort of traveling matte process (these days they'll say greenscreen but that is what they mean) but Fulton didn't just shoot the "invisible" actress against a black velvet background and composite her into the scene. That wouldn't have allowed for interaction between her and the other actor. Instead Fulton would put a black flat (flat scenery … in the=is case a frame over which black velvet was stretched) in the scene behind the actress with the black velvet hood and gloves playing the "invisble" woman. The section of set in back of her (covered by the black flat) is what gets matted-in over the scene blotting out her face and hands. This allows her shadow to fall on the other actor (unfortunately you can see the shadow of her "invisible" head as well) and she can grab his lapels. There are a lot of rough edges since the film was very cheaply-done (no money for a second try on a shot) and shot very quickly but it makes for great illustrations of how it all was put together.

      The trouble with an optical effects blog are that you need detailed information about the Bell & Howell Corporation (opticals were built on the Bell & Howell 2709 camera and its fixed-pin movement) and the fact that the methods were kept secret for so long. Also "lab work" involved in early composite shots were so firmly linked to film piracy that early records are hard to come by. Of course you have already posted (as part of your post on Hal Roach Studios and Roy Seawright) the only photos I've ever seen of one of the modular set-ups using a Bell & Howell 2709 camera, a 2709 camera body cut-out for use as a projector (as an actual projector with a lamphouse and a lens for rear-projecting images into a matte painting or as a film transport for elements being copied by the optical printer camera) which was all linked to a single drive motor by adjustable shafts. Also the amount of explanation and the illustrations you'd have to create are very complicated.


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    3. Hi Spencer

      Yeah, I don't know if I'd go into (or even try to go into) the complexities of how TM's work, density mattes and blue spill etc as it's an area I'd be leaving myself wide open to critique by the real experts. What I'd like to do is to purely showcase some great tricks which have come forth from the optical printer - great TM's, adventurous transitions, examples where really adventurous optical cameramen such as Slifer and Ries have pulled some amazing tricks out of the bag (think BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY dancing shoes, the beautiful fantasy TM's of THE RED SHOES and so forth).

      Peter

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  5. An article about the work of masters, done by a master! Outstanding as always Peter.

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    1. Hi David

      I'm no master by any stretch..... just a keen enthusiast who's delighted that fellows like yourself appreciate this work.

      Peter

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  6. Fascinating as always, Pete. As an ex-optical effects guy, I would love to see photos of some optical printer/cameras, such as the Clarence Slifer printers and other custom made machines. If anyone knows of any sources for these, please post. Thanks!

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  7. Peter, this essay was wonderful. Extremely detailed and absolutely fascinating. Congratulations! I was very happy to see so many of my favorite matte artists and friends (Whitlock, Yuricich, Dutton) included, along with a very nice 'tip of the hat' to Ralph McQuarrie. I had the pleasure of meeting Ralph at lunch several years ago at Skywalker Ranch when Ray Harryhausen and I and our wives were invited up for a visit. I'll send a photo of that most enjoyable lunch to you via a separate e-mail. I was glad to see you mention the brilliant Derek Meddings in your piece as well. Derek was one of the 70 people (along with Whitlock, Dutton, both Ellenshaws, etc.)who were kind enough to send letters of recommendation to the Motion Picture Academy's Board of Governors when I was campaigning to get Harryhausen his long-overdue Lifetime Achievement Oscar in the early 1990s.

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    1. Thanks for that Arnold, and also a thank you for those photos too.

      It was a crime that Ray never got any Oscar recognition until you pushed for it. I'm still bemused by that anonymous Academy effects committee person who, when GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD was put forward for selection, was sure the 6 armed Goddess, Kali was a guy in a suit!!!
      But don't get me started on Oscar injustices Arnold :(

      Peter

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    2. Yes, Pete, Oscar injustices have been numerous over the years. Sadly, the majority of oversights have related to the special effects artists. As you know, for a time in the late 1940s and into the 1950s, the winners of the special effects Oscars were the Producers of the films, NOT the artists themselves. Hence, the brilliant and talented George Pal, and not his effects crews (Fulton, Jennings, etc.), took home the Oscars for the films on which he was Producer. Luckily, today's rules are a bit more reasonable and tend to honor very fine work. Not always, but more than during the time when dear Ray Harryhausen was toiling, virtually alone, in his small animation studio (room, garage, store front, etc.). If today's rules for Oscar nominees in special effects were in use when 1949's "Mighty Joe Young" was nominated, Ray Harryhausen would have certainly taken home a competitive Oscar as one of O'Brien's team of four. As it turned out, because of the unusual rules in place at the time, the film's Producer, Merian C. Cooper was given the Oscar. Of course, he handed it to O'Brien who, though not officially nominated, was the deserving honoree.

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  8. Hey, just to let you know the link to that new matte blog isn't typed out correctly, easy to get to still though.

    Also great post. love the blog.

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    1. Hi Mystery Matte Person

      'My Bad', as they say. After much fiddling I think it's fixed now.

      Peter

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  9. NOTE:

    To frustrated readers leaving me comments, please bear in mind that due to vast amounts of spam everyday (ten spam to every one genuine comment) no comments are published until I've had a chance to view same. Don't worry, all non-spam feedback makes it through.

    I just don't see how signing up for a lifetime supply of Viagra or Miracle Weight Loss Treatment can really benefit my blogging, despite what the Spamster's claim! Bastards!

    Peter

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  10. For Bob Friedstand: Craig Barron, now at Tippett Studios in Berkeley, California, was very close to Clarence Slifer's widow and may be able to provide you with some photos of Clarence's printers and cameras. I cannot give you Craig's contact information without his permission, but you could leave a message for him at the Tippett studio. He loved Clarence's work and will probably be happy to hear from you.

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    1. Hi Bob & Arnold

      Clarence is discussed well in Arnold Gillespie's memoir The Wizard of MGM which came out recently. There are some pictures in there of Clarence with his complicated matte stand camera set up at MGM with all sorts of gizmos. I have some photos in my collection of various set ups over time with some interesting old pics of Lawrence Butler's optical printer set up on THIEF OF BAGDAD as well as Paul Lerpae's printer & camera equipment at Paramount in the 40's too. I've got a few others too such as Dunn's various incarnations over time and Frank Van der Veer's set up in the early 80's.

      Peter

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    2. You're absolutely correct, Peter. It's been a year or more since I proofread the Gillespie autobiography at the request of Gillespie's grandson, Robert Welch, and completely forgot that Clarence is given very good coverage. By the way, Lin Dunn's optical printer is now on display in the lobby of the Motion Picture Academy's Mary Pickford Archives on Vine Street in Hollywood, where the Linwood Dunn Theater is housed. Lin was a wonderful friend and represented me at the Academy's Board of Governors in my campaign to get Harryhausen his Oscar.

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    3. Hi Arnold

      Oddly, I too proof read Buddy's manuscript courtesy of Robert - which was indeed a treat. As you say, Craig is the best person to contact on Clarence as I think he may have been given Slifer's notebooks and scrapbooks years ago. Slifer was definitely one of the greats - and according to Matt Yuricich, an almost Einstein type brain for figuring out newer and more complicated trick shots.

      Peter

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  11. Brilliant stuff - as always. Boy, I love those bold matte shots from Third Man On The Mountain.
    Thanks, Pete!

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    1. Hi Thomas

      I thought you's like those. How about that extreme, stomach churning downview onto James MacArthur balanced on a skinny pinnacle of rock!! Wow! Lots of mattes in that film.

      Peter

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  12. "I'm not sure if this is a painted add on or a hanging miniature from EL CID (1961)"

    I think you meant FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE on this one.

    Great stuff.

    Clark

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  13. You are doing a fantastic job - much to read and much to learn about matte painting. Thnx!

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  14. Thought I would pass along some matte painting news - "Sword and the Rose" recently came out on DVD and is a big improvement from the VHS. Warner's "Anthony Adverse", which has some great mattes, just recently was remastered (last time was 20 years ago) so this should be available hopefully in the near future. Also, Warner's "Devotion" has a great opening panning shot of a painted village. I believe "Merry Widow" from the 1950's was also recently remastered.

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  15. Great stuff as always, looking forward to the next one!

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